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One data-driven CIO shares his cloud-first approach
The healthcare industry is a massive, multi-million dollar industry. Dealing with and storing staggering amounts of data, managing and securing that data, and maintaining regulatory compliance are all significant challenges — even when that healthcare data pertains to patients with four legs. IDEXX, the Westbrook, Maine-based veterinary and commercial agriculture healthcare company, has built its foundation on data. In fact, IDEXX CIO Ken Grady calls his company a data-first company. As it moves into new technologies and new data analytics processes, it is moving to the public cloud to manage and secure its massive data stores. But regardless of any new products or programs, data remains the currency.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Your enterprise clearly deals with massive amounts of data. How do you go about storing, managing and analyzing such large data stores?
Grady: Ultimately, IDEXX is in many ways a data-first company. We accumulate and manage a tremendous amount of disease and health data on animal populations (both companion pets and commercial livestock) across the world. Behind each assay is the health or diagnosis of someone’s beloved pet, or the well-being of a farmer’s herd and ultimately our food supply. Or it may even be data that pertains to the safety of a municipality’s drinking water. Data underlies the value of nearly all of our products.
We have increasingly shifted from intense compute and storage solutions on-premises in our data center to a cloud-first approach. We have made this move both for the enhanced performance and availability, but also for the security, continuity and scale we can achieve.
TEP: You’re not dealing with human patient data, but what sort of regulatory or compliance issues do you face dealing with veterinary health and water testing data?
Grady: We’re an international company, so the European Union general data protection and data privacy regulations are certainly on our radar. Also, the routine regulatory oversight of any publicly traded company applies, and general cyber security awareness with which all businesses operating in today’s digital world should be concerned.
TEP: To what extent are you using cloud services? And if so, what sort of mix of public/private/hybrid?
Grady: IDEXX is the largest cloud technology company in the veterinary industry, with several products in our veterinary software portfolio that are entirely cloud-based. Those include VetConnect+ (a dashboard for viewing and cross-referencing laboratory diagnostic data), our practice management offerings Neo and Animanga, and so on. For our enterprise, we are moving aggressively to migrate to public cloud environments. Given our global customer and business distribution and the rapid pace of solution innovation, the public cloud providers provide us more scale, flexibility, and capability than we could effectively create in a traditional, on-premises data center.
TEP: What sort of technology transformations do you see coming for your industry and enterprise?
Grady: The shift to a cloud-first, componentized/microservices approach requires re-architecting certain applications as we manage the transition. It’s a change that will likely take more than three years to complete. This takes an entirely new set of skills, and a renewed focus on security, testing and API standards to be successful.
TEP: How are your working relationships with the other C-level executives and other business leaders within your organization?
Grady: Our relationship is very collaborative. The integral nature of data and technology management in our product portfolio provides a very strong foundation to the relationship of IT in planning, product development, and operational conversations on a day-to-day basis.