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The Challenges of Connecting Global Networks in the Medical Device Industry

The medical device industry is a global industry.  Globalization offers opportunities to increase revenue and decrease costs; it enriches the innovation that drives the industry by enabling collaboration with subject matter experts from across the globe; and it also enables medical device companies to establish global network relationships with suppliers, manufacturing sites, distributors and customers around the world.

But it also creates the very real logistical challenge of connecting that global network to foster collaboration both inside and outside the organization. Globalization necessarily means heavier reliance on transmitting data through the internet to all these constituents, and that means new risks arising from poor web performance and inadequate end-user experiences. 

Global connections

To address this global collaboration challenge, many medical device companies have begun moving key business applications to a web application delivery model.  This model allows companies to leverage the Internet to connect global users. Examples of the types of applications that companies are shifting to a web-based delivery model include collaboration tools, customer relationship management (CRM) applications, and enterprise resource planning (ERP). 

Using web-based applications for business operations helps ensure application accessibility for remote users. However, the key to realizing the benefits of application delivery via the web hinges on the performance and reliability of the network, i.e., the public Internet.  The Internet is not a business-ready platform; it was not designed to handle the demands and requirements of today's business use. 

While the Internet offers a cost-effective, global network, application delivery over the Internet is complicated by:

The number of users. The total number of Internet users worldwide is estimated to have increased by 833 percent, to 3,366,260,056, between 2000 and 2015.

The increase in the growth and mobility of enterprise applications. International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated that the number of enterprise application solutions optimized for mobility will quadruple between 2014 and 2016.

The multitude of devices accessing the Internet. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have become an increasingly important means of Internet access.

The variety of browsers used to access the Internet. Relevant browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera Mini and the Android Browser.

The fragmentation of network connections. Users might connect to the Internet using home Wi-Fi, a corporate wired LAN, 3G or 4G networks, or through a tethered connection. Data transmission over the Internet can be slow.

Due to legacy architecture and the logic of the Internet, the selection of digital routes between data centers and end-users is extremely inefficient.  Once a route is selected, the transmission of data is slow, error-prone and subject to congestion and downtime.  As a result, the medical device company's global users may experience poor web application response times, inconsistent availability and data loss vulnerabilities.

Why standard approaches fall short

Medical device companies have tried a number of different approaches to connect global users and foster collaboration by addressing Internet performance, reliability and security issues. One approach is to implement physical hardware and/or a virtual appliance that lives within the walls of the company data center, such as an application delivery controller (ADC) or a WAN optimization controller (WOC).

The problem with this approach is that it does not function as a symmetrical architecture when supporting Internet users. Organizations need symmetrical solutions that optimize both ends of application delivery - the end where the application is hosted and the other end where the end-user is located.  Companies can't possibly implement a box or virtual appliance in every data center and in every location where their end-users are located. 

A second approach is to invest in private network infrastructure.  This approach addresses Internet performance and reliability issues, but it does not scale. Access to web applications is limited to end-users on the private network. Moreover, it prevents companies from leveraging the cost efficiencies and global scale of the Internet to connect global users.

A third approach is to move websites and applications from a corporate data center to the public cloud. But this solves only half of the application delivery challenge:  By moving applications to public cloud infrastructure, a medical device company realizes increased scalability and cost efficiencies in managing data center infrastructure, such as servers and storage equipment. But they still need to rely on the public Internet to reach their global users, which is the other half of the application delivery challenge that public cloud providers have historically not been able to effectively solve. 

A comprehensive global collaboration solution

A more complete approach to improving Internet performance, reliability and security in order to connect global users and foster collaboration is to use a cloud-based application delivery platform. Cloud-based application delivery platforms employ hundreds of thousands of servers, distributed across the globe, with a unifying architecture designed to ensure network speed, reliability and security. They are deployed symmetrically, meaning they optimize website and application delivery at both the origin (private data center or public cloud) and the front end (user interface). 

A cloud-based application delivery platform optimizes application delivery using multiple strategies, including:

Determining an optimal Internet route. Using intelligent route selection, instead of using the default Internet routing protocols;

Facilitating connection offload. Inbound data requests can be served by the platform using caching, reducing the impact on data center bandwidth and infrastructure;

Enabling load balancing. Configurable load-balancing capabilities decrease latency and increase performance;

Providing real-time failover. Supports instant and seamless failover of traffic between data centers if there is an outage in a primary data center or cloud environment;

Accelerating web performance. Web pages load as quickly as possible, on any device, anywhere in the world; and

Optimizing for mobile and cellular users. An intelligent platform is able to dynamically optimize the user's experience based upon the user's device, browser and network connection. 

Cloud-based application delivery platforms offer network security benefits as well. Cloud-based web application firewalls (WAFs), deployed within the platform, offer the advantage of intercepting malicious cyber activity at the edge of the Internet, before attack traffic reaches the medical device company's own network or applications. Likewise, cloud-based security solutions are designed to easily scale to defend against large DDoS attacks, providing another layer of network defense at the edge of the network, away from the medical device company's data center. 

Making the Internet work for global medical device companies

Cloud-based application delivery platforms are designed to enable medical device companies to leverage the global reach and cost-effectiveness of the Internet without sacrificing network speed, reliability or security. In addition to being effective, this solution is easy to deploy. Medical device companies can take advantage of cloud-based application delivery platforms by making a simple domain name system (DNS) change, versus needing to procure, provision and configure on-premise or virtual appliances in order to optimize application delivery.

Medical device companies invest considerable resources in buying or building web-based applications.  Whether it's CRM, collaboration, or ERP, they choose these applications to support specific, critical business functions. It's important to pay attention to the performance of the network delivering those applications in order to achieve their goals in making that initial application or website investment