Healthcare Data’s Migration to Azure a Roadmap for Success

Pam Roman

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Our client is a Fortune 500 health insurance provider (HIP), and one of the largest in the United States.

About our Client

Challenge

A Common Story – Multiple Legacy Components Stall Company Growth

HIP’s story is a common one. As their company grew, they’d purchase a license here or some storage space there to keep up with their growing business. But eventually, their IT infrastructure had become a sprawling — and expensive — entity made up of legacy, or outdated, components that required an inordinate number of licenses. These legacy components neither interacted with each other nor offered the flexibility a growing company needs to be successful.  

The executives at HIP wanted to save money by reducing the number of legacy licenses they held and improve the company’s agility. They wanted to reach both of those goals by taking advantage of their organization’s existing and growing investment in Azure. Azure’s cloud technology offers better performance, increased scalability and improved security than traditional on-premises systems. However, HIP knew how deeply entangled their organization was with their existing system, and needed an expert partner to help them with their migration.  

The Four Phases of the PAM Methodology

Prioritize: In this first phase, Prolifics ensures user communities at an organization understand the value of migrating to a modern environment. We also measure user communities’ readiness to migrate, and measure the legacy application(s) footprint that supports the community. 

Assess: This phase examines the code/application supporting specific user communities in order to determine which of three migration options is applicable.  

MigrateIn this phase, the selected migration option is executed.  

Deploy: The code/application deployment is completed in this phase. We also manage the change to business processes and provide support to the user communities affected. 

Action

The experts at Prolifics have literally written the book on cloud migration. Based on our decades of experience moving from legacy systems to modern cloud platforms, we’ve developed the four-phase Prolifics Agile Migration (PAM) methodology, which clearly lays out the process of breaking away from a legacy system and moving to the cloud in a large-scale migration. 

Result

Azure Migration Drives Savings, Agility, Modern Data Governance

As a result of the migration plan we developed and implemented for HIP, the organization reached their goals. Not only will they save millions of dollars in licensing fees over the course of a year, they improved their agility by modernizing their systems and moving into the cloud.

A secondary result of our work with them surrounds data governance. HIP didn’t have a good handle on their data simply because their legacy systems didn’t allow them to. But HIP’s data governance and data integration teams are taking advantage of this migration to collect, organize, analyze and apply a universal set of standards to their data. As a result of this exercise, HIP no longer will lag behind in modern data governance standards, and they recognize that the more modern their systems are across the board, the more agile their business will be. 

Technology

The PAM Methodology Example – Exiting SAS and Migrating to Azure

One of the legacy technologies HIP is moving to Azure is SAS. This is a major undertaking, as HIP has some 90,000 SAS programs throughout 140 departments. It is estimated that HIP could have nearly one billion lines of SAS code on-premises. Like many other companies, HIP has recognized that SAS is losing popularity and relevance among data science and analytics professionals, especially as newer professionals come up through the ranks. Similar to the limitations of other legacy systems, these data science and analytics professionals need a “better, faster, cheaper” alternative to SAS, which open source languages, like Python, and a modern platform like Azure can provide.  

In fact, Gartner has said it receives more inquiries asking about SAS replacement or alternatives than for any other vendor in the “Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine-Learning Platforms.” 

This PAM formal process started with making sure the SAS user communities understood the value of going to Azure and helping them think beyond the current reports or programs that they may have, and instead modernize and optimize them in a cloud platform.  

Of extreme importance was working with HIP to assess and choose migration options. Too often companies assume that re-coding entire applications is the method of choice – or even the only option. While re-coding (replace/rebuild) is the best way to ensure the modernization best leverages Azure, it is also the most expensive, time consuming, and impacts the business the most. Best-practice is providing multiple methods of migration; PAM offers three: Re-host/replatform, refactor, or replace/rebuild. 

Working together, HIP ultimately came to refactor – translating the code/application from SAS to Python and improve nonfunctional elements without changing the features or functionality. This migration option can serve as an evaluation or proof-of-concept (POC) or a minimal viable product (MVP) to allow the SAS user communities to adjust and evaluate Azure. It is important to note that refactor provides a phased approach for the user communities that do not currently have the time or the budget to rebuild the application. Then as time and budget permit, the users can then consider rebuilding the code/application, all based on their business objectives and constraints. 

The converting or translating of SAS code to Python is a big part of refactoring. This SAS to Python is a custom, IP accelarator specific to Prolifics that accelerates the entire migration. After accessing it in the Data Lake GEN2, it is then executed as PySpark in Databricks. This is taking full advantage of the Azure cloud architecture and drastically reduces the SAS on-prem footprint. 

At its core, PAM focuses on the user communities by carefully examining the legacy code and its use, providing migration alternatives, offering change management and tech support. Beginning with a workshop approach, PAM for Azure looks to ensure the success of an Azure migration with one over-arching goal: modernization. 

Learn more: Prolifics Agile Migration for Azure / A Business-Sensitive Migration Roadmap to Azure by Michael L. Gonzales, PhD 

About Prolifics

Prolifics is a global digital transformation leader with expertise in Data & AI, Integration & Applications, Business Automation, DevXOps, Test Automation, and Cybersecurity across multiple industries. We provide consulting, engineering and managed services for all our practice areas at any point our clients need them. Vision to Value. Faster. It’s not just the Prolifics’ tagline, it’s what drives us. Connect with us – solutions@prolifics.com.


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