For one reason or another, most enterprises will likely need to consider a data center migration at some point during the operational life span of their IT environment. Several kinds of events can precipitate this need. The migration process can ultimately be tied to one question: How do we get from point A to point B?
The modern IT organization is under intense pressure to make a positive impact on the businesses at large and even provide a net benefit for the bottom line. IT managers and executives are expected to increase efficiency, achieve high availability and stay competitive—all while maintaining a secure environment and boosting cost effectiveness. No matter the reason for undertaking a migration, it’s a complicated endeavor and must be carried out as seamlessly as possible to minimize disruptions for the organization and its customers.
Tips for Seamless Migration and Reasons to Make the Change
There are several catalysts for data center migrations. Some businesses may be facing a budget decision in response to manpower costs, as well as the power and cooling costs of running their own facility. Others may simply lack the square footage required to continue operating their environment in house. Some have specific regulatory and compliance requirements that add complexity for the organization as well. The need for redundancy and access to interconnection options are other big factors companies must consider while weighing whether to make their move.
A data center migration can be an overwhelming project, but by implementing these best practices, IT teams can minimize downtime, avoid hurdles and ensure a smooth migration.
- Identify migration scope. Fully assessing the current environment and identifying what must be moved is a crucial starting point. You should have a complete inventory of the IT environment and create lists to track your migration plan from both services and application perspectives, as well as physical equipment.
- Evaluate platform stability. Be aware of equipment age—is it in danger of failure in transport? Ensure that healthy equipment is on standby in case of emergency.
- Define criticality of data. Identify each data asset and how critical it is to the organization. Determine how data assets are being used and their relationship to the whole environment.
- Understand your network. Establish your network at the new location and thoroughly test communication. Do not simply rely on copying configurations for network infrastructure.
- Determine downtime to be caused by the migration. Understand how much downtime can be reasonably incurred throughout the migration. This duration will drive the method to process the actual migration, while ensuring you keep in line with the defined scope.
- Define your migration plan. Establish a migration method to ensure nothing is missed. Is it a “forklift” process, where equipment will be picked up and moved? Or is it a swing migration, where uptime is required throughout the entire migration process? Assess the tools needed for data migration. If you’re using a cloud migration strategy, determine how much data will be transported. Some customers opt for network storage appliances, which take copies of data and move it first, while others use software that’s capable of over-the-wire data transfers. Evaluating the best method is driven by the importance of data and uptime requirements. Remember that you can use combination approaches.
- Test your migration plan. Complete a series of tests by taking applications through the process to validate whether each step you’ve laid out will work properly. It’s never a good idea to migrate a platform for the first time on the day of the actual migration. Testing will provide a better understanding of how to go through the process step by step.
- Be mindful of the order of machine bring-up. The order of machine bring-up following a move is critical. If you start up certain applications ahead of others it depends on, you may experience serious performance and operational impact to the business.
- Overcommunicate. Clear communications and expectation setting across the various business functions is important. Executives need to set aside staff and time to validate their servers on the other side of the move. They also need to understand how it’s helping them perform their jobs better, faster and more efficiently. That’s why you should make sure all business units know what’s happening, when and why. Take the time to communicate your plans and set expectations.
- Think about partnering with professionals. Carefully consider whether your team has the adequate internal resources to execute a successful migration. If you prefer self-migration, remember that third parties can still help with the physical move, freeing engineers to assist with data migration.
Working with a third-party migration partner removes much of the pressure from the process, so long as you select one seasoned in this task. Choose a partner that will take the time up front to go over planning and migration strategies for infrastructure, network connectivity, applications, data and security, and compliance requirements. The right partner can make all the difference in avoiding a migration catastrophe.
Even with planning and implementation of the best practices noted above, three areas typically create difficulties when enterprises switch cloud providers.
- Moving workloads. Understand that different workloads merit different deployment options. For instance, some work best in the cloud, whereas some should only be on premises and others can benefit from a hybrid approach.
- Migrating applications. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of the business criticality and dependencies of each application you’re migrating. A reputable provider will have the depth and breadth of capabilities to classify all applications and add them to a product catalog for a risk and supportability assessment. A detailed test plan for integration, user acceptance and performance testing is necessary as well.
- Migrating data. Support, monitoring and managing the data during and after migration are also important. Executing a successful data center migration is a huge undertaking, but with the right level of planning, communication and expectation setting, as well as a concerted effort to make sure you truly understand the order of operations for your IT infrastructure, you can execute a seamless switch.
About the Author
Mike Fuhrman is chief product officer for Peak 10 + ViaWest. Mike is responsible for the company’s product and service strategy, research and development, and internal IT initiatives, positioning it to continue its growth trajectory and delivery of innovative solutions to customers. He joined Peak 10 in 2015 as the chief technology officer. Mike has over two decades of technical leadership experience. He spent much of his career at Cisco, where he was responsible for the delivery and scaling of all cloud-based services for the suite of Cisco security platforms. He graduated from the Citadel with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at San Antonio.