Data Center Migration: A Complete Guide
As organizations grow, they eventually reach a point where their existing data solutions can no longer accommodate their needs. Whether it is increasing capacity to launch a new application or gain access to a broader range of connectivity options, something often triggers companies to consider data center migration into a new environment.
If your organization has reached this threshold, you will need to adjust your data center business plan to accommodate the migration.
The aging data center infrastructure that most businesses rely on today is not efficient or sufficient. It does not have the power needed to process big data or store it. Your critical IT network infrastructure should enable your organization, not throttle your business or the ability to innovate.
Your organization needs an infrastructure that amplifies and secures the data you collect to break into new territory, gain a competitive advantage, or survive in the industry. The success of your data center migration empowers your organization to improve productivity, efficiency, and agility.
What’s more, by moving your increasing workloads to a modern platform, you can:
- Scale and grow efficiently
- Support more business demands
- Capitalize on market opportunities
- Transform your organization into a digital-first enterprise
- Enhance customer relations
- Improve your bottom line
Once you decide that you require a data center migration, your next step is making it happen.
What is Data Center Migration?
A data center migration (or relocation) refers to the process of deploying and transferring your existing data center operating environment to another (location or IT infrastructure). It’s a comprehensive process that requires systematic planning and moving of your data center to a new site, facility, or IT infrastructure.
Migration requires the logical ad operational relocation of a data center before physically or virtually moving it to a new site. In the case of end users, it refers to the adoption of cloud or managed platforms in favor of standard or in-house data center facilities.
Before a successful migration, you must ensure the following:
- The new facility or infrastructure meets or exceeds the expected future requirements.
- It’s compatible with present applications and solutions.
- You conduct a test migration to ensure a smooth relocation.
- You include thorough planning and validation phases.
- The relocation and management of your staff’s schedule and workflows to make sure there is minimal impact to present business operations.
Is it Time for Your Data Center Migration?
To answer this question correctly and on time, you need to stay on top of your organization’s data center performance. If you are not already doing this, the results may surprise you because you may be significantly underusing your infrastructure resources. You may also be overspending on a system that cannot perform to your industry, compliance, or security standards – or meet your business needs.
Legacy systems impede many businesses today, most without their knowledge. An Insight survey report showed that at least 64 percent of IT professionals polled from large corporations saw their legacy IT infrastructure and outdated technology as their most significant barrier to IT transformation. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed revealed that they abandoned or stalled their transformation efforts due to unexpected challenges.
The cost of legacy technology is more than dollars and cents. It includes downtime, unnecessary stress, and slowed productivity.
Also, when it comes to security, businesses are rendered almost defenseless despite investing heavily in data security and backup systems. It is becoming harder to protect aging tools and technology from sophisticated cyber threats.
Cyber vulnerabilities affect entire organizations. Dated systems force IT staff to spend more time and energy protecting infrastructure than helping grow the business. Also, if these systems fall prey to attacks, organizations end up with enormous costs, delayed operations, recovery problems, and the loss of stakeholder trust.
So, is it Time for Your Data Center Migration? If you are worrying or experiencing any of the realities mentioned above, then the answer is yes.
You need to ensure that your organization sets itself on the path to meaningful IT change. To do this, you must understand what platforms and updates you need, and how they will impact your business.
Data Center Migration Steps
- Select the Right IT Infrastructure
There are several data center tech platforms, each with their benefits, so striking the right balance of cost, performance, and flexibility is vital. Do you migrate fully to the cloud, stay on-premises, or adopt a hybrid approach?
Pick your solution based on both your business’ present and future needs. Depending on your specific business environment, it might make more sense to opt for a cross-platform strategy that enables you to capitalize on the benefits of multiple infrastructure options.
Below is a breakdown of the possible data center migration platforms to transition to:
- Cloud: A data center migration to the cloud allows you to optimize your tech ecosystem for enhanced performance. A diverse cloud system can help your organization streamline its management and gain interoperability after matching your workloads with the appropriate platform: private, public, or hybrid.
- Traditional (on-premises): Migrating to a modernized in-house data center enables you to secure your sensitive data on-premises and allows you better control over it. What’s more, your organization remains agile with platforms that can support the latest workloads.
- Converged: Converting to a converged infrastructure allows you to minimize your data footprint. It treats data storage, computing, and network as one system, simplifying management. It also enables you the flexibility of using various components, taking the complexity out of scaling, replacing parts, or repairing the system.
- Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI): HCI is ideal for small infrastructure systems with light workloads. It allows you to scale when necessary and offers immense efficiency with a small footprint. The platform integrates several components into a single unit and comes fully preconfigured for quick deployment.
An experienced entity can help you determine the best IT infrastructure that matches your data and workload requirements. A qualified IT service provider can help you develop the perfect data center migration plan to minimize the potential risks of undergoing migration. A smooth transition has little to no downtime, no negative business impact, and protects your data and applications throughout the process.
- Plan the Data Center Migration
Planning is perhaps the critical step in any data center migration. It encompasses several things, including the physical infrastructure, relocation checklist, selecting the right IT infrastructure, and setting up the project’s management and follow-up.
In this section, we will focus on the physical aspect of migration. The primary objectives include:
- Design: Some questions to answer here include: What will you need to acquire, build, deploy, and manage? Where will it go? And when will it get there? Will you consolidate? When will you be out of space in your new data center? Often, the general requirement is to have 15% to 20% overhead at the rack level for expansion room.
- Review: Once the design step is covered, all stakeholders concerned (in IT and business) are required to review it. It is at this point that everyone ensures the inclusion of their objectives and success criteria to prevent future problems.
- Revisions: Revisions address any unmet objectives and success criteria identified during the review process.
- Final Review: The last infrastructure review is necessary to begin development.
- Have a Data Center Migration Checklist
Upgrading your data center is more than just adopting the newest technology. It also about determining your workload and business needs to streamline your operations and provide top-notch customer service.
The process of strategizing and committing to a change within the business can be complicated, more so when moving your entire workloads and processes. It takes a lot of time, training, and buy-in from everybody in the organization.
You need to evaluate your applications, data storage centers, and dependencies to assist you in deciding where each workload goes. A full analysis of your existing infrastructure is also essential because it provides an overview of your current systems end-to-end and gives you a clear project direction.
Below is a checklist (in no particular order) of data center migration best practices to help you plan a successful relocation:
- Get all executives and employees on board. If your staff is not interested in change or does not understand the need to, then nothing meaningful will happen. Therefore, you need to explain to all business leaders the need for an IT transformation to enable your systems to run faster and boost productivity across all levels.
- Start simple. A data center migration is a process that can sometimes take years, so never change everything at once. Instead, try to focus on what is a priority and manageable first. Start with those aspects of the project that are simple to execute, bring immediate value, and have a low cost.
- Invest in training. Transformation requires doing new or different things, and your IT team may need retraining to support the upgraded platform. Then they can hit the ground running once the new system is operational.
- Focus on the workloads. Organizations rely on applications every day. Therefore, working around a data center migration can be challenging, but you must plan to ensure business continuity and minimal downtime. It’s a good idea to create a data center migration plan that aligns applications and other software with platforms and solutions to improve performance. Never stick to one system. Stay flexible with your platforms of choice.
- Embrace DevOps. DevOps’ comprehensive philosophy incorporates product management, quality assurance, development, security, and operations as one approach to the technological processes within the business, i.e., from design and development to management and support. Using DevOps’ all-inclusive and team-oriented approach gives your business the agility it requires.
- Conduct the Data Center Migration
After planning and reviewing your checklist, the next stage is migration. In this section, we will break the data center migration steps into three.
At this stage, you build the physical infrastructure required to support your applications and business processes, as identified in the planning stage. Once the building is complete, you must next review the specifications of each IT infrastructure element to ensure that there are no last-minute changes.
You then finalize the support processes. Here, every party associated with providing support for the virtual or physical infrastructure elements and their associated applications must sign-off for the project to receive support and a go-ahead.
Migration is the best time to verify that all your escalation and support processes are in place, especially considering the cost of your brand-new IT infrastructure.
Finally, the various owners sign off on all aspects of the physical infrastructure construction. It’s a type of ownership validation where owners of the specific servers, switches, routers, SANs, etc. give their thumbs up.
The next step is validation, which refers to the checks and balances needed to ensure everything you planned for happens, including the network, compliance, compute, storage, and security requirements. Since you are about to move your data to the new location or infrastructure, this is your final checkpoint to ensure that all the details identified in the planning stage have made it through development.
Execute equipment cool down before you start actual migration in the next step below. Critical hardware such as servers, routers, storage appliances, switches, firewalls, etc., may all run fine presently. However, you need to ensure that when you shut them down and allow them to cool before powering them back up, they will come back online.
The cooldown check is necessary because you will catch any issues during the validation stage, which gives you the chance to solve it either during the phase or the migration process. For instance, if you find that critical hardware such as a router fails to power back up during validation, you can bring in a new one to address the issue quickly.
Finally, you reach the migration phase, where you get to move your applications and data to a new infrastructure or data center location. Here you should focus on the App migration Plan, which refers to a specific set of steps to follow during the migration of each application. Dependencies identified during the discovery phase comprise the essential elements of your checklist.
You could conduct a Test Migration of all the applications, data, and network configurations to see if everything is ready. It also gives you a rough idea of how long migration will take. One great way to conduct a Test Migration is to move your backup instead of the production infrastructure. You can also opt to test one or two production applications as well. You can mix and match test migration elements according to the criticality of your applications.
Finally, conduct the migration.
- Post Data Center Migration Testing and Management
After the migration is complete, you need a clear post-migration transition back to daily operations, including support. Additionally, it’s best to have a proactive monitoring and response system in place to ensure everything is operating as planned.
Data Center Migration Tools
There are three main types of data center migration tools to consider during relocation:
- On-Premise Tools: Designed to migrate data and applications within the network of a medium or large enterprise installation.
- Open Source Tools: These are community supported and developed tools that are free or have a low cost.
- Cloud-based Tools: They move data and applications to the cloud from various streams and sources such as cloud-based and on-premise data applications, stores, services, etc.
Data Center Migration Challenges
There are numerous data center migration risks and challenges that come with relocation.
- Failure to Set Realistic Time Expectations for the Migration
The common mistake made during migration is failing to set realistic time expectations for the process. The Test Migration should give you a rough idea of how long the entire process will take to avoid surprises later and ensure you account for the downtime. Often the production migration process is longer than the test migration because it needs care and attention to detail.
- Post-Migration Testing
Post-migration testing is always a challenge. However, it’s still a good idea to engage your customers and staff to know their operational experiences and map things out. Before migration, enlist network staff to measure and time performance end-to-end on specific sets of transactions on critical applications. Document the tests and then repeat them after the relocation.
- Hidden Complexities Always Occur
You probably don’t know or have not accounted for hidden complexities, such as back-end attachments to the critical applications you plan to move. Some legacy applications in your present data center may be older than you. Therefore, it’s never too early to initiate a detailed inventory with your customers and employees and document everything on a CMDB-type database.
- Migration Breaks Regular Work Schedules
Expect downtime during a data center migration. Thus, start informing your support teams and end-users that some of them will put in the time to conduct a Q&A required to support the relocation. The schedule alone can take months of planning.
- Fragile Application Delivery Optimization (ADO)
If you use optimizers or load balancers, you will have to go through their configuration layers to learn how to manage your migration. It may require additional investment for duplicate hardware not accounted for or for the technical expertise.
- Failure to Recognize the Interdependencies of Data Center Infrastructure Components
The biggest challenge when developing and building the physical or virtual data center is upgrading the different infrastructure parts without recognizing their interdependencies. There is nothing wrong with upgrading some critical components of your IT infrastructure during a migration. Some things, such as new network equipment or transitions from physical to virtual, are easy to set up during relocation.
However, such fractional upgrades usually have a trickle-down impact. Therefore, ensure that you highlight the planned updates and their interdependencies during the planning stages.
- Failure to Engage All Relevant Stakeholders during Planning
One common validation mistake made is a failure to engage the business. Validation is a part of the migration process where the IT, NetEng, and IT teams are busy ironing out the kinks in their checklists. Therefore, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders are involved in the process prevents unforeseen technical changes or additional requirements later.
- Internal Politics
Lack of consistent and unfiltered communication throughout the migration project breeds inconsistencies and problems down the line. It is advisable to hire an impartial party powerful enough to whip everybody in line and ensure smooth and swift communication.
- Failing to Back Up Your Data and Applications before Migration
It’s a general rule to have secured backups of your data and applications at all times to ensure immediate restoration in case of losses from natural disasters, system failures, or cyber-attacks.
The Bottom Line
We have walked through the process of planning and executing a successful data center migration. We have also highlighted data center migration tools, an all-inclusive checklist, and the common risks and challenges to expect during and after migration.
A data center migration can entirely transform your organization’s overall operating environment and yield significant and lasting benefits, such as an attractive ROI. It’s a strategic, high-visibility project that impacts your business operations, performance availability, and service level agreements.
A specific data center migration methodology helps ensure operational stability. It appropriately balances the overbearing process with the appropriate amount of rigor required to produce an on-budget, on-time relocation. Therefore, it both protects and guides your organization.
Remember that the entire process is a team effort that continues well after migration with testing and management. It’s vital to work together and ensure everybody is on the same page when it comes to the outcomes you are looking to achieve through this effort.
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