Whether you run a large corporation or small business, planning a data center relocation is a task of monumental importance. The lead time for a data center move can be anywhere from several months to more than a year. In this blog post, we will look at six steps toward a successful data center relocation. But first, we’ll look at a few basic concepts.
What is a data center relocation?
The terms data center relocation and data center migration are sometimes used interchangeably. The terms data center move and data center consolidation are also related.
Relocation: physically moving your current data center equipment to a new location, such as:
- Moving to a new data center
- Transferring some or all equipment to a colocation facility
- Moving assets from one floor or room to another within the same building
Migration: the process of transferring data between computer systems or between storage devices, regardless of location, such as:
- Migrating computer applications or services to the cloud
- Moving physical equipment, workloads, data into a more contemporary hybrid IT model, consisting of new data center space, edge racks, and cloud.
What are the different types of data centers?
Data centers vary in size, from a small server room all the way up to groups of geographically distributed buildings, but they all share one thing in common: they are a critical business asset where companies often invest in and deploy the latest advancements in data center networking, compute and storage technologies.
The modern data center has evolved from a facility containing an on-premises infrastructure to one that connects on-premises systems with cloud infrastructures where networks, applications and workloads are virtualized in multiple private and public clouds.
- Enterprise data centers are typically constructed and used by a single organization for their own internal purposes. These are common among tech giants.
- Colocation data centers function as a kind of rental property where the space and resources of a data center are made available to the people willing to rent it.
- Managed service data centers offer aspects such as data storage, computing, and other services as a third party, serving customers directly.
- Cloud data centers are distributed and are sometimes offered to customers with the help of a third-party managed service provider.
How important is a data center relocation to a business?
For many organizations, a data center migration can bring significant benefits. Examples of these include:
- Improved Return on Investment (ROI): Data center migrations can help IT leaders to reduce operating expenses by optimizing the use of available resources.
- Improved Resource Capacity: A data center migration can enable an organization to build a more scalable data center.
- Minimize Disruption: Technology is evolving rapidly, and a more agile environment can help to decrease the disruption caused by adopting new technologies.
- Increased Lifespan: Data center migration can increase the lifespan and return on investment of an organization’s existing IT infrastructure by adapting it to better meet the organization’s needs.
- Improved Security and Regulatory Compliance: Different types of data centers provide different security benefits, such as the increased control of an on-prem data center vs. the built-in security features of the cloud. A data center migration can enable an organization to choose a model that better fits its security needs.
Now, let’s look at the six steps for a successful data center relocation.
Step One – Early Planning is Critical
The absolute most important key to a successful data center relocation is careful and comprehensive planning. This is where you should spend 90 percent of your time and effort. With thorough planning, you can anticipate problems, plan for contingencies, and avoid unexpected pitfalls.
Understanding the basic framework and relationships among the hardware, software, and business processes and people is an important step. Outlining the scope of your data center relocation is critical. There are several ways to scope a data center migration:
- Traditional: physical site to physical site
- Cloud: physical and/or virtual environment to a private or public cloud service
- Hybrid: part-cloud, part-internal servers
The end goal is to flawlessly bring your systems down in one location, then seamlessly bring them up in another.
Step Two – Communicate Why a Data Center Relocation is Needed
The entire organization needs to be committed to making the move a success. Although IT is managed in a single department, maximum uptime is critical to every function in the company. Senior leadership can support the data center relocation in many ways, including crafting and communicating a clear vision of why the move is taking place. Having clear communication upfront will keep employees more engaged and aware as the project moves through phases. Management can referee between competing priorities and weigh in on timing. Taking time for all-hands buy-in will ensure that all teams are working toward the same goal.
Step Three – Assign Capable Resources
The most important role in the data center relocation is that of technical project manager. This person needs a high level of skill in logistics, budgeting, risk assessment, communication and people management skills. Whether large or small, IT move projects are inherently complex and attention to detail is a must. In some cases, if one person doesn’t have all of the necessary skills, two team members can be assigned as project leads. Assign a backup point person regardless of size or type of relocation.
With any type of project management, an employee is likely being asked to perform this task alongside their regular job. If there isn’t a qualified person on staff, or if no one has bandwidth to take on the task, seek third-party assistance. You can outsource the entire project or only certain parts of the move. Your hardware vendors should be notified ahead of time. They may have resources, special procedures or need to seed IT equipment differently in the new location.
Step Four – Audit Your Equipment and Processes
A comprehensive plan has been created and approved. Everyone is on-board and teams have been allocated to the project. The next step in a data center relocation is a thorough site audit. The audit team reviews the equipment in the current infrastructure. The assessment will be for current state and identify mission critical machines that might need to be moved first. All the dependencies between different pieces of equipment will be mapped. Once the audit is complete, decisions are made about which machines need to be upgraded, decommissioned, or replaced. The data center audit process is also an opportunity to upgrade to new equipment as part of the relocated.
Although outside the specific scope of a data center audit, make sure you address the networking, security, and authentication impacts of the relocation. Connectivity needs to be ensured and authentication needs to function. All applications need to be able to talk to each other. If your organization doesn’t have this type of expertise, there are third party professionals who can help.
Step Five – Select a Method for Your Data Center Relocation
Another key decision is the type of relocation will best meet your needs. There are several methods including: Physical to Physical, Physical to Virtual, Virtual to Virtual, Physical to Cloud, Virtual to Cloud. In most cases a hybrid approach will be necessary.
If you are in a green-field situation, you will be using all new hardware to host your existing workload. Your focus will be on the actual migration work. In other scenarios, you might use a swing hardware strategy to minimize waste and keep costs in control. Another option is to rent a section of or the whole footprint of your final environment. In this rent and replace strategy, the vendor will rent your existing hardware profile and accept your original equipment in return. Your infrastructure requirements may even change during the course of the project. It’s important to remain flexible and consider all methods from a variety of perspectives. And, always have a backup plan.
Step 6 – Document and Test
You’ve documented your overall plan, detailed individual steps and mapped out contingencies for your data center relocation. Before the actual relocation, testing needs to happen in your current environment. This will set a baseline. Well managed testing will ensure the compatibility of IT equipment. It will also save cost, time and project integrity.
Another part of documentation is equipment tagging. Include the serial number and warranty information for each item being moved. Warranties need to be reviewed for move clauses. In addition, service contracts also need to be reviewed and individual vendors notified of the move. This will allow any licensing issues to be addressed.
Finally, once all equipment is installed in the new location, begin testing right away. Use your audit inventory list to confirm proper location and installation. Application testing of systems and applications happen at this final stage of your data center migration project.
Whether you’re moving two racks across the street or planning an entire data center relocation, working with experienced data center consultants is extremely important. Silverback Data Center Solutions uses field-tested processes, techniques and tools developed throughout many years and thousands of data center migrations.
Recap of the Six Steps to a Successful Data Center Relocation:
- Early Planning is Critical
- Communicate Why a Data Center Relocation is Needed
- Assign Capable Resources
- Audit Your Equipment and Processes
- Select a Method for Your Data Center Relocation
- Document and Test