Five Phases for a Successful Data Center Migration
As businesses grow and change, they inevitably reach a point where their existing information technology systems are unable to keep up with demand.
What is a Data Center Migration?
A data center migration is the process of moving an organization’s data, applications, and IT infrastructure from one physical location or environment to another. This could involve transferring data and workloads from an on-premises data center to a cloud-based data center, relocating data and systems from one physical data center facility to another, or even consolidating multiple data centers into a single location.
Different Types of Data Center Migration
There are several types of data center migrations, each with its own purpose and scope:
- Physical-to-Cloud Migration: In this type of migration, an organization moves its physical servers, storage, and networking equipment to a cloud-based data center or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider. The organization typically leverages cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to host their IT resources. This migration type often aims to reduce the organization’s on-premises infrastructure costs, increase scalability, and improve flexibility.
- Data Center Consolidation: Data center consolidation involves the merging or centralization of multiple data center facilities into a smaller number of locations. This is often done to reduce operating costs, improve resource utilization, and streamline management. It may include moving physical equipment, virtualizing servers, and optimizing data center layouts to achieve efficiency gains.
- Data Center Expansion: Rather than moving away from existing data centers, some organizations opt for data center expansion. This involves building new data center facilities or expanding existing ones to accommodate increased capacity, support growth, and enhance redundancy. Expansion may include adding more servers, storage, networking equipment, and power/cooling infrastructure.
Why Do Companies Need Data Center Migrations?
Data center migrations are typically carried out for various reasons, including:
- Cost Reduction: Organizations may migrate their data centers to reduce operational costs, such as maintenance, cooling, and power consumption. Cloud-based data centers often offer cost savings through economies of scale.
- Scalability: Moving to a different data center infrastructure can provide better scalability and flexibility to accommodate growing data and computational needs.
- Disaster Recovery: Organizations may migrate to data centers in geographically diverse locations to enhance disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities.
- Improved Performance: Upgrading to newer and more advanced data center technology can improve overall system performance and reliability.
- Compliance and Security: Migrating to a data center that complies with specific industry regulations or offers enhanced security features can be a critical factor in the decision to migrate.
Is it time for a Data Center Migration?
Data center migration is essential if:
- You’re consistently monitoring your data center’s performance and there’s evidence of significant underutilization of infrastructure resources.
- You’re overspending on systems not meeting industry, compliance, or security standards.
- Legacy systems are financially hindering your business, and even creating downtime, stress, and reduced productivity.
- Cybersecurity concerns arise due to vulnerability in aging tools.
- Dated systems force IT staff to prioritize infrastructure protection over business growth.
Understanding your existing IT environment
The data center migration process begins with a full assessment of your current IT environment. The discovery phase will identify which assets need to be moved. This will help you determine an appropriate budget and timeframe and clearly define your migration goals.
The discovery phase addresses three main questions:
- What exactly are we migrating?
- Physical IT compute, storage, and network devices
- Server racks, PDU’s, and other hardware components
- Application migration and specific data assets
- What is the budget and timeline?
- Technical and business costs
- Prorated across one to five years
- What are your desired outcomes?
- Bottom line and productivity impact
- Key success metrics
- What exactly are we migrating?
How you answer these questions depends entirely on your current environment and what you wish to achieve. Once you have outlined your priorities, it is time to move on to the best practices for this phase:
Consult with your stakeholders
A data center migration is likely to affect many operational areas of a business, so it’s vital to work closely with various stakeholders. Each internal partner must understand exactly how and which business functions will be impacted during the migration. It’s essential to assign a capable project manager.
In addition to assigning a capable project manager, you need to build a cross-functional team. The team will be responsible for engaging and informing stakeholders. You may also want to hire an external consultant to provide expertise to and augment your team.
Submit migration questionnaires
Each data center migration is unique. There are several key questions to include in a survey to facilitate the discovery process. Here are some of the most important:
- Which existing network dependencies, processes, and applications might be impacted?
- Will you require any compliance certificates or attestations?
- What type of support will you need during and after migration?
- What are your availability requirements, as defined in your service level agreements (SLAs)?
- Which security measures will be required to protect your data?
- For physical assets, what are the telecommunication, cabling, physical space, power, and cooling requirements?
Build your asset inventory
Building your asset inventory is essential to ensure you can keep track of all property during the migration process. Conduct a thorough data center audit that covers all physical and virtual assets including hardware, applications, and storage assets. Your inventory should clearly identify network connectivity and how each asset interacts across your wider network. With this information you can create a network dependency summary.
Drafting your data center migration strategies
Part of the migration process is to determine your technical requirements. This stage involves drafting a migration strategy, identifying a suitable migration method, and evaluating your infrastructure needs.
Draft your migration strategy
The first step is to define your target operating model. There are several options: build your own, rent an entire facility, or share space in a colocation.
Building your own data center offers by far the greatest degree of control, but it also comes at huge capital expense. Renting or leasing your data center, by contrast, reduces the upfront capital expenses to the cost of the actual migration. Everything thereafter becomes an operational expense.
The colocation option is a blend of the two since it involves sharing the facility and infrastructure with other companies.
Regardless of the option you choose, there will be significant costs to your business operations. How much it will cost and how much time it will take will depend on the type of migration. When you are migrating a physical data center, you will need to consider the many physical components involved including network, telecommunications, equipment cabinets, and cabling.
Identify your migration method
Data center migration is a broad term that represents the process of moving IT systems and workloads from one infrastructure to another. Some migrations are entirely software-defined. Others involve moving server racks and other physical systems.
While there are several types data center migration, the easiest tend to be virtual to virtual. This involves moving only virtual machines and data assets. The most complex migrations are from physical to virtual or virtual to physical. These involve retiring existing or purchasing new physical assets and moving your workloads to either a private, public, or hybrid cloud.
Evaluate your infrastructure needs
The last part of the analysis phase is to evaluate your technical infrastructure needs. This process will be more complex for physical data center relocations. You will need to analyze physical space and infrastructure requirements, such as cabling, cooling, and power.
To enable better cooling and energy use, you must plan out the best rack layouts. Last but not least, you’ll draft precise connectivity diagrams.
Next, you will need to think about the computing and storage requirements for your workloads and applications. This includes operating systems, hypervisors, and other important software required to run a data center. Every data center migration takes time and will inevitably cause some disruption. This is why it is important to plan ahead for upgrades and changes and determine a maximum period of allowable downtime.
Creating a master plan for data center migration
Now that you understand your existing environment and where you want to be with your new data center, it is time to create the comprehensive data center migration plan itself. A solid plan will greatly reduce the risk of unexpected downtime and the potential revenue losses.
Outline your project plans
An outline of your master plan must include the complete asset inventory you compiled earlier. Count every application, hardware device, and data asset. Your project plan should include a migration checklist and roadmap that prioritizes assets and their respective migrations.
When migrating apps and data, there are three basic steps to think about. First, you need to extract the data from its source system. Next, you need to prepare it for migration, which may involve transforming it between different formats and file systems. Third, you will need migrate data into the new environment.
When migrating hardware, be sure that all components are properly organized, packaged and expertly transported to minimize the risk of damage. Seemingly simple issues, such as static discharge, can cause serious damage. Follow a strict chain of custody process is to avoid any equipment or data loss.
Prepare a statement of work
For partners involved in the migration, prepare a statement of work (SOW) with clearly identified roles and responsibilities. The SOW should include a list of the data center migration steps. This involves documenting your deliverables and defining a timeline and performance period. It also requires outlining service level agreements (SLA’s) containing your evaluation criteria and defining relevant terms and conditions.
Your team members must also understand their roles, responsibilities, and dependencies. Within the SOW provide clear accountability and specific reporting requirements.
Finalize your master plan
Finalizing your master plan involves allocating resources, planning your contingencies, and obtaining any additional support. More often than not, your current team won’t have the skills, experience, or time to carry out a data center relocation. There are many competent data center solutions providers who you can partner with on specific tasks or entire relocations.
The data center migration event
Your migration may be broken into separate events or phases.
The event begins with thorough communication between all stakeholders for pre-migration testing and preparation. 48 hours ahead of the move, have a roll call for the migration team and any backup resources. Four hours prior to move, have another roll call. This will ensure full resource availability through the event.
Your communications plan gives your stakeholders multiple points of reference for the schedule. You can use checklists, physical posters, online dashboards, email reminders and SMS. It is essential that you have real-time communication between everyone involved throughout the event.
Test your master plan
Before putting your master plan into action, it is important to conduct practice or trial runs. Schedule at lease one full trial run prior to the migration. You can use virtualization tools to carry out performance, functional and validation tests.
Execute your master plan
Your project plan must be followed precisely to prevent any steps from being missed out or being followed out of sequence. As you execute your master plan mark each task as complete. Use project plan checklists to sign off on each task. You can use applications or web-based work-management platforms.
Facilitate knowledge transfer
Depending on the complexity of your data center relocation, you may need to facilitate the transfer of extra knowledge. For example, architectural decisions may need to be revisited as new information is provided. Technical designs may need to be modified. More resources might be required than previously expected.
Wrapping up your data center migration completes the fifth phase
Once you have executed every task in your data center relocation plan, you need to verify your migration. Complete a follow-up assessment of all aspects of the new data center, including hardware, applications, data, and network infrastructure.
Finalize your documentation
Another step in your data center move is finalizing the necessary documentation. Track all assets in their new environment and create an up-to-date inventory.
If your migration involves physical infrastructure and hardware, map your new server room layouts. Include complete data center cabling for both networking and power connections, preferably in a CMDB or DCIM solution. Create rack elevation documentation and availability heat maps. Finally, set up auto-discovery and REST APIs to keep the documentation automatically updated.
Execute your decommission plan
When relocating workloads from a physical environment to private or public cloud, you must execute a data center asset decommissioning plan. A solid plan will ensure that any retired data-bearing assets are properly wiped of potentially sensitive data. It will also account for recycling, repurposing, destroying or degaussing equipment according to company policy and sustainable practices.
Depending on the scope of the event, consider an IT asset disposition (ITAD) company who specializes in data center equipment.
Schedule follow-up sessions
The last step in the post-migration phase is to finalize the documentation with new ownership. Schedule follow-up sessions with the teams and stakeholders to address any outstanding issues. During the sessions, address device contracts, life cycle management, as additional staff training or on-going remote hands support. Finally, close out the project.
Final Words About Successful Data Center Migration
Use the best practices we’ve covered in this guide as a starting point for developing a customized action plan. Whether you are migrating a few applications or two-hundred server racks of IT equipment, every migration is different. With the right plan and the right help, a best-practices data center migration will set up your business for long-term success.
Silverback Data Center Solutions is an industry leader in data center migration, deployment, staffing, auditing, and decommissioning. We understand that your digital infrastructure is mission-critical, and that is exactly how we treat it. Contact us today to discuss your data center migration needs.