Many factors can precipitate the need for a data center migration – growth beyond current capacities, mergers and acquisitions, hosting provider performance, real estate changes, local data center economics, density requirements, staffing considerations, green initiatives, etc. A data center migration is one of the most critical and complex IT tasks organizations are faced with today.
The margin for error is near zero and the move timeline is typically short, making data center migration planning indispensable to success. To minimize the risks of unexpected downtime, interruption to revenue, and customer satisfaction losses the migration project must be properly planned and flawlessly executed. The focus of this whitepaper is to identify key points for data center migration planning and provide an overview of migration options.
The Planning Process and Errors to Avoid
Thorough requirements gathering is a critical component of any migration project, it is often left incomplete. Business objectives, resources required, and specific details of the project should be organized and documented. This documentation serves as a valuable information resource to guide development the project plan, provide business communication, and backup material for budgetary justification. Key requirements include:
- Overall business drivers and timelines – what are the reasons for the migration and objectives to be achieved?
- Department or group specific requirements – what is the impact to each department and group affected and how will impacts be managed?
- Impact owners – who are the specific individuals to sign off on the expected impacts, keep notified of migration activities and progress, and be on call in case of unexpected changes or problems?
- Technical owners – who are the key contacts (primary and secondary, additional if needed) required for defining migration tasks including physical infrastructure, network, systems, applications, databases, transportation, insurance, vendor management, and business communications?
- Project management – who will manage each phase of the migration project?
- Communication – Define pre- and post-move communication requirements.
Data center migration projects require advanced planning and consideration of every aspect of the move process. One common error to avoid is establishing the project budget and timeline prior to a complete evaluation of the project and plan development. In the case of migrations, placing the proverbial cart before the horse can be a devastating and costly mistake. Develop a comprehensive plan:
- Gather data – Employ the experience and knowledge of internal IT staff and external consultants where needed to fully understand the scope and requirements of the migration, identify the tasks and resources needed, and calculate actual time requirements based on concrete details.
- Document the project plan – compile the detailed project plan complete with tasks, resource assignments, timeline, dependencies, and budgetary components. Once complete, the migration project plan should be used to justify budgets, establish a timeline, identify risks associated with the migration, and obtain appropriate approvals and sign-off.
- Brainstorm for the expected and unexpected – task the project technical team to identify potential problem areas and develop contingencies. To reduce risk and the potential for unexpected and costly downtime, carefully document recovery plans, back-out procedure, and fail-over options.
- Prepare checklists – compile task completion checklists from the project plan to be used during the migration phase.
- Develop end-to-end test plans – task technical teams and impact owners to compile comprehensive test plans to be used in the Validation phase of the migration project.
With a carefully developed project plan, resources in place, and contingencies identified, we are ready to begin the migration. Migration typically begins with communication to the organization and pre-migration preparation. Keep the migration as smooth as possible and on schedule:
- Schedule a trial run prior to the migration – especially for complex project tasks, a trial run where practical can uncover potential issues and help you make plan adjustments to prevent the unexpected.
- Roll call – communicate with the move team and backup resources at 24 hours and 4 hours before the move to ensure full resource availability.
- Follow the plan – the project plan must be followed precisely to prevent missed steps and out-of -sequence errors.
- Document the work as each task is completed – use the project plan checklists for sign-off on each task. This documentation will prove indispensable for problem resolution and validation of the work completed.
The final phase of the migration project verifies that all tasks have been completed, recovery or contingency procedures are documented, and communication is in place with all affected departments or groups. Validation steps to be completed:
- Verify checklists – each checklist step should be signed off by the implementer and project coordinator.
- Testing – execute the end-to-end system test plans developed prior to the migration and document test results.
- Communication – at project completion, compile the results of the migration into an executive summary for appropriate distribution. Also provide test plan results as appropriate.
- Sign-off – obtain sign-off verification that all tasks are complete and systems are working as expected.
A successful data center migration begins with careful planning and ends with the satisfaction that the plan was executed to meet the established requirements. The preceding guidelines are intended to aid your thought process to create a project plan designed for success. Due to the complexity of the migration project, the resources needed to complete each phase of the project as outlined should be carefully evaluated and selected. Whether using internal resources, an outsourced migration solution provider, or some combination of the two, be certain that each phase of the project is professionally staffed and expertly executed to ensure a successful migration for your organization.