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A Roadmap for Data Center Migration: Challenges and Solutions (Part 1)

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Read more about author Veniamin Simonov.

Data center migration is the process of relocating an organization’s current data center to another operating environment. The first and most important task when preparing for migration is to avoid (or at least minimize) data loss. Data center migration isn’t about relocating physical equipment but rather about moving the data from one data center to another. This process doesn’t involve moving hardware from the old site to the new site. This is why data center migration is a logical process that requires relocating data and applications to a new site. 

This article consists of two parts. In the first part, we will review the main challenges of data center migration and share some actionable tips on how to arrange this process smoothly. In the second part, we’ll talk more about migration strategy and the main steps. 

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Data Center Migration Planning: Challenges

A properly organized data center migration involves serious hardware, time, and human resources. No element of that infrastructure transfer should ever be neglected or taken for granted, as a single mistake made while planning or executing the data migration can lead to weakening an organization’s production environment and services. Financial and reputational losses and even legal issues can be the result in case of critical data damage due to the process failure. Below are some of the most common challenges usually encountered during migrations.

Poor data center migration project plan

Many organizations either ignore building a plan for a successful migration or skip noting minor actions in a plan while assuming that those actions are obvious. Whether your plan is absent or not detailed enough, approaching the migration project without every detail thought out means a high risk of failure, timeline extension, and budget overlaps. According to Gartner, poor planning and underestimation of risks are the reason behind over 50% of data center migration projects exceeding their planned budgets.

No proper equipment catalogs

The data center infrastructure of any organization relies on numerous hardware components and other equipment and the maintenance of the proper operation of systems. The problem is that organizations mostly have their computing hardware (such as CPUs, motherboards, RAM modules, and storage disks) cataloged, but ignore listing other critical elements and devices (for example, cables, fuses, PSUs, routers, etc.) that ensure the functioning of the systems. The worst happens when the dependencies between the different system nodes are not documented and mapped out because the staff responsible for the migration plan can’t know which node they need to move to first to enable the further migration of workloads and data. 

Inaccurate capacity and performance planning

When moving to a different data center, organizations frequently fail to correctly estimate the storage capacity and the performance level of the new hardware compared to the previous system. The new server hardware can usually provide higher performance. Additionally, when migrating to a new data center, there can be a significant amount of data that is outdated or unnecessary to keep. On the other hand, dedicating not enough storage space or not providing sufficient hardware performance during the migration can result in multiple unwanted consequences such as a prolonged process duration or data damage. 

Data loss

Losing critical data is the worst disaster scenario of any data center migration project. The possible reasons for the data loss during migration are endless. Unexpected network issues from the provider’s side, unplanned power outages in the old or the new data center, communication breakage in the data transfer line, natural disasters, and human factors are only some of the issues that can lead to a data loss during migration. There are even more threats connected to cybersecurity vulnerabilities and misconfigured retention policies.

Data Center Migration Best Practices

Whether you are planning a data center migration to cloud or physical locations, following certain recommendations can help you organize and perform your migration more efficiently. The following practices are the basic elements of a migration methodology and can be used to increase the chances of successfully completing any migration project.

Thorough strategy

This point must be repeated once more. There are as many data center migration strategies as there are migration cases. The success of every case depends on the thoroughness of the organization’s approach toward the preparation and execution of the project. 

To complete the migration successfully, you cannot rely on general online guides only. Your strategy should consider the current data center’s hardware and software capabilities, connections between the nodes, network maps, etc. The sequence of the data and infrastructure elements’ migration should depend on the data center scheme. An effective migration strategy needs to be developed based on the organization’s capabilities and needs.

Defined purpose

The purpose is another critical point on your data center migration checklist. What does your organization want to achieve by moving your workloads and data to another environment? Is your goal to save costs, improve efficiency, store more data, have additional security, or use any other benefit of the new environment for your organization’s advantage? The choice of a new data center’s hardware equipment, location, and software depends on the goals pursued. 

Carefully planned budget

To keep the costs under control and avoid overpaying, take your time to plan the budget for the data center migration project. Although any organization wants to save as much money as possible, you might want to count the budget for the migration, hardware, space rental, and other points along with emergencies at once. Spending less than planned is always better than the sudden need to overinvest funds, so create a financial airbag for the migration project in advance. 

Backup and replication processes established

The organization of the data backup and replication processes is one of the most important yet underestimated migration steps. Nevertheless, an appropriate backup is the only way to restore data if data loss occurs during the migration. In case of prolonged downtime caused by the data center migration emergencies, replicas of operation-critical workloads can help you maintain production continuity and ensure the availability of services to prevent the organization from financial and reputational losses. Thus, a reliable and efficient backup, recovery, and replication software and a 3-2-1 backup plan are as necessary as a carefully designed strategy, suitable hardware, network, storage, and qualified staff.

Conclusion

Data center migration is moving data and workloads to a different location. To complete the project successfully and avoid budget overlaps, IT infrastructure downtime, and data loss, you need to create a data center migration strategy. 

In the second part of this article, we’ll discuss how to plan migration to organize this process more effectively.

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