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A Roadmap for Data Center Migration: Challenges and Solutions (Part 2)

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Read more about author Veniamin Simonov.

In part one of this series, we discussed data center migration challenges, migration best practices, and the importance of planning. In this part, we break the migration process into six steps and detail each to help you create a comprehensive strategy.

Data Center Migration Strategy

As a data center migration includes multiple steps, each of which is critical, a thorough strategy should be developed before you start the process. The data center migration strategy checklist should consist of the following general points:

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  • A precisely defined reason for the migration: You need to know why your organization migrates because otherwise, the purpose might not be reached, making the investments wasted.
  • A carefully planned budget accounting for contingencies: The necessity of budget planning seems obvious, but many organizations fail to predict the costs and don’t prepare sufficient funds due to various reasons such as a rush or lack of awareness.
  • The process outlined step by step: The process knowledge is critical for completing the migration successfully, so the organization needs to make sure that the employees involved in the project possess the required experience and/or training.

Data Center Migration Checklist

The data center migration process includes the following steps:

Assessment

Although an organization using a data center is supposed to know what is used there and how it’s used, that’s an uncommon case in practice. The precise knowledge about an organization’s data center infrastructure is frequently lost after many optimizations and updates done over time for both the hardware and software used. The changes introduced to the infrastructure might be considered minor and ignored in the documentation. While in reality, those smaller nodes and apps can be critical to ensuring the data center’s operation, performance, and stability.

That is why the first step of a data center migration project is to know precisely what you need to transfer. Here, the points to consider are the requirements for the network, server infrastructure, and operating systems used to run the obsolete data center. Another important task is to assess the software and apps that the data center supports.

Process scheme

A data center is far more than just the data stored and the apps installed. Data centers utilize computing hardware to provide organizations with expected performance levels. Additionally, the data needs not only to be stored on storage disks of the appropriate capacity but also to be correctly organized and routed. Thus, an organization’s employees and clients can read, write, or process that data on demand.

To successfully complete the data center migration project, you need a transparent scheme of the process. Building the scheme involves the careful analysis of the old data center nodes and the connections between them. After evaluating the importance of nodes for the organization and noting all the connection diagrams, you can decide on the sequence of transferring data center elements. Moreover, a detailed scheme can help you see which VMs, disks, hosts, or clusters need to be backed up to secure critical data or replicated to ensure production continuity before you start transferring data and infrastructures to the new location.

Destination

When the process is precisely outlined, you can switch to choosing the destination for the migration of your organization’s data center. The choice of destination mainly depends on the purpose of the project. Common destinations include but are not limited to locations such as: 

  • A bigger physical data center: To store more data and ensure timely scaling while maintaining control over the corporate data.
  • A smaller physical data center: To save costs on data center maintenance after, for instance, the data retention policy change resulting in the significant reduction of the storage space requirements.
  • More computing power: A physical data center with newer hardware provides more computing power that can be used to run the processes and result in better service delivery.
  • A more energy-efficient physical data center: To optimize power consumption and consequently lower energy bills without a loss in performance.
  • A more secure physical data center: This can mean both “offline” security improvements, like a better fire safety system, and more advanced cybersecurity measures applied in the destination data center for additional resilience to sophisticated cyberattacks.
  • A cloud data center: Usually, organizations consider the data center migration to cloud environments to reduce costs by offloading equipment maintenance operations to cloud service vendors and switching to the fixed price model for the data storage, though losing a part of control over the original data that is moved to the cloud.

Your organization’s data center migration purpose may combine several points from the list or be completely different. What you need to ensure is a clear understanding of the purpose while choosing the most suitable destination for the data center migration.

Validation

When the data center migration plan is complete, the final validation of the plan’s elements should be done. Check the purpose, the previously assessed equipment and software, the outlined migration scheme, and the chosen destination for completeness and accordance. Furthermore, check the new data center equipment once again for the ability to satisfy your organization’s needs in terms of performance, storage capacity, network bandwidth, and expected scalability. Make corrections if necessary.

After the new data center hardware is approved and installed, validate the equipment functionality. Usually, the most efficient way to check if the equipment is fully operational is the cool-down test. Shut down the components, wait till they cool down, and then power on the equipment to check if every component is working properly. In case anything fails to recover from a cool-down test, do the required troubleshooting or replace the malfunctioning parts with new ones. Retest the equipment as often as you need to ensure stable hardware operation.

Migration

Yes, the actual data center migration phase can be triggered only after all the preparation and validation procedures have been completed. Once the migration has started, keeping up with the previously developed strategy for the transfer of apps, VMs, hosts, clusters, and other nodes is crucial to ensure the success of the project.

You might want to test the data consistency. Run tests to check the relevance and functionality of apps, network settings, and the data in the new storage. Testing can help you analyze the process duration and figure out the estimated migration completion time. The data center migration can be considered complete only after the very last bit of data is transferred to the new data center.

Verification

After the data center migration is complete, you need to verify if all the elements of the IT infrastructure are functioning as they should. Ensure that the obsolete hardware-specific software has been removed from the new data center environment and replaced with the appropriate software suitable for the new equipment where necessary.

In case the services that were running before the data center migration process had started are now running smoothly, then your strategy and process execution were excellent, and your organization can start using the benefits of the new location. If the performance issues arise or the required services are not running, consider failback to the previous location or use the replicas of critical workloads to maintain production until the troubles with the new environment are fixed. 

Conclusion

To build the data center migration plan and then complete the process smoothly according to the designed strategy, you need to do the following:

  • Know the data center migration purpose pursued by the organization.
  • Assess the current data center equipment and software.
  • Map out the dependencies between the existing workloads and build the migration scheme accordingly.
  • Check whether the destination data center satisfies your organization’s needs and make adjustments if necessary.
  • Validate the plan, the involved equipment, and software before triggering the migration.
  • Complete the data center migration.
  • Verify if the workloads are running correctly on new hardware and the data is readable in the destination storage.

Another important step is to create backups of critical data before you start the data center migration. Replicas of production-critical workloads can help you ensure stable production and services’ availability during the migration process. Thus, you protect your data from loss and maintain IT infrastructure functioning if the process goes wrong.

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