Creating a data center migration plan

According to a 2007 Gartner study, more than 70% of Global 1000 organizations will have to either move or modify their data center facilities

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significantly through 2012. So creating a data center migration plan is crucial.

"There are many reasons why data center relocations fail," said Mark Teter, chief technology officer (CTO) at Denver-based Advanced Systems Group (ASG). Typical problems may include key staff members leaving; the business being involved in a merger, acquisition or urgent restructuring; or budget cuts from upper-level management. Even the weather can disrupt a move.

As a result, even a seemingly simple data center migration can disrupt operations and jeopardize crucial business functions and relationships. Still, companies can and do relocate data centers successfully all the time. Teter used the following five-step data center migration plan to help StatOilHydro's Houston branch relocate its data center:

1. IT survey and assessment. This is a review and survey of the current data center that includes an inventory of all software, servers, and storage and networking equipment. It also should identify and classify all stored data according to its business criticality.

2. Relocation analysis and design. Conduct a business impact analysis of the move that includes prioritizing business services, establishing acceptable downtime parameters, and determining the hardware, application and technology requirements for a nondisruptive move.

3. Data migration plan. Assemble all previously collected data and documentation into an inclusive plan that includes an in-depth risk analysis. This should encompass floor layouts and rack diagrams, specify the exact tasks to complete the relocation and assign responsibility for each task.

You should also map dependencies, such as an application on one server that can't run properly until certain data stored on a different system is accessible. Companies should also alert their hardware, software, telecommunications and utilities providers about the pending move.

4. Risk identification and mitigation. Assess, classify and prioritize risk for the purposes of data mitigation. Some risks may be deemed minor or not worth the cost of mitigation. Other risks will require a full mitigation program with contingency planning.

5. Relocation strategy execution.This entails bringing in technical relocation experts and professional systems movers, making arrangements with hardware and software vendors for the shut-down and start-up of their various systems, and arranging for utilities (telecommunication, electric power) to be moved from the current location to the new location.

Bringing in technology vendors is critical. "They have experience moving this equipment, and you really want their fingerprints on it in case something goes wrong," said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Stillwater, Minn.-based StorageIO Group. "It should also avoid any risk of violating the warranties."

And, Schulz added, don't forget the most important part of a data migration plan: "Make sure you have a couple of good backups of your data before anything gets moved." You can always replace damaged or destroyed hardware, but you can't replace your data.

BIO: Alan Radding is a frequent contributor to SearchStorage.com.

This was first published in January 2010

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