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Okay, so where’s the SMB data migration already?

Don’t know if I can compete with militant dolphins and black holes that eat France, but I’m going to give it a shot.

First, I need to define constraints before we dig into the meat: What I consider a small to medium-sized business (SMB) is a company that would have a problem justifying a $50,000 purchase for a product that would perform a migration then have no use for it for 3 to 5 years until they migrate again, or have one to two IT people doing the work, or think a SAN is just a typo for SAN-D that you’d find at a beach. I know IBM, Sun, Symantec et al. have migration services but I’m looking at the smaller business space where people need to store more on tighter budgets that were small to begin with.

We’ve recently upgraded our SAN infrastructure and while our data migration chores aren’t all that intense, I’d still prefer that a computer did it. I’ve built some tools to handle my cleanup work (I’ll share them as soon as some bugs are worked out) but only because I couldn’t easily buy something to do the same or better. Now I’ll admit that sometimes I can be blind or ignorant (or both), but I’ve noticed a HUGE gap in the availability of migration tools for the lower end of the SMB spectrum. With me being a part of The Matrix like I am, or akin to Mr. Universe from Serenity, one would think I’d have caught a whiff of something significant.

With all the hoopla about the structured and unstructured data needs of SMBs and vendors tripping over themselves to create products for this space (HP’s new MSA and NetApp’s StoreVault come to mind), it’s hard for me to swallow that data migration for that very same SMB space wouldn’t be just as hot.

If you sense some irritation on my part, you’re spot on. While it may not directly affect me, it most certainly does affect those who rely on my expertise. I’d like to be able to say “Hey, just get Product X from Vendor Y and it will take care of at least 60% of your migration woes. ”

Bigger irritation: From my admittedly unscientific data gathering, I’ve found that when I ask SMBs about migration, the most popular answer is backup software. “Well, we were planning on just restoring the server to a folder on the array. Why? Is that bad?”

Most times the answer is yes, it is bad. In my presentation at Storage Decisions I talked about what’s actually stored on your centralized storage and file shares, and most of it is stuff that shouldn’t be there, like MP3s, AVIs, etc. By restoring backups to the new array, they would simply be carrying forward a wasteful, and potentially harmful, data storage practice.

Furthermore, if you subscribe to the numbers from major analyst houses, you wouldn’t be able to restore 30% to 40% of the data you had on backups anyway, so relying on them for migration could be an exercise in futility. My own unscientific polling has come up with a similar amount of people that say, “We can never pull anything back we really need in a pinch, unless you count the i386 directory.”

I’m sure there are a couple of you out there thinking, “This guy is losing it. Why can’t he just create a filter for his backup software and have it selectively restore said data, or, better still, create a simple shell (bash, csh, powershell, vbscript, jscript, insert the rest here) with some regular expressions to handle that work. He could even stick something into Visual Basic or managed code (ducks the rotten tomatoes) that does the work!!

While I (or the people I work with) could certainly do all those things (with the help of Google and copious amounts of coffee), we aren’t the targets I’m talking about here. The people I’m talking about, who rely on the expertise of people like me or of consultants, cannot — or in some cases will not — for their own reasons. Homegrown apps also require a deep level of knowledge of the environment you are crafting them for, and you can see how it would be a difficult proposition for one person once you grew to 15 or 20 different small environments simultaneously.

Because of my own issues of dealing with not only illegal/unwanted data but depreciated legacy data that can be deleted and need not be dragged around for every iteration of a data storage infrastructure, I have come up with a simple and reliable data classification scheme. I should be able to ring up vendor A or B and say, “Give me something that will take my criteria and email me when it’s done moving and verifying my stuff, but DOESN’T cost $50,000.” There are cheap tools out there that will transfer file and NTFS permissions, even shares and share permissions. But, while very helpful, they don’t address the issue of the data itself.

I don’t live in an ivory tower, nor am I a strict idealist, but this topic does aggravate me. If companies can figure out how to turn one reasonably powered computer into 20 adequately powered ones for free, or have my economy car listen and respond to me intelligently when I want to listen to the Black Eyed Peas, why can’t I have a data migration tool that doesn’t cost as much as an SMB’s quarterly gross income?

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I agree with you 100% Some vendors (I will mention names) come with their enterprise strategies and try and force it down the SMB's throats. And then they wonder why on earth they do not make millions out of the SMB space.....simply because the pricing structure for enterprise and SMB sectors should be different in my opinion.
You merge two problems here - policies on what is appropriate data storage (and remediation thereof) and data migration. While a migration is certainly an opportunity to do the former, I don't think they're one problem. On the migration piece, I've gotten some pretty big chunks of data migrated at zero software cost by simply making/breaking a host-based mirror. While this isn't possible in every case - you need to have the old and new storage connected at the same time, of course - it's certainly more reliable and easy than using tape backups.
CYoung, If there are different pricing structures for SMBs, they must necessarily be for different or pared-down products. Otherwise, it takes about 0.005 nanoseconds for the enterprise customer to start saying, "Well, if you can sell this to the SMB for $500, you can sell it to me for $500." I kind of like Veritas' (now Symantec's) move of simply offering a free version of Storage Foundation for those for whom that is "good enough." Not strictly a data migration tool, but frequently used to accomplish that. Overall I do agree with the notion that the SMB space is totally underserved on all storage tools. They have so many of the same problems as the enterprise, just with (usually) less data.
David, you are correct I do merge two problems but those two problems together are easily the top reason people call me. In a guilty admission I hope there are storage vendors out there reading that see this as a cry for someone to fill the gap :). On point number 3, you've just described the capitalistic system that has made this country what it is. Microsoft is a pro at the tactic you describe (selling into a market cheaply to everyone). Think back to when the entry price for an enterprise database was in the hundreds of thousands, Microsoft entered the market w/ SQL server and people laughed, 10 years later low transaction databases are free and an enterprise database is in the low 10's of thousands and getting cheaper and SQL server is what most SMB's run. Backup software comes cheaply or even free if you are willing to put in some work, but enterprises still pay big bucks for theirs, storage couldn't be a better example of the line between enterprise and non-enterprise, the same 750gb Western Digital drive costs 5x as much if I'm an enterprise customer :), they don't even change the label hahah. If they make it cheaper, more will come that is my firm belief.
I guess you haven't looked at SVC... my response here
Host based file replication software like our Double-Take product is frequently used to accomplish both storage and server migrations. Server migrations are like a failover where you just don't fail back and our new full server failover option allows the applications and OS settings to be replicated as well as the data..even to different hardware. Storage migrations may be as simple as replicating an entire volume (or selected files, folders, wildcards from old volume, i.e. d:\ to new san volume s:\ on the same server and when you are all done you can simply re-letter the volumes and reboot. Because changes are also replicated during the migration (including open files, databases,etc.), you can move most of the data while you are still running in production and then flip the switch with minimal disruption when the new target storage is in sync and you are ready to switch over. With prices starting at a few thousand per server (even less for Windows Small Business Server) it can be very cost effective, especially if it is used for disaster recovery and high availability after the migration.
Barry, I read your blog post and I like the concept of the SVC, but think about installing a pair of SVC's in an environment that spent $4,000 on a Promise array (with disk), or $5,000 on a Netapps StoreVault (again with disk). The the $5k to $50k space is, in my opinion, going to see the most growth in the coming years. Compliance and the fact that all businesses are simply generating more electronic data than they used to, big and small, will push the vast seas of mom and pop's to get some form of centralized manageable storage (John Webster mentioned the wired dentist). As a for instance how would I pitch SVC to the local pizza restaurant that wants to centralize it's data storage from all of it's point of sales systems real time and archived data?
Very interesting take on migration and looking at it from the SMB perspective for a change.. The major challenge for an SMB considering the move to a SAN environment would be migration of their data from a DAS environment to a SAN. The automatic questions that arise would be how to do this without disrupting any applications? Traditional methodolgy states that you are physically moving disk drives around or create a backup process that allows you to migrate data. Sound a little tedious? It is! The SMB reluctance to move to a SAN environment may have a lot to do with migration. Is my data safe after migration? How expensive is it? What additional resources is this going to take? Perhaps even a reluctance for any sort of downtime while the migration occurs. An iSCSI Data Storage Company by the name of StorMagic Inc ( seems to address this issue from the SMB perspective. Not only is the migration process a simple point and click, but they also allow applications to stay live while the applications are still in use. Geared specifically for the SMB space, I doubt the solution comes in at $50,000! In fact, it's a lot lower. The migration process is an automated hands-off process that literally tranfers your data within minutes!
[...] If there was ever a company that could pull off making a product that does easy data migration … see where I’m going with this? [...]
Barry, the comment about the SVC pricing seems a little off. In particular, the per TB license costs seem quite onerous. It seems like a master console, and UPS are needed in addition to the storage nodes, unless I'm missing something. I think it would be more like 50K to virtualize a one single terabyte, and go sharply up from there. Again, if I'm missing something, feel free to correct me.