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Six Most Common Pitfalls That Can Disrupt a Data Center Migration Project

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Migration or relocation of  a data center of any size is a complex  project that requires specialized expertise and a process-driven approach.

Relocation involves moving out of the entire current data center set-up to a new location. A migration involves data transfer between computer systems and storage devices from one location to another.

Many enterprises tend to underestimate the full size, scope, and scale of a migration or a relocation  project. Without a proper strategy and support from an experienced IT migration, decommission and data destruction provider, enterprises run the risk of outages as well as financial and reputational damage that can cause long-term harm to the business.

Based on experience with dozens of successful data center migration and relocation  projects, here are six of the most common pitfalls that can disrupt a project and result in delays, budget overruns, and added complexity.

  1. Unrealistic Schedules and Deadlines – Easily the most common reason a decommissioning project runs into challenges is because of unrealistic and unachievable deadlines. Driven by end-of-lease requirements, pressure from senior executives, or a lack of understanding of the full scope of the project, enterprises often find themselves under enormous pressure to rapidly remove equipment from the facility or migrate data. However, rushing to hit a deadline significantly increases the risk that something goes wrong.

Without time to create a solid system migration plan and ongoing involvement of all stakeholders, enterprises do not have a complete view of the project. And if an issue does occur, there’s little opportunity to properly address it.

The IT department is not the only group that is involved in migration or relocation of a data center. Individuals, teams, departments all have various roles and responsibilities at different points throughout the project. To achieve a successful outcome, they need to be working toward a common goal and be able to communicate and collaborate as needed.

  1. Lack of Internal Visibility and Collaboration – In the absence of constant communication between relocation/migration teams, including application managers, network & database administrators, DevOps, QA teams,  and external vendors, unforeseen technical changes or additional requirements can crop up, dismantling even a sound migration plan.

Unfortunately, many organizations are hindered by a lack of visibility into the goals, performance requirements, and key metrics of each department. A recent PwC survey found that 55 percent of companies operate in silos, with each function making its own decisions on which capabilities are most important.

Planning should start as soon as the need to decommission the data center has been identified, and enterprises should take some time to map out each of the project phases before terminating lease agreements or committing to deadlines that they are unable to meet.

  1. Poorly Tracked Inventory – In order to migrate a data center, you need a comprehensive and detailed inventory of assets. Many organizations use an asset management system, such as a configuration management database (CMDB), which serves as a repository for configuration details of hardware & software systems, including storage systems, servers, routers,  applications, micro services, network details, infrastructure and support processes.

However, even the tightest asset management systems are just one human error away from assets’  inaccuracy. Did that RMA process get closed out perfectly last time? Did the spares inventory get updated correctly after that emergency maintenance? How many break/fix evolutions did your team complete last year?

An independent, methodically executed inventory conducted by experts will define actual state to isolate discrepancies, conduct gap analysis and make corrections to ensure operational integrity as your organization prepares for environment change.

In case of a relocation, a well-maintained inventory will also provide complete visibility into owned, leased, and fully-depreciated equipment. This will allow you to complete all of the turn-down procedures to ensure any/all physical and logical dependencies as well as information security measures have been satisfied for equipment that needs to be returned to the leasing company or for equipment that needs to be resold or disposed of responsibly.

Properly tagged inventory will also allow you to have a trail of documentation for all your assets after the migration, which is important from a financial, compliance and legal standpoint.

  1. Inadequate Mapping of Interdependencies – A data center has countless interdependencies and interconnections that make decommissioning a complex and intricate process. Typically, the older the data center, the more complex the intricacies.

By keeping a complete inventory of assets along with all upstream and downstream interconnections, you can segment IT subsets that are interlinked and move the entire subset at once to avoid downtime and critical failures. For instance, failure to move the front-end, middleware and data layers of an application all together can result in unwanted and costly downtime.

In addition, documenting and enforcing change control procedures in your organization will prevent unintended slips during the migration process. For instance, if you updated a piece of hardware recently that did not get tracked by your change control procedures, you will not be moving all interdependent systems at the same time, causing unwarranted downtimes.

This becomes especially significant, as availability is one of the key metrics for data Center Operators, and roughly half of all outages cause significant time, revenue, and reputational damage.

  1. Poor System Migration Plan – Even with a tight asset management system and mapping of interdependencies, the actual migration can fall apart unless backed by a sound system migration plan. Planning of logistics, such as phases of migration (most organizations prioritize IT systems that provide most value to the organization), time of migration (best done during off-peak hours), system requirements at the new location, assignment of project managers and individual task responsibilities, allowable downtime and a backup plan if things do not go as anticipated is critical for a successful migration.

If you are performing a relocation, i.e., moving both hardware and software to another location, ensure that your relocation plan includes spare components, power specifications, connectivity (cabling) diagrams and rack layouts prior to relocation. When building a new facility, ensure that all equipment is properly labeled, cable running lists are complete and accurate, and records and documentation are up-to-date and available. This is the chance to set the organization in the right direction, and knowing where everything goes, what it does, who owns it, and how it will be used will reduce the risk of unexpected problems in the future.

Having a detailed plan also offers an opportunity to assess internal capabilities and resource availability to carry out the migration/relocation. In most cases, enterprises will not have the expertise to oversee and implement a decommissioning project on their own. There are countless details and too many potential opportunities for failure for IT departments that do not have experience with these types of projects.

  1. Not Bringing in The Experts – Just because you have an IT department and a team of network engineers does not mean they have the skills, or, perhaps even more importantly, the time and capacity, to manage such a large project. There are immense opportunity costs of moving your existing IT team away from their day-to-day operations and other strategic initiatives, especially if they are not comfortable with these types of projects.

In most cases, it is best to work with a trusted partner who has experience completing similar decommissioning projects. They bring in the expertise and the rigor required to ensure a successful migration/relocation.

An experienced and trusted IT infrastructure migration partner will be able to provide  a fool-proof relocation and migration plan. They will also provide expert handling of high-tech equipment, onsite or offsite packing with chain of custody procedures to guarantee inventory integrity while lessening risk, and coordination of complex installations involving equipment from multiple locations. They can even expedite delegations and expertly manage logistics.

Conclusion

A data center migration or relocation is a complex and high visibility project. There are many opportunities for the planned move to go awry. Utilizing an expert in this space ensures you have a  fool-proof plan. While the external vendor assists in coordinating the system migration plan and implements the solutions to accommodate your relocation needs, they can focus on the details because they know what to look for, and they can bring a defined and proven process that helps to ensure that everything is accounted for and there are no surprises that result in delays, budget overruns, or data breaches.

About the Author

Sphaera (Greek – Sphere) is a trusted IT services partner that provides full lifecycle IT management to network service providers, enterprise data centers, and Fortune 2000 enterprises. With proven experience and expertise from design to decommission, Sphaera owns the complexity and risk when building & managing mission critical IT infrastructure and helps companies deploy critical wireless and IT infrastructure, enhance performance, align technologies with the needs of their business, and elevate the strength of internal IT departments to ensure technology is an enabler of business performance.

Sphaera is strategically headquartered in Hillsboro, OR, with major delivery hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas, the “Texas Triangle”, and the Northern Virginia locales.

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