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What to Consider Before DIY-ing Your Data Center Modernization Project

A new Forrester study found that companies that handle their data center modernization and migrations alone end up spending $4 million more than companies that receive help from a vendor.

Industry Perspectives

November 29, 2017

5 Min Read
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Compliments of Linkedin, On-Location Indoor Environmental Headshots of Dell-EMC World 2017 Attendees at Sands Expo in Las Vegas by

Charlie Haney is SVP, Cloud & Infrastructure Transformation, for Dell EMC.

There’s an unstoppable digital transformation under way, and today’s most competitive companies understand they have two options: Rise to the occasion and implement modern technology or miss out on the efficiencies and opportunities enabled by IoT, AI/machine learning, AR/VR, cloud, big data analysis and mobility in the workplace – and possibly be disrupted or replaced as a result.

Much of the pressure to modernize falls on IT teams, who are the gatekeepers of the data center and, therefore, key enablers of – or roadblocks to – their companies’ future opportunities and success. With the modern data center infrastructure becoming “multi cloud,” planning is critical. When the time to modernize comes, most face the decision of whether to handle the process themselves or work with a third party.

A new Forrester study, commissioned by Dell EMC, found that companies that handle their data center modernization and migrations alone end up spending $4 million more than companies that receive help from a vendor. Moreover, it takes these companies two years longer to complete the process, diverting internal IT time that could be spent on other responsibilities.

However, if you are planning on DIY-ing your modernization and migration anyway, it’s important to go into it with realistic expectations and a clear strategy. You can start by carefully considering the following areas:

Business Expectations

While an infrastructure or operations team may have their own idea of how quickly modernization and the migration should occur, these assumptions often haven’t been pre-validated with the rest of the company’s stakeholders.

To ensure everyone is one the same page, bring together your team to discover:

  • Who are the stakeholders you need to communicate with and what information do each of them need? Pinpoint who in your company needs to be involved and make sure they are at the table for all modernization and migration conversations.

  • Who on your team is responsible for the project coordination and communication? This person needs to have the organizational and people skills to ensure there’s a plan in place and that all key stakeholders are on board.

  • What’s the tolerance for downtime? If your IT team estimates a migration will cause 12 hours of outage, but your business leaders are expecting four, you need to rethink your migration schedule.

Resource Expectations

This transformation needs to be seen as a long-term process, and data center and migration efforts are complex events that most IT departments will rarely execute. Execution results will vary greatly depending on whether organizations choose to lead their own efforts or seek the help of a vendor.

According to the Forrester study, if an organization chooses the latter, it could reduce the time to execute by 40 percent. The sooner migrations are completed, the sooner organizations operate their data centers with less out-of-pocket costs. You will also need to consider which resources your organization can devote to this transformation.

Before you start, you’ll need to map the interdependencies between all of your applications, servers and infrastructure to ensure you’re accounting for all resources and creating a clear strategy.


Companies can have multiple enterprise-scale data centers, which can mean thousands of servers and hundreds of applications are keeping the business running. Combine that with the brief amount of downtime your stakeholders from across business lines will tolerate, and you most likely won’t have enough time to completely migrate all tasks at once.

Instead, plan on breaking down the process into multiple phases, dividing the work based on granularity of app environment, granularity of data or information, or the sequence of app upgrades. For example, you may prioritize apps or systems that are due for upgrades anyway.

Getting From Point A to Point B

Of course, modernization and migration projects can require the purchase and implementation of new hardware, and sometimes new data center facilities. Make sure to consider the following:

  • Have you thought about the environment you want in your new facility?

  • When will your new facility and environment be ready for action?

  • Do you need temporary equipment in order to move your apps and environments over, allowing you to bring your new equipment in at a later time?

If you’re moving to, or between clouds, or have a multi-cloud infrastructure, you have another layer of risk to consider. IT teams often have less visibility into their public cloud applications and resources than their on-premises environments, making cloud migrations more difficult to plan and execute. Having a process for evaluating cloud suitability that addresses both business and technical requirements is critical.

Vendor Commitments

Because modernizing your data center doesn’t just involve updated hardware, incorporate your third-party software vendors in the process from the get-go by asking:

  • Are they willing to provide support if you have issues with the migration?

  • Do they have any recommendations about doing upgrades to their software before or after a migration?

  • Will they be available when migrations occur?

Secure a support plan from everyone across your vendor community to ensure you have a solid strategy for addressing potential issues before going into the migration.

Final Tips for a Successful Migration

If you’re set on handling your own modernization and migration efforts, there are a couple of other precautions you can take to make the data center transformation more manageable.

  • Leverage automated tools that can discover interdependencies between the apps, files, and everything else in your environment, such as scheduling and resource management tools.

  • Set up dashboards to report in real time on the progress of your migration. This will free up time for your communications lead, who can simply point all stakeholders to the reports rather than having to generate them.

Choosing the right strategy can have a huge impact on the final costs – and the ultimate success – of your modernization project.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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