Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

4 Steps to a Successful Data Center Migration

Over time, and for various reasons, the need will arise to migrate your data center equipment to a new facility, writes Art Salazar of Green House Data. Whether you colocate or operate a company-owned data center, keep these best practices in mind when planning your migration.

Industry Perspectives

January 15, 2015

5 Min Read
4 Steps to a Successful Data Center Migration

Art Salazar is the Director of Data Centers & Compliance at Green House Data.

As companies undergo mergers and acquisitions, on-premise facilities continue to age, and consolidation mandates are handed down, the need arises to migrate data center equipment to new facilities.

Whether you colocate or choose the best equipment for a consolidated, company-owned data center, moving IT equipment and workloads between sites is a time-consuming and potentially costly endeavor. These best practices will help plan for data center migrations.

Step 1: Deciding What to Move

You might purchase new equipment, move just some items, or haul everything to the new site. This is a great time to phase out older equipment and trade in rentals. Equipment migration can be risky—if something breaks on the way, you might not be able to get your system running on the other side. Loaner equipment or a service contract for the migration period can help smooth the transition.

Go back through your contracts with hardware and software providers. Do any need to be terminated? Can they move with you? There might be limitations based on location or compatibility issues. Since you’re tearing everything down and setting it back up, it’s a great time to finally ditch a troublesome vendor, try out a new service, or negotiate a better deal.

You may also need to adapt your equipment to the new space. Is it time to implement aisle containment or pods? Can you design a higher density environment? A migration allows you to explore efficiencies and take a look at what is or isn’t working in your facility design.

Once you know what equipment is moving, decide whether you will move all at once or in chunks. The latter allows you to get elements of the data center running in the new location and begin to transfer systems. Otherwise, rentals or a service contract may be necessary to avoid downtime. If your organization is comfortable with downtime, that may not be a problem.

Decide if you have the resources to move yourself or if you need a service provider. This can be a professional IT company that specializes in data center work or it can be as simple as a regular mover—just make sure they have experience handling IT equipment.

Step 2: Reviewing the Environment and Performing Equipment Inventory

Before anything is unplugged or taken down to the loading dock, pull system logs and inventory documentation. Check to see if everything is there and record any new equipment. Measure utilization to discover live workloads, scheduled backups, and current software and applications. If you have service contracts, they will need to be notified: disaster recovery, for example, will need to point to the new location. Some items may need special licensing in order to run concurrently or temporarily as you cut over to the new facility.

Tag what is staying and what is going. If a piece of equipment is moving, look up and record the warranty information and serial number. Make sure nothing in the migration process will void the warranty.

Now is the time to set up or adjust disaster recovery or backups. It is wise to have a physical backup as well as one in the cloud. Testing disaster recovery is a good way to prepare for the actual move.

Step 3: Gathering a Team and Making the Move

Schedule your target move date to avoid interfering with a heavy business period, like an upcoming product launch or internal project. The actual move will probably happen during off hours. Ensure you have access to all necessary building areas.

Group personnel into leaders, physical movers, and digital teams ready to monitor and migrate systems. Create a comprehensive plan for moving day that includes how and what will move, backup plans, installation and testing. Think about the risk involved in each step and seek to minimize any business impact.

Pack and organize sensibly, labeling everything. Boxes of cables need types and lengths on them. Servers should note what block and/or room they are destined for to simplify reinstallation. It might make sense to move the data center floor-by-floor, or you can use a different system like moving non-critical systems first.

Dispose of old equipment and supplies responsibly. Recycle electronics if you can and sell what is still useful. Be certain no data remains on any devices. Clear technology or purge-level sanitation may not be adequate to purge data. Degaussing or physical destruction of storage could be necessary depending on the circumstances. Dangerous equipment like batteries must be handled properly.

Security is paramount during this process. Know your workers, track your equipment, and keep an eye on security logs. This is an easy time for people to sneak past your usual perimeter as doors are left propped to carry items or firewalls are shut down. Take or destroy security keys, documents, and access systems as required.

Step 4: Documentation and Testing

After everything is installed, begin testing. Check the equipment in the new facility against your inventory list in case anything was misplaced along the way. Check off your list of systems and applications to ensure they are all running correctly or a replacement is in place.

Complete a project audit and review for future documentation and evaluate the success of the move. Did you hit your schedule? Were design specifications met? Ask your team for their thoughts, and ask C-levels and heads of other departments if their needs are being met post-move.

There is much to keep track of during a data center migration. These steps are broad strokes to help you think about how, what, where, when, and why you are moving equipment and systems. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is documenting the entire process, starting with a strong plan and ending with an audit. This helps you lay out the process while leaving a paper trail to help discover errors along the way and measure success at the end.

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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