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Data Center Migration: 10 Steps to a Successful Migration

Read Time: 7 minutes

What is a data center migration?

A data center migration is a process of moving hardware or software or both from one data center to another. 

Data center migrations can take place for various reasons, such as company relocation, an update to IT infrastructure, the requirement to meet new regulations, organizational expansions and mergers, or organizational change to accommodate remote working. (For more information, see our guide to Cloud Migration.)

Types of data center migrations

There are several types of data center migrations, each dependent on the enterprise’s objectives. Migration options include:

Consolidation migration

Consolidation migrations are a means of reducing the number of physical data centers or servers. Often, consolidation migrations are due to acquisitions, mergers, the need to cut costs or leverage virtualization solutions. 

Colocation or relocation migration

Relocation or colocation migrations are a move of infrastructure from one data center to another. There are two data centers involved; the source and target location. Migration options include physical to physical, physical to virtual, virtual to virtual, physical to cloud, and virtual to cloud. 

Cloud migration

Cloud migrations involve transitioning applications, infrastructure, systems, and workloads into the cloud. Cloud migrations can also involve migrating from one cloud solutions provider to another.

Hybrid migration

Hybrid migrations are a combination of the above migration types. These take place in cases where organizations use both on-premise and off-premise infrastructure and software. Hybrid migrations are typically executed to improve resilience and business continuity.

When should you plan for a data center migration?

A data center migration is a complex and time-consuming process that involves moving an organization’s IT infrastructure from one location to another.

In general, an organization should plan for a data center migration when it becomes clear that  the current data center is no longer meeting its needs. This can include capacity constraints, end of lease, cost savings, disaster recovery concerns, or mergers and acquisitions. Planning for a data center migration requires careful consideration of the organization’s IT infrastructure, business requirements, and available options for data center facilities. It is important to start the planning process well in advance to ensure a smooth and successful migration.

Learn more in our detailed guide to cloud migration strategy

What are the benefits of a data center migration?

While data center migrations occur for various reasons, there are several benefits that can be realized. These include:

Lower operational costs

As the cloud becomes a viable option, more organizations are transitioning to cloud-enabled networks. The cost of hosted applications and infrastructure proves more affordable than the larger CAPEX cost organizations must absorb every three to five years.

Modern hardware and software 

Migrations often present the chance to upgrade infrastructure and modernize software. With access to modernized equipment and applications, businesses can realize productivity gains. 

A faster Network

Enterprises have the opportunity to leverage edge computing, helping reduce latency for application users.

Improved security threat posture

With cloud-based solutions becoming the backbone of many enterprises, security becomes less of a concern. Large security and threat management R&D investments by hyperscalers ensure the best threat detection and prevention solutions, improving cybersecurity for enterprises.

Regulatory compliance is easily achieved

Hyperscale cloud solutions are backed by heavy investment to meet compliance requirements, easing the investment required to meet regulatory compliance as an enterprise.

Greater scalability

Scalability is a key concern for organizations. As the need for more computing power, storage, and network bandwidth increase, the costs of keeping up with these demands can be exorbitant. Migrating to cloud ecosystems presents enterprises with access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and services that can be scaled alongside operational requirements, without the large investment.

Data center migration challenges

While data center migrations can be very beneficial, they are a complex and risky undertaking. Here are some of the key challenges:

Inadequate planning

Some organizations neglect planning and underestimate risks when migrating between data centers because they may not fully understand the complexity and potential impact of the process. This can lead to unexpected downtime, data loss, or other serious issues that can have a negative impact on business operations.

Having a sufficiently detailed migration plan is essential to minimize risks and ensure a smooth transition. The plan should include a detailed inventory of all IT assets, a comprehensive timeline, and contingency plans for potential issues. It should also include testing and verification procedures to ensure that all systems are functioning correctly after the migration is complete. 

Gaps in the hardware inventory 

It is important to have a complete inventory of hardware components when implementing a data center migration because it allows organizations to identify dependencies between systems and ensure compatibility. Organizations often focus on machines like CPUs and motherboards while ignoring devices like routers, cables, PSUs, and fuses, which can be problematic. 

These components are critical to the overall functioning of the data center infrastructure, and failure to identify them can result in unexpected downtime or compatibility issues during the migration process. Listing dependencies between system components is crucial because it allows organizations to understand how different components interact with each other and ensure that they are migrated in the correct order. 

Inaccurate planning for performance and capacity 

Incorrectly estimating the performance level and storage capacity of the new data center’s hardware can cause several problems for an organization. If the hardware is underestimated, the organization may experience performance issues, such as slow application response times, which can lead to decreased productivity and user dissatisfaction. 

Additionally, if storage capacity is underestimated, the organization may run out of space quickly, which can result in data loss or downtime while new storage solutions are implemented. Overestimating hardware can also be a waste of resources, resulting in unnecessary expenses for the organization.

Data loss

Critical data loss is the worst outcome for a data center migration because it can have severe consequences for an organization’s operations and reputation. Causes of data loss during a migration can include provider networking issues, unexpected power outages, breaks in communication during data transfer, security vulnerabilities, errors in data retention policies, human error, and natural disasters. Ensuring data backup and recovery plans are in place and tested before the migration can help minimize the risk of data loss.

10 steps to a successful data center migration

To ensure a smooth transition from your existing computing environment to a new one, it’s recommended that you use the following guidelines:

  • Create a viable business case. A data center migration business case outlines a clear case for making the transition. It includes a risk assessment and discovery phase, cost analysis, implementation plan, and identifies who will run the project.

  • Get buy-in from all stakeholders. Migrations should benefit all staff, however, without buy-in can cause frustration and hurt productivity. Establish clear and open communications with all stakeholders and provide regular updates on the migration project. Ensure that the benefits of the migration are communicated, especially in the context of how it will serve each stakeholder and division.

  • Establish roles and responsibilities. Identify and recruit team members to assist with the migration. Include core team members that provide track project status and manage the budget, technical experts to develop the migration strategy, and business stakeholders who identify risks and issues associated with the migration.

  • Review contractual obligations. Migrations can require leaving one physical address for another. Ensure that any lease agreements have been reviewed and contracts terminated in advance and according to lease agreement obligations to avoid unnecessary costs. 

  • Create an inventory of all assets. Before migrating establish what assets must be moved and identify all application dependencies along with technical requirements. Ensure that hardware is accounted for and determine which infrastructure (including communications equipment) will be moved or replaced during the migration. 

  • Determine the architecture and design specifications. Establish how data will be moved, where data will be stored, and how it will be tested.

  • Migrate in batches and systematically. As infrastructure is machinery and failure is possible, segment data into batches or categories. Smaller or categorized data subsets are easier to migrate and test for integrity than large data volumes. It is important to map the networks’ dependencies and to have full visibility of the infrastructure before, during and after the migration waves occurred. 

  • Develop efficient staff schedules. Data center migrations impact entire organizations. Ensure that workflow planning has been accounted for to limit or completely remove any impact to business operations during the migration.

    1. Review audit trails and logs. With a migration completed, it’s essential to confirm that all data has bee correctly migrated to avoid applications with dependencies from failing to operate efficiently or causing productivity bottlenecks.

    1. Optimize the new environment. Post-migration, examine the new environment for improvement. Optimization also includes identifying opportunities to cut costs even further by identifying which services are not required, and by leveraging features like automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to free up human capital to focus on higher-level tasks.

Data center migration tools

There are various tools available to assist with data migration projects. These tools can be broadly categorized into the following categories:

    • Data migration tools: These tools facilitate the actual transfer of data from the source to the target environment. These tools include extract, transform, load (ETL) tools, replication tools, and backup and recovery tools.

    • Testing and validation tools: These tools help in verifying the migrated data and ensuring that it is functioning correctly in the new environment. Testing and validation tools include data profiling and quality tools, migration simulation tools, and performance testing tools.

    • Monitoring and management tools: These tools help in monitoring the migrated environment, identifying issues, and managing the ongoing operation of the infrastructure. These tools include monitoring and analytics tools, configuration management tools, and security and compliance tools.

    • Planning and assessment tools: These tools help in assessing the existing infrastructure, identifying dependencies, and planning for the migration. Some of the tools in this category include discovery and inventory tools, application dependency mapping tools, and migration readiness assessment tools.

One specific tool worth mentioning in the planning and assessment category is application dependency mapping tools. These tools help identify the dependencies between applications and infrastructure components in the existing environment. This information is critical for planning the migration and ensuring that all dependencies are accounted for in the new environment.

Application dependency mapping tools can also help in identifying potential issues and risks associated with the migration, which can be addressed proactively to minimize disruption to the business.

Streamline your data center migration with Faddom

Effective data center migration planning involves a complete inventory of your IT ecosystem. Faddom’s dependency mapping tool discovers and maps business application dependencies in only 30 minutes. It is a 100% non-intrusive solution. It’s also agentless, credential-less, no need to reconfigure firewalls – we work passively using existing network traffic protocols (IP address based) and map automatically 24/7 and in real-time so our maps are always up-to-date.

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