Migration mistakes: 4 things to avoid

These mistakes can cause headaches when you consolidate data centers.

The first phase of the ambitious Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative is complete, with nearly 20 percent of the targeted 1,200 data centers already eliminated. These consolidations were the easy part. The next wave of consolidations — about 525 this year, according to a blog post by Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel — will take a little more work. However, the benefits well outweigh the risks, according to VanRoekel. For instance, the Census Bureau will avoid $1.7 million in annual operating costs starting this year with the completed consolidation of two of its major data centers. In addition, it’s able to help other government agencies save money by offering co-location and hosting services to them.

These types of savings and efficiencies can only be seen when a migration runs smoothly and the new data center is architected and run correctly, though. “For instance, equipment will run longer when you maximize the data center,” said Anu Elizabeth Cherian, a senior industry analyst at research firm Frost and Sullivan. “You’re going to have less replacement and fewer emergency events if everything is planned and maintained well.”

Konkana Khaund, an industry manager at Frost and Sullivan, agrees. “If you don’t migrate correctly, it translates into a new inefficient data center.”

How do CIOs avoid this fate? Here are four common mistakes that can bog down a migration and cause problems for CIOs and their end users.

Mistake 1: Assuming you can move everything. Beth Cohen, a thought leader at the Advisory Council, said she recently participated in a migration for a government agency that started out with 11,000 physical servers. Its IT staff had decided to move everything to the cloud. However, once Cohen started digging in, she realized that about half the agency’s applications were either redundant or unused. They didn’t need to be moved to the new data center at all. “Plus, they skipped the virtualization step, and that was wrong.” When IT managers pare down and virtualize what they have, the migration process becomes more cost-effective and beneficial to the entire organization, Cohen said.

Mistake 2: Forgetting about the end user. Today, nothing gets done in a business environment without IT. However, it should be a given that whatever changes you make to the IT infrastructure, including a migration, will have a profound effect on the end users. And yet many IT departments treat the business as the proverbial canary in the mineshaft during a migration, said Darin Stahl, a lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. They plan a migration and don’t talk to users about which data is most important to them or how important it is for them to access it in a timely fashion. Even worse, Stahl said, “when they turn everything back on, they just assume that the business will tell them if there’s a problem. They count on someone calling if they can’t get to their applications or their data is inaccessible.” Instead, the IT department should be working with the end user from start to finish and designating some as test subjects so they know that some applications and services might not be available.

Mistake 3: Underestimating the amount of data you’ve got. Cohen’s recent agency migration had another issue. The organization assumed it could move all its data via a network connection. However, once the migration began, it became clear that it could take months to move the data over the network. There was just too much data and too many servers.

“If every server takes four to six hours because the maximum amount of data you can push down the pipe is 12G an hour, it becomes untenable,” she said. “You have to make sure you have enough bandwidth or an alternate way to move that data or your migration will never be completed.” Organizations might also want to use a migration as an opportunity to archive and delete unused or old data that doesn’t need to be moved to the new data center.

Mistake 4: Overlooking key dependencies. When an organization decides it will move seven servers into a hosted data center, it’s not uncommon for the IT department to forget that the move isn’t just about the server, Stahl said. “You’ve got the router, the storage, the shared data,” he said. “That blows the scope up. Much more can go wrong.”

He suggests that the IT team members map out the entire migration process, walking step-by-step so they can identify any potential problems with both physical and software migrations and outline how to best fix them should the worst happen. “This level of detailed planning isn’t fun, but it’s really valuable since things are going to go wrong and it’s better to have a contingency plan in place,” Stahl said.

About this report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please e-mail us at [email protected].