Data Center Migration Best Practices

Data center migrations are very misunderstood by a lot of people and are probably some of the scariest things that somebody gets tasked to do. This is rightfully so, because there are just a lot of moving parts and pieces. A data center migration is literally moving. It can be looked at two ways: it is moving computing assets or IT assets, and the applications or services they provide from one location to another or in the instance of the cloud it is moving the applications or the services from a known facility to a cloud facility.

Your Need or Reason for Migrating

There are many different reasons why people or companies decide that it is time to do some kind of migration. The primary things that trigger the need for a migration are:

  • Running out of space
  • Running out of power
  • The need to be in a different geographical area for latency purposes
  • The cloud is more economical
  • The want/need to move out of a facility to a co-lo facility

There are many different tracks that you can go down and the first thing that you need to figure out is: why are you doing this? What are your goals, and then you need to plan carefully to achieve those goals?

If the goal is to save money you must find out:

  • Are we really saving money and cutting costs?
  • In the long run will a colocation provider save us or cost us more money?
  • In the long run will the public cloud save us or cost us more money?

If you need to build a new brick and mortar data center facility because you have outgrown your existing facility, you need to determine:

  • Will upgrading my IT equipment and/or infrastructure alleviate the need for moving?
  • What do we need to put in the new facility?
  • How much space and power will we need now and in the future?
  • If existing equipment is three years old, are we going to move it?
  • Should we instead buy newer more efficient and compact equipment?
  • Will new equipment need as much power and space?

As mentioned above, there are a lot of different parts and pieces. You need to develop a plan based on a set of best practices. You need to plan for how you're going to migrate everything or move everything and set up the new facility.

  • What is your plan?
  • What are your objectives?
  • What are your goals? Colocation, Public Cloud co-lo, new facility, Hybrid?
  • What metrics do you need to monitor to achieve your goals?

Migration to a Colocation Provider

Map your migration to the colo out in advance. You don’t want to lease space with a colocation provider and find out in just three to six months that what you leased was too small. Now you have to get a bigger space or a bigger cage or a bigger suite and you’re moving again. You need to plan how much power to contract for. It is critical to understand how the colo is going to supply the power. Are they just handing you off a huge electrical feed that you need to put into your room? A PDU? A four scanning standard PDU that's got transformers in it or step-down transformers?

A best practice is to create a room, location, or building that replicates where you are moving to. Start placing equipment into this sample room where you can get an understanding of how many racks you will need, and how much power. Will your equipment fit in the space you are planning on leasing? Remember you should not just consider what you need now, but what power and space and cooling you need for the future.  Nlyte’s DCIM software’s power and space capacity planning can actually help you with this.

Raw space and power are what you get from the colocation facility. From there you have to have your own distribution equipment to get through the facility. Will the facility provide whips and power cords with receptacles on the end? What are the breakers associated with them – 15, 20, 30-amp breakers? How are they delivering that to you and what's the most economical way to get it from them? When you go into a facility, you need to plan what you are going to need - 400 amps, 500 amps of power? How many whips - 10 or 20 each at 20 to 30 amps? Order too many, and you are renegotiating, too few, and you are waiting for a service order to be filled.

Note: downward adjustments in services are not in the colocation providers business model. A lot of times it is easier to ask for more power than to ask for less power. You have to have all these considerations and modeling before you make your decision to build, rent or lease a new facility. That is a critical best practice.

Nlyte has several resources to help you in your colocation partner selection - start here:

Cloud Migration

If you are moving to the cloud do you understand what all the cloud services are going to cost you? Are you even able to figure out what it costs you today to operate the service or the application that you are planning to move to the cloud? If you cannot quantify what it is costing you today to operate, how do you know that you are saving money putting it into the cloud? There are a couple of things that you have to figure out prior to a cloud migration.

  • What is the actual cost of an application or service workload?
  • What do you consider success criteria for whatever you are trying to do?
  • Are there any budgeting restrictions or implications that you have to worry about?

If you move to the cloud, expecting to save money and all of a sudden, it is costing you a quarter million dollars or half a million dollars more a year to operate than it did operating your own facility - What happened? Nlyte helps by simulating the environment and evaluating the workload costs before having to spend money, because no one likes surprises like this.

Avoiding Migration Surprises

The last thing that anybody needs is surprises.

Know what your timeframe is for doing things - everything! Is there a hard date by which things must happen? For instance, are you in a leased facility now, and the lease is about to expire, or the company sold the building that you are in? If you must build a new facility, how much time do you have to plan all this? Is it short term or long-term? You have to understand that timeline and all the critical paths that have to occur. You need to put a solid plan in place. This is especially true if you are leasing something month to month, because it can get very expensive.

Management needs to understand that it is not as easy as just loading everything up in a truck and driving to a new location, unloading, and plugging everything back in. It just does not quite work that way. There is lots of planning and it should start with the services and the applications that you want to provide from the new location. You need to:

  • Chart off the services and applications planned for this new location
  • Make contingency plans for services and application to be end-of-lifed or transitioned
  • Identify what equipment is required to provide those services - servers, storage, and    network requirements to support them
  • Plan on the new circuits in the new location
  • Know what lease line services you need from your Telecom vendor
  •    Commission the new circuits
  • Establish decommissioning and connect schedules of old and new circuits
  • Provide groups impact notifications
  • Plan the power and cooling requirements
  • Identify cabinets and racks requirements – how many and what kind

You need to realize you might not be able to move your existing equipment. You might have racks full of equipment that are required to keep your old facility (your business) running during the migration. You can't just shut one down, then bring the other one up, you have to have both running. Your customers cannot see any loss of service and you may have unexpected failures that require failback to the original site. Then there are the personnel resources needed. You need to ask and plan for:

  • Do you need additional personnel or can you do it with the existing team?
  • Are you contracting this out to third parties to manage the move?
  • What resources do you need to manage your migration vendors?
  • Are you going to just manage it and hire the contractors as you need them?
  • What contractors and different crafts will need to be involved?
  • Do you have vendors identified and teed up to meet your planned schedule?

Just as a side note – Sweat the little stuff - you can have 10 guys sitting idle because you had to air freight in a missing $5 part.

Never Lose Assets with Nlyte’s Tracking Software

Nlyte helps you manage the move. Nlyte DCIM can see if you have everything you need and if it is where you need it.  Nlyte tracks all assets and workflows: from floor, to dock, to dock, to floor. It tracks and manages the process and the work orders. It gives you an audit trail and lets you know what the progress is. You don't want something just disappearing or if it does disappear, know why it disappeared or who had the chain of custody - who had it last.

With Nlyte, you can track these moves. You can see: now the mover has it, that it is on the truck, that it is moving, and that it has arrived. Then when the equipment gets to where it needs to go, you can unload it and check it back into inventory at the new location. New equipment that arrives on the dock in the new facility can be checked into Nlyte, recording it from the dock, to installation, into operation, and eventually decommissioning. If it is leaving your old facility and you are decommissioning it, again, you can track it from operational to decommissioning process to disposal and certify its decommissioned status.

What to Consider Before You Start Pulling Plugs

Keeping track of everything is also a large task that you must plan for, don’t just go pulling plugs! When you are disconnecting equipment, you need to start thinking about the process. For example, you have a server that has been running for six plus years, and you think you know what is on it, do you really? It is important to know if there are any virtual machines running on a server. What applications are running on that server? Who's responsible for that server? When you think you have moved all the services off a server for decommissioning, is it really inactive? Being able to understand whether it is now available to be turned off, or if there is some mystery application on it and who owns it is key. You need to understand all that is on that server because it could have 20, 30, 40 different services it is still providing. This all applies for a server, network, storage devices, and power circuits, too.

Note: In the case of a service provider such as a Telecom, that one piece of equipment could be affecting hundreds of thousands of subscribers or customers.

You have to have a very good understanding of how everything is interrelated, how the applications and services running in/on the infrastructure are connected before you start decommissioning anything. You also need to understand what is going to be required to move the device and its services. What do you need to support it if you move that application or service to a different spot? Will user experience be impacted (for good or bad)?

Avoiding Those Uh-Oh Moments

Why dependency mapping and planning up front is critical!

You have a device that is ready to shut down and move and you think it's not doing anything…except that one application that runs during Christmas, during tax season, labor day, that somebody only runs once a year and you don't know that you've lost it until you've lost it…then the phone rings!

You ordered a disconnect/connect date with your communication provider, they execute on it, the circuit comes up. One piece of Telecom equipment connected to that service has 10,000 things running on it. The circuit has a problem, it doesn't work like you expected it to work and you can’t fall back! Don’t check the morning headlines!!!

Somebody decided that they were just going to put the cabinets on pallet jacks and roll them from one cage into the elevator, up a floor, and go into another suite. In the process, they took a cabinet, jacked it up and while rolling down the hallway, they took out a sprinkler head. Not fun!

You order 15-amp floor receptacles from your colocation provider, because the cabinet only needs 15 amps. You fire up the cabinet all at once and the breaker pops because of the start-up surge. Now you have to place a work order with the facility to replace your 15-amp receptacles with 20-amp ones. There is a 48-hour SLA on the change order, and everything is on hold, including your business!

You get into the new facility and discover that you forgot to order the cross connects needed to get the cage connected to the internet, telecom provider, or whomever. And when you call your provider and ask to turn a circuit on it is not instant. And it is three o'clock in the morning!

It is all planning. All that planning is a tremendous amount of work. And then you have to go through your plan several times just to make sure that everything is right. Then you have to plan for a rollback if something unexpected occurs, during your cut over. If it doesn't work, okay, it doesn't work. You run into a problem, roll things back and have time built in for a delay.

Getting the Necessary Help for a Smooth Transition

There are companies that do nothing but specialize in doing this kind of migration/relocation. Your IT team has a day job and are probably overtaxed as is. To take on the massive task of a migration of any significant scale without help will be disastrous. These companies have trained staff with the skill sets needed and the templates and best practices ready to go, which your team most likely won’t. These companies know where to start and what to do.

Nlyte comes into play here. With Nlyte you get a better understanding of what exactly is in your environment and how everything is interrelated - the services, the applications, the business groups that each device is doing something for. Nlyte documents all of this so you have a clear starting point. It makes the job a lot easier because now you can look and see what applications are running on which server, using what storage, and where the power and network paths are. Nlyte gives you an immediate handle on what you have so you know what it is you need to move to another facility or the cloud.

Now That the Migration is Done, What’s Next?

Now you get to decommission your old facility. So, it doesn't end just with moving. Now you have to go back and clean out. You need to decommission what you don't need any more and depending on what your lease says, you might have to decommission everything down to the concrete. So that means removing the raised floor, the crac units, chillers, any kind of big equipment you have in there, might all have to be moved out. Again, there are companies you can hire to do that. Other companies actually buy your UPSs if they're not too old or your generators, your electrical gear, your coolant, and then you get to have somebody strip out all the plumbing and electrical that's hanging in the facility. All this has got to go.

Decommissioning may seem like cleaning the plates after a dinner party, but it can be very financially rewarding. You have generators that cost half a million, a million, two and a half million dollars. So, you might want to sell the generators and some of the cooling gear.

Check this out for some additional recommendations on managing a data center relocation.


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