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A data center migration is a potentially risky decision. In this article Logicalis US provides advice on how to ensure that service availability is maintained during a migration.

One of the toughest challenges facing CIOs and other IT leaders is deciding what to do with a legacy data center. CIOs in this position often describe their data center as having grown organically into a Frankenstein-like operation through years of cycling people, hardware and software in and out of IT. They want to consolidate and streamline their data center, but they don’t know everything that resides there – and they’re fighting a time-consuming and costly battle each day just managing the complexity in system interactions and dependencies as a result. The natural reaction is to migrate the data center to a new and updated version of itself, but short of a forced march due to a building relocation, there are only three reasons to undertake a data center migration: guaranteed cost reduction; the assurance of creating a more streamlined and easily manageable operation; or the creation of a more reliable data center overall. These three reasons often go hand in hand.

To help IT pros examine the costs and benefits of a possible data center migration, here are seven steps that CIOs must take to ensure success:

1. Do your financial due diligence: cost-benefit planning is a must

There are two types of migrations; one is a forced march: where a company has sold a building, for example, and must vacate the space. The other is one where a change is desired for internal reasons: perhaps the CIO is concerned about the amount of risk exposure IT has, or the company has outgrown its existing data center’s capabilities or wants to take advantage of cloud to streamline its operations. The key is to determine up front what the total cost of the migration will be and what the benefit will be on the other end. Only when you have done this can you decide whether the migration will prove worthwhile.

2. Complete a strategic data center assessment

Once you’ve examined the costs and expected benefits, the next step is creating a plan of action, something which starts with an in-depth, top-to-bottom inventory of IT assets, applications and dependencies. This is also the time to consider a hybrid cloud strategy. Any serious cloud discussion requires a cloud readiness assessment that will help the team determine which applications can move to a cloud model and includes a cost-benefit analysis of making those changes as well.

3. Set up the new house

Once the data center and cloud assessments are complete and the budget is set and approved, it’s time to set up the data center’s new house. This is the stage where contract negotiations take place, including plans and negotiations for data center space, telecom and network infrastructure, power and structured cabling design and installation, as well as cloud connectivity measures.

4. Assign an internal project team

The project team must include both an executive steering committee that can oversee the migration and dedicated internal IT and project management office (PMO) resources who can actually perform migration-related tasks on a daily basis for the duration of the project.

5. Get outside help

Data center migrations are grueling, long-term projects. There will be networking teams, application analysts and many other dedicated and highly skilled professionals needed. People will be working around the clock, every holiday and every weekend night for months on end; this can wear out your internal staff if you try to go it alone. Bring in outside help: not just to balance the workload, but also to tap into the expertise of people who do these kinds of migrations for a living and are experienced in the ups and downs that regularly take place.

6. Execute your strategy

When it’s time to execute your strategy, start with bite-sized chunks. Formulate move groups, each responsible for a piece of the overall migration. Start the migration process with low-hanging fruit. This should be a trial run with an application that is not critical to the business’ daily operation. This exposes the entire migration team to the methodology and cycle of a migration, and it builds confidence as even minor migrations are accomplished successfully, yet it’s low risk. Once you’re seeing a pattern of successful moves, work up to more critical changes, following the strategic plan you created in the early stages.

7. Consider maturity options

Once the process is underway, it’s important to acknowledge that every business has a different level of IT maturity. By this point, you’ve conducted a top-to-bottom inventory of your assets and dependencies, you’ve collected information through both manual interviews and automated scanning tools, and you’ve amassed significant amounts of information in the process – a wonderful by-product of the work you’ve already done. This is a perfect opportunity to take that data and put it into an IT service management (ITSM) tool that can help you more efficiently and cost effectively deliver service improvements and drive enhanced business outcomes. It’s an ideal time to begin the creation of a configuration management database (CMDB) and to implement ITSM maturity processes like change management and configuration management. This, however, is something that has to be done concurrently with the migration. It can’t be something you set aside and revisit a year from now; that data has a shelf life.

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