So, you want to migrate your data center. You may be asking yourself: “how important is thorough planning, anyways?”
Even if nothing goes wrong, many data center projects also run behind schedule.
After all, it’s no small feat to move 350 tons of equipment. The Titan project took 40 people months and that was just for the decommissioning project.
Thankfully, we’ve been around the block a few times to help you avoid some of the problems we’ve seen. In this article we’ll discuss the discovery, decommissioning, and migration process, principles, and steps to follow when formulating your project plan.
The Big Picture
The fact of the matter is, every data center project is going to be different, and so will require a different plan. You may have to migrate half and decommission the rest of the servers. You may need several subcontractors to handle the scale of material. For this reason, this article will not attempt to give you a catch-all project plan, but will instead provide guiding questions and a general framework for building your own data center migration project plan.
Generally, there are a few phases involved:
- Executive level project initiation
- Network discovery and assessment
- Data center decom planning
- Data center migration planning
- Finalized master plan and day of implementation checklist
We will go through each phase in sequence and at the end of the article I will provide a template and sample checklist for your project plan.
Executive Level Project Initiation
Obviously the decision to migrate a data center has to come from on high at the stakeholder level before it’s handed down to the applicable service manager or project manager.
Everybody knows that buy-in is critical, but in terms of the tangibles:
One of the most common problems with a data center migration is a disconnect between stakeholder expectations and how a migration progresses.
To avoid this, getting a third party estimate for total costs and timetables early on can be invaluable. Additionally, discussing common points of tension to manage expectations can help avoid a lose-lose situation. The last thing anybody wants is to start a gargantuan project that gets cancelled half-way.
Questions to Get Out of the Way
At what point will there actually be deliverables? What if the migration gets delayed, are the stakeholders informed of the unknowns?
Another issue is resources: are any experts or critical team members busy on other projects, leaving only suboptimal human resources for the project?
If you’re migrating to the cloud, which loads need to be maintained in your own hosting center? Do they have delusional fantasies about a perfect lift and shift where every application magically works the exact same in the cloud?
And lastly, do all the decision-makers actually understand what this project is? Never mind the migration project plan itself, but the actual plan’s point.
It sounds like a silly question, but many times the hands-off decision makers conceptualize a migration as just a simple logistical task, if a large scale one.
They also may not understand how the migration translates to a better end-user experience.
For example, automating your infrastructure build and server provisioning can ensure that end-users aren’t disrupted, all without a person touching a thing.
Working through these task-keeping points can help prevent a decision-maker from cancelling the whole project once the going gets rough and wasting everybody’s time.
Discovery to Avoid Disaster
An important aspect of planning out the migration is knowing what you’re actually migrating in the first place.
Surprisingly, this is a really common issue. As it turns out, keeping track of thousands of servers can be tricky.
Depending on whether or not your network is more flat or more virtualized, the choice of discovery tool can make a big difference.
You’ll also want to do a physical audit of the place. It’s amazing what you can find by just walking around the building.
Once inventory and applications are mapped extensively, you can begin to plan the technical aspects of which applications will map to the cloud and how.
Data Center Decommissioning Project Plan
While the data center decommission is not the most tricky part of the migration, it’s still no joke.
Electrical specialists to shut down the behemoth power infrastructure.
ITAD services to buy off and recycle valuable and non-valuable assets respectively, in addition to returning leased equipment by contract deadlines. You also may need subcontractors to teardown and remove the heavy infrastructure like HVACs, chillers, and generators.
For a comprehensive checklist to follow for the decommissioning step of the migration, you can download it here.
Data Center Migration Project Plan
Now to the meat and potatoes of planning your data center migration project plan.
You’ll want to make sure that every relevant party has every other relevant party’s contact information, to start.
Then typically a good chunk of days is blocked out strictly for getting the team together to plan the project out.
The first phase of migration planning should involve the following:
- Data center real estate, power, and cooling needs
- System backups
- Disaster recovery scenarios
- Necessary human resources
- Insurance coverage
- Site access needs for personnel
- Remote access needs
- Spares for equipment malfunctions
- IT hardware logistics vendor and internal point of contact
- Recycling or ITAD services for unneeded hardware
- Service level agreements and leased hardware contract dates, terms
Once that’s all done, you may need a month to double back and plan out the pre-migration prereqs:
- Is the date set for the logistics vendor to move the hardware?
- Are chain of custody, data erasure, and responsible recycling established for disposed assets?
- Are all necessary licenses available
- Have the spare parts been received at the new location?
- Has connectivity been tested across cabling and patch panels?
- Do all system admins have the requisite network info?
- How will the equipment be moved from shipping to receiving dock?
- What moving equipment is available at the new location?
- In what order should hardware be moved?
- Who will install racks, cabling, and set up the infrastructure?
- Has a dry run been done of the moving day?
- Which administrator will check port configurations to ensure equivalence between new and old location?
- Who will power on equipment, and in what order?
- Which team members, consultants, vendors, and supervisors need to review the finalized project plan?
Finalized Master Plan and Implementation
Once you’ve discussed and ironed out time tables for the aforementioned points, a day-of plan is invaluable.
At this point having a pre-determined action and/or escalation list for any foreseeable problem is typical. If there’s an issue, who will notify end-users and with what message?
Is everyone present and online? Are all backups valid and tested?
Has every objective been given to specific team member with time estimates?
Has a disaster dry run been performed?
Once your data center migration project plan has been formalized, it wouldn’t hurt to have another 3rd party migration consultant take a look to ensure that nothing has been left out.
If you have any questions regarding data center projects, server liquidation, or other IT projects, don’t hesitate to contact us!
Have something to add? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!