What to look for in cloud data migration tools

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Enterprise data centers, from small to large, are moving or planning to move significant amounts of their applications and data to the cloud, but data migration is a big concern and implementation on existing infrastructures can be time-consuming, complex, and costly.

Data migration becomes even more complex and costly in heterogeneous environments when migrating between different formats, technologies or vendors. Thankfully new technologies and solutions not only ease the pain of data and application migrations, but actually accelerate the migration process by utilizing a single solution that maximizes product features while minimizing complexity.

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BACKGROUND: Do you know where your cloud data is?

Dedicated data migration solutions ease the process significantly by incorporating multi-protocol connectivity and making it possible for data and applications to be moved easily from iSCSI, Fibre Channel, or FCoE environments to other iSCSI, Fibre Channel or FCoE environments.

Data migration challenges

The key challenge involved in data migration to cloud environments is matching the incoming data to the particular storage protocol and infrastructure being used. The enterprise may have data stored on an iSCSI SAN, for example, but the cloud environment may be Fibre Channel. The cloud infrastructure and protocol translations are a requirement for the migration to be successful.

Another challenge is to perform the data migration with reasonable performance. Stretching out a migration over days or even weeks becomes the data center dilemma. The migration solution has to increase the efficiency to allow for business change and allowing for agility to decrease the likelihood of errors in the process and confining precious IT administrative resources. The IT administrator has to insure flexibility and meet the requirement to migrate data while applications continue to remain "online," as well as minimize the number of times an application needs to be stopped and restarted.

The complexity of enterprise data centers means administrators must rely on a single solution to perform local or remote data migration across multiple network fabrics (SAN, WAN, LAN). The key is remote data migrations, which provide the capability of the cloud as part of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). IaaS provides, as part of a simplified method, the capability to support remote applications deployment, remote site moves, and remote infrastructure changes. It is important in support of cloud infrastructure; the data migration solution must include flexibility, availability and performance.

A data migration solution (DMS) is an appliance that provides a simple and effective way to provide multi-protocol translation and allow migration of all of the Fibre Channel-based (2Gb, 4Gb, or 8Gb) or iSCSI-based (1Gb or 10Gb) data that supports applications to be run in the cloud. Without a DMS, users must implement alternatives to bridge between the data center and the cloud, but they are still without a way to translate between Fibre Channel and iSCSI or vice versa. It is possible to implement translation on a server, but the process requires installing multiple components and is fraught with the potential for errors.

In the IaaS implementation, the application migration requirement will include database services or Exchange Server as part of the data center virtual machine, server and storage framework. The infrastructure has to be robust enough to migrate block storage remotely and enable deployment in the cloud, ensuring that scalability can be dynamically set and load balancing achieved.

The DMS should easily migrate data between heterogeneous Fibre Channel- and iSCSI-connected storage arrays from virtually all storage infrastructures. The flexibility to migrate data from one vendor's storage array to another vendor's storage array, local or remote, allows users to choose a cloud provider without regard for the type of storage system that provider uses. It maintains a heterogeneous infrastructure. Here are specific requirements for a solution.

• The DMS should provide flexible data migration capabilities for Fibre Channel- and iSCSI-connected storage arrays in various storage configurations, local or remote, including: Fibre Channel to Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel to iSCSI, iSCSI to Fibre Channel, iSCSI to iSCSI.

• With support for heterogeneous storage, the DMS should be the only data migration tool users will need -- regardless of the brands of storage that exist in the cloud. The DMS should work in a data center environment today and into the future, providing efficiency and cost savings.

• The DMS should support the broadest range of storage arrays from HP, IBM, Dell, EMC, NetApp, HDS, Fujitsu, Xiotech and others.

• The DMS should allow for simultaneous Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCoE, and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) connectivity to heterogeneous storage arrays. It should provide excellent data migration performance and routing across heterogeneous SAN fabrics running 2Gb, 4Gb, and 8Gb Fibre Channel, as well as iSCSI connectivity running 1GbE and 10GbE.

• The solution should support SANs from all major vendors, including Brocade, McDATA, Cisco and QLogic. It should provide investment protection for legacy infrastructure and the flexibility to invest in future technology.

• For cloud computing data centers in multiple locations, a DMS should provide IT managers the flexibility to migrate data online with just one disruption to the application when moving to the new storage system. Users should also be able to perform an offline migration during scheduled downtime for maintenance.

• The DMS should have the capability to support thick-to-thin provisioning across different array types. Thin provisioning, in a shared storage environment, is a method for optimizing the use of available storage. It relies on the on-demand allocation of data blocks, versus the traditional method of upfront allocation of all the blocks.

• In addition, the DMS should provide user-friendly migration management through either a wizard-driven GUI tool or CLI scripting. Users should be able to easily configure, manage and monitor data migration projects remotely, and create a log that can be printed out after the migration has been completed.

• In fact, a DMS should provide the flexibility of several job-scheduling options, allowing users to complete the time-consuming task of configuring data migration jobs without requiring any downtime. The different I/O size capabilities for migration jobs enable users to tune the storage array's performance during sequential read/write operations. A load-balancing option would simplify data migration from older-generation, lower-speed arrays, such as 2Gb and 4Gb Fibre Channel arrays, to higher-speed 8Gb arrays.

Data migration to the cloud is playing a more strategic and prominent role in the data center. However, data migration is a complex and time-consuming task that cannot be regarded lightly. A DMS enables the IT manager to use a single solution to migrate data in the most complex cloud computing environments. The heterogeneous technology enables data and application migrations to be flexible and efficient to a large infrastructure of storage arrays, multi-vendor switches, multi-protocol networks, and multiple operating systems.

Lower solution cost, a smaller migration window, enterprise high availability, flexibility and efficiency supporting heterogeneous environments are the primary reasons users choose a DMS for data migration to the cloud and for solving the data center dilemma.

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