Simplify the process and cut the cost of data migration and data acceleration

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From time to time, companies must undertake a data migration project for one reason or another. Perhaps it's to consolidate data onto a single platform after a merger or acquisition, or to accommodate an application upgrade or consolidation. Migrating away from legacy systems is another popular reason to move data around. Whatever the motivation, a data migration project is no fun.

In the years 2000, 2007 and 2011, Bloor Research undertook research studies on the costs and challenges of data migrations. Their 2011 study showed that the average budget for a data migration project is $875,000. Despite spending that kind of money, only 62% of such projects were brought in "on time and on budget." The average cost of budget overruns is $268,000. One of Bloor's recommendations for achieving the greatest chance of success with a project is to have a dedicated internal competency center or team specializing in data migration. Even with that, success is not guaranteed.

It's in this context that Cirrus Data Solutions (CDS) has developed a range of tools that are purpose-built to reduce the time, cost and risk of data migration, data acceleration and data protection. The solutions made from CDS' patented Transparent Datapath Intercept technology are sold exclusively through a partner channel, typically as a service element to new data storage sales. They are plug and play solutions that don't require extensive fibre channel knowledge.

The first of these solutions is Data Migration Server (DMS). It is a software appliance that can run on industry-standard hardware. It works along the lines of the concept of a traditional telephone answering machine, where the answering machine sits inline between the telephone and the wall jack. In this case, the Data Migration Server sits inline between the old storage system and the application servers and moves data to the new storage system in a live production environment. Once the data is transitioned to the new storage system, a short stoppage of about ten minutes is needed to remount the volume, and then the migration process is done.

Cirrus Data has identified several use cases for its DMS solution, including storage technology refresh, data consolidation, database relocation, reclaiming block storage, implementing a tiered storage solution, and improving data performance. The vendor gives the example of an organization that has just purchased solid state storage to be integrated with traditional spinning disk storage. The company wants to move some of the data – perhaps a database index – to the much faster solid state storage system. DMS acts as a migrator to do the hours of copying without any downtime and without interrupting the existing operation. Once the migration is done the company can transition to the new storage quickly and with minimal disruption.

The architecture of this solution is shown in Figure 1 below, with the DMS servers, paired for high availability requirements, shown in blue.

cirrus data figure 1

The solution is physically installed on the wire, like the answering machine comparison. Ports on the back of the servers intercept the fibre channel wires. No changes need to be made to the existing environment: the fibre channel zone and switch, the host driver, and the storage. Cirrus Data calls it true plug and play integration to a production environment. By making no changes to the environment, Cirrus Data eliminates a lot of the risk of migrating the data, and the migration process can be done on a production system virtually without downtime.

A second solution from Cirrus Data Solutions is their Data Caching Server (DCS). This solution is designed for data acceleration. Consider a hybrid storage environment where a company has the latest and greatest solid state disk (SSD) storage technology in addition to traditional spinning hard drive (HDD) storage. SSD is still quite a bit more expensive than HDD. Cirrus Data inserts a cache server in the middle and, instead of migrating data as in the case of the DMS, the server is used to accelerate the spinning disk. Again, there are no changes needed to the environment. According to Cirrus Data, just plug the DCS in and it will start to cache, as illustrated in Figure 2.

cirrus data figure 2

Cirrus Data adds off-the-shelf flash storage cards to the DCS servers. Each card in today’s market can have up to 4 terabytes, and with the pair it's possible to have 24 terabytes of flash storage in the middle for caching. This small amount of flash storage is plenty in terms of being able to accelerate the production storage. Say you have 100 terabytes of HDD production storage, and by adding the DCS servers you have a layer of cache between your applications and existing storage, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing all SSD storage.

DCS can be used as a temporary solution to get you over the hump of a big production job, such as year-end financials processing, or it can be a permanent solution to extend the life of your traditional storage by converting it to a hybrid solution. A storage VAR could set up the temporary configuration and offer Cache-as-a-Service.

Data Migration Server and Data Caching Server are the first of several planned products from Cirrus Data Solutions that will all utilize the Transparent Datapath Intercept technology. A data protection product is expected by the end of this year, with other solutions to follow after that.

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