Data center migration in 7 steps

Whether you’re an early adopter or a laggard, when it comes to the great cloud migration, it’s easy to get it wrong if you don’t prepare.

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When it comes to cloud migration, what kind of adopter are you? Did you jump on the cloud bandwagon early? Are you lagging behind, without having tried to virtualize anything yet? Or are you in the mainstream, with a mix of clouds and some systems on premises?

In our cloud migration practice, we have found that each of these groups faces its own challenges. Early adopters are often unable to support their ambitious deployments, having discovered the limits of first-generation cloud systems. Laggards may realize the need to transform, but find themselves blocked by costs, resources and time. Most enterprises are in the mainstream. They have cobbled together a hybrid IT environment, but struggle with managing it all and moving forward.

The 7-step process

Depending upon where you stand on the cloud adoption cycle, you may be looking to recalibrate or embark or optimize. In any case, it’s a good idea to be deliberate. Data center modernization is a complicated and extensive process. Here’s what you should do at each stage of a migration:

1. Assess infrastructure

A crucial first step is to update your configuration management database (CMDB) or any other systems that track assets. Without that information, you cannot know what your infrastructure contains and what your current challenges might be. For a true transformation, you need 100 percent visibility. Over time, that visibility will likely slip and change, but when planning begins, it is crucial.

2. Catalog and map applications

Over time, enterprise application portfolios expand. You may discover four monitoring tools and two HR apps. Are there other redundancies? Is it possible to reduce costs by consolidation? What can be moved to the cloud and what cannot? Planning a migration also requires mapping workflows against infrastructure to determine where applications reside and which dependencies cannot be broken.

3. Design and estimate

This is time for a reality check. A business with only 40 percent visibility at the start, for instance, will now realize that its initial schedule was overly aggressive. A strategic design of the future state emerges once you have decided what to deprecate, what to move and when (e.g. whether to migrate lower or higher tier apps first). Plugging the design into an ROI tool can give you an estimate on costs and financial returns.

4. Build and validate

At this stage, a proof of concept (POC) can help you become familiar with the future state and gain confidence in the team that may be building it. Given that enterprise IT teams have day jobs, most savvy organizations know that to hit their goals they need experienced and focused partners who can take care of the project while they manage strategy and day-to-day operations. It is difficult to undertake a major transformational effort otherwise.

5. Migrate infrastructure

Whether you are following a disaster recovery (DR) failover strategy or using the cloud as a platform to build new versions of applications, you are now “under construction.” Some items go on the cloud and others on physical infrastructure. Some on the edge, and others on premises, all based upon your unique requirements. With multiple clouds and the right setups, infrastructure can move into the future state.

6. Test and validate

Performance testing comes next, to prove your applications and systems are up and running without issues. Testing should include all high-availability (HA) portions and failover during maintenance windows. The test regime depends upon applications, budgets and particular goals, such as recovery point or time objectives (RPOs, RTOs). The point is to validate that everything works as it should.

7. Launch operations

This final stage is not an afterthought, as runbooks should be created throughout the process, with ease of operations, cost-effectiveness and reliability in mind. But once these guides of day-to-day operations are finalized, then you can commence operations in the new migrated state.

Lay a good foundation

If you’re like most enterprises, you’ve already dipped your toe into the cloud. Those who have moved some of their applications and infrastructure to the cloud far outnumber both the early adopters who went “all-in” and those who are still hesitating on the sideline.

In a similar way, cloud migrations don’t have to be all-or-nothing. In fact, they very rarely are. The wisest approach is to start with a cloud readiness assessment to see where the greatest benefits lie in a move to the cloud. Then build a long-term cloud strategy that includes what workloads should move to the cloud and when. In other words, focus on steps 1-3, which are the foundation for any successful data center modernization effort.

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