Lack Of Proper Planning Can Result In Poor Execution – And Disruption
Data centers are on the move. Countless companies across all business sectors are relocating their computer facilities in search of more efficient, effective and secure IT operations.
In fact, according to a recent Gartner Group study, more than 70% of the Global 1000 organizations will have to either move or modify their data center facilities significantly during the next five years.
“Data center relocation is due to a number of factors, the most common being the need to update aging infrastructure,” noted Manon Buettner, Principal of Nuvalo, a Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting and brokerage firm specializing in simplifying cloud migration for companies. “Aging data centers can lead to a host of problems, but a poorly planned and executed move can wreak even more havoc.”
And if the move is not a success, it can disrupt business operations for days or even weeks. Thus, Buettner offers five basic ways to most effectively plan and manage a data center move:
1 – To Build Or Lease?
When a company owns its own data center, it assumes greater maintenance costs, security expenses and other risks. Building a new data center from scratch requires a large capital outlay.
And although building a new center gives an organization maximum flexibility and control, for most companies this option is too far removed from their core competencies to be realistically considered.
But leasing also presents a host of challenges. Landlords can raise the rent or make other demands. So when leasing, long-term lease agreements are an absolute necessity. Relocation is simply too expensive, time consuming, and risky to be forced prematurely. Contracts should include extension provisions. It also means leases should contain expansion
options for future growth and possibly purchase clauses should the landlord falter financially and be forced to sell.
Whether a company decides to build or lease, it cannot afford to trust to luck (or to any provider’s unvetted expertise) that the design of the data center will fulfill its current and future needs. And whether it builds or leases, a company can (and most often should) outsource the design work if it lacks internal expertise in the design of state-of-the-art high-density data centers.
If a company is leasing a new data center, it is of course constrained in design by the available space and future expansion rights. This will make optimizing the available space even more critical.
2 – Site Suitability Analysis
This must be conducted prior to either leasing or building, and include factors such as:
- Geography – Must be located far from high-risk sights due to Mother Nature, as well as near major highways and flight corridors, on high ground and protected.
- Communications – Must have multiple, fully diverse fiber connections to network service providers.
- Ample Power – Must have easy access to abundant power from multiple sources of electricity, taking advantage of low cost providers whenever possible.
- Space – Analyze planned business growth before moving. Make sure you plan for additional space and power you’ll need 5-10 years down the road.
3 – Plan, Plan, Plan . . . And In Advance, Advance, Advance
It’s always recommended to bring in an outside expert to help plan your move. This is too big of a project not to, as a sub-par move can be disastrous. Buettner recommends these basic steps:
- Determine Maximum Allowable Down Time Acceptable For Move – With proper planning, a move can be accomplished in a time window that is appropriate for that particular company – from zero downtown, to several hours or even a day or two. Determine what’s best for your operation in advance, and plan with that window in mind.
- Identify Server, Storage & Application Dependencies – As enterprise applications
- cross departmental boundaries, it is important to define functional “move bundles” to assure that full business process support is returned to service as quickly as possible.
- Review All Relevant Agreements & Contracts – This should include vendor leases, maintenance agreements, warranties and insurance policies. Be prepared to determine how requirements or restrictions may impact the move’s success or introduce risk.
- Map Out Move Resources – Who will be involved and what will be their role be prior to, during and following the move? What supplier and service contractors will be involved? Make sure the chain of command and responsibilities are clear.
Also create a “runbook,” which is similar to what NASA creates for launches – complete with a thorough, minute-by-minute, plan for your move events. You can never be too thorough, and this runbook should encompass everything from application shutdown to system backups to physical move activities.
4 – Minimize Change & Complexity
Prior to the move day, organizations should freeze their application configurations and not introduce change and complexity. Any change undertaken during a move adds risk and complicates the project.
But there is one exception to the “no changes” rule: An organization should consider the purchase of new core networking gear before the move. This will significantly reduce the risks and down-time of reinstalling network gear at the new site during the move. The network should be up and fully tested before any move is made.
5 – Plan For Dedicated Resources On Moving Day
Managers undertaking a data center move must create detailed checklists covering everything from server rails to cabinets to specialized tools (e.g., screw threaders for stripped screws; sledge hammers; special power cords to prevent outages when servers cannot be reconnected, etc.).
To limit downtime, a data center move should begin as soon as applications have been shut down, and the move should be scheduled at a time when involved employees are able to fully focus on the move’s success. Trying to “squeeze in” a move on top of full time, daily responsibilities is doomed to failure. It will create a heavy tax on employee morale and unnecessarily prolong the move and potentially impact the business.
“Operational IT knowledge does not always translate into an understanding of how to best move a data center,” stressed Buettner. “A move requires careful planning, diligent forethought, and impeccable execution. Having this spearheaded by someone who’s done it before it a must to ensure success.”