Datacenter Migration Checklist

During the 14 years of my Datacenter and Disaster Recovery management career, one of the most common questions that I get asked is “What does it take to perform a successful data center move?” 


The reality is - no datacenter move is identical. Each move involves design, testing, capacity planning, packing, moving, re-assembly and the commissioning of systems. However, there are some common factors. This is my list of the Top 10 tips for a successful datacentre migration.


1. Define Responsibility and Accountability 


Protecting information stored on the assets being moved, or on the assets being provisioned is critical. Who has access to what? What is your liability if the database server cannot be restarted after the move? Are systems interlinked? Are operations spread over different timezones? - meaning downtime for certain zones. Did you remember about that remote office in the Cayman Islands which needs to transfer USD 100Million on the day of the move? 

Ensure that responsibility and accountability for each system is attributed to someone and defined in the early stages of planning. This avoids embarrassing "should have been done" situations.

2. Infrastructure is Only the Beginning


Virtualise your physical infrastructure as far as possible before the move. Rather than investing in separate servers and switches, go for blade technology. Getting the infrastructure up and running at the target location is the easiest part. Ensuring that all the critical business systems are operational is another hurdle. Your move must allocate time for the systems to be brought up and become operational.


3. Ensure that You can Always Fail Back


You don't want to turn the migration into a disaster - BUT if it does turn into a disaster, make sure that you can fail back or invoke the Business Continuity Plan. Strikes are one example of a factor which may affect the move.  


4. Setup a New Network in Parallel


Ensuring that you can fail back means that the original network should be left as is. Build a new network for the move. Do not move the network on the same day and do not re-use cables. The risk is not worth it.


5. Buy New Equipment Racks and Rail Kits


Avoid moving full racks as these will require special precautions. The cost of building protective shells is prohibitive, and significant time will be lost moving, and installing the racks at the target site. Most racks, unless they are of the seismic type,  are not designed to take loads which make them move from side to side. If a rack tips over, you risk injuring staff and losing equipment. Always un-rack and re-rack equipment.

6. Prewire Your New Racks


To avoid a cabling mess and having too many people working on a rack at any one time, avoid cabling at the same time as equipment is installed. Ensure that you know the size of all equipment to be moved and into which rack it will be placed. Label all power receptacles and network ports. Calculate the run length of all cabling beforehand. 


7. Prepare Staff to Work Shifts


Tired staff do not perform well, and neither will you. Ensure that all staff are well rested before they start their shift. Allow for an hour of handing over between shifts.


8. Ensure that You Have Backup Staff


If you have three shifts with one person each, consider getting at least two more resources on the job. During my software development days, I used to pair up with another engineer to identify bugs in the quickest time possible. The same principle works for infrastructure related tasks. 


9. Conduct Dry Runs


Need to dismantle and move a complex rack on the day? Build up an equivalent one a couple of weeks before the move then dismantle it to get the feel. This is one way to get junior resources up to speed. Ideally you should avoid using junior resources at all.

10. Spare Parts


Power supplies and disks notoriously refuse to start after prolonged power-offs. Ensure that you have critical parts available onhand during the power-on phase.


Contacting Me

If you need help with datacenter migrations I can be contacted as follows: 

Twitter: @Nepareev
LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/vasooveerapen
Skype: vasoo.veerapen
EMail: vasoo.veerapen (at) gmail.com

The easiest way is to send me an invite on LinkedIn.