Four major steps

By Allan Mertner  |  Posted 2008-02-06 Print this article Print

1. Examine and critically assess existing configuration data.

Before you can put a plan in place for the relocation or virtualization process, it is absolutely vital to have an accurate and up-to-date picture of your data center assets, the business services they provide, and the dependencies between them. Too often this information has been gathered manually, which ensures that it will be subject to human error and out-of-date almost immediately. Even a seemingly trivial data point like the number of servers reported in a location is often erroneous by more than 20 percent from the true figure unless information is collected automatically, and the problem gets worse when it comes to more complex types of information. Doing discovery and dependency mapping can and should be automated - and the data collected must be very close to 100 percent accurate so it can serve you for the project. In many ways, it is very dangerous to rely on data that you believe is accurate but have no way of validating and is actually only 60-80 percent correct.

2. Start at the top and prioritize.

So you've arrived at a set of reliable configuration data, and now you're ready to begin planning the move. Chances are, you already know what your company's first priority business service is, and if you've successfully completed step one, you recognize which infrastructure components are necessary to support that service. But do you know which service is priority number two? Number 10? And have you considered the dependencies these services might have on one another? For example, many of your applications probably depend on your LDAP servers for authentication-so moving those requires a good understanding of all of the servers that depend on them and what they in turn depend on in order to avoid costly outages. Thorough answers to these questions will help you map out a comprehensive sequence of events for relocating or virtualizing parts of the business one at a time-without inadvertently affecting critical services.

3. Put pilot programs in place.

Start small. The first service you relocate or virtualize should be one you've identified as non-critical and not too tightly intertwined with the infrastructure supporting other parts of the business. After moving this service across, review your latest inventory and compare it against the plan to verify that the change happened successfully and identify any areas where your data was insufficient to predict the impact of the change. Though errors and outages can take place at this stage, their consequences will be contained, and you will be able to use best practices learned from these pilot programs to ensure successful migration of the more critical services. This "crawl, walk, run" approach is tried and tested as a guiding principle in leading global investment banks, and is key to mitigating the risks of downtime and expensive outages.

4. Continue to monitor and manage change.

Keep paying attention whether services are moving across successfully, refining your processes for relocating and virtualizing components in accordance with best practices.  As your confidence in your tools and processes grow, the scope of projects you can successfully complete will rapidly increase too.

Relocating and virtualizing data center assets requires a lot of planning and requires businesses to undertake higher-level intelligence initiatives than they may be expecting. Though the scale of these activities can seem overwhelming, IT automation speeds up the process and eliminates a great deal of guesswork. Businesses that take these smart steps to respond to the data center space shortage will be the ones who emerge on top when their competitors fall into crisis mode.

Allan Mertner is vice president of product delivery & IT at Tideway Systems and is based in London. Prior to joining Tideway, he was AVP of Development at Peregrine Systems where he was responsible for bringing together two acquired products and delivering them as a unified product suite that was released as Enterprise Discovery. In late 2005, Peregrine Systems was acquired by Hewlett-Packard and Allan played a key role in the pre-acquisition product and technology roadmap planning effort. Before joining Peregrine, Allan worked in Denmark where he co-founded Ibsen Photonics and later worked for Maersk Data. He can be reached at 


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