In the past two years, I have had the pleasure of scoping and executing more than 130 data center relocations. During this time, I have participated in every facet of the relocation life cycle, including application and business process discovery, application bundling, scheduling, logistical planning, physical move execution, and vendor recertification. Regardless of where one is within this life cycle, hidden and often unforeseen gremlins lay waiting for the opportunity to sabotage your move.
OK, well, maybe it's not that dramatic, but the result of these gremlins may be equally as fatal to the success of your data center move. Understanding the risks of any data center relocation event, anticipating them, and ultimately planning for contingencies are the best complements to even the most well-planned relocation event.
Planning relocation: everyone is a stakeholder
More often than not, I have observed reluctance on the part of organizations when it comes to investing in a proper planning regimen before physically executing a move. Across the last 100+ relocations I have managed, no less than 60 to 70 percent of the total relocation cost was attributed to planning.
Frankly, physical logistics involves both art and science; planning is all science. You must know the implication of removing any cable, network device, server, storage volume, database, application, service or person within your core business during your move.
Planning a data center move often begins within the IT or facilities department. In recent years, IT growth and the significant increase in power and heat compaction have stressed data centers to the point of exhaustion when it comes to power and cooling. Many data centers have yet to reach physical capacity before the supporting environmental systems reach maximum capacity.
This reality is usually the basis for a facilities-driven need to relocate to an area that can better accommodate the power and cooling demands-and often comes to the surprise of the IT department. Because of the delicate nature of the service provider relationship that IT has with both the facilities department and the business units, a successful relocation project must have stakeholder representation from each of these three areas of the organization.
In even small and midsized data centers such as those with fewer than 100 racks, IT assets are often placed in a seemingly random manner. At one point there may have been an attempt to group assets logically (by application, department or function, for example) but, over time, gating factors such as power density, form factor and other considerations resulted in assets being placed wherever they would fit.
Consequently, the physical plants resemble an interwoven fabric of delicate communication paths, risking service disruption if any one of these paths is disturbed. This is metaphorically consistent with the integration of workflows, services and applications supported by the physical infrastructure. Because of this, data center migration planners must rely heavily on the quality of the documentation about the application environment, as well as the tribal (and often undocumented) knowledge within the minds of the system designers, administrators and owners.