Six key objectives to initiate a migration project.

This white paper describes how to begin planning for a data center migration. It focuses on the first of 5 phases of our data center migration methodology.  The initiation phase launches the planning process of a data center migration — helping organizations create a business case, an initial plan, schedule, and budget to kick-off the project.

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Develop the Business Case

The initiation phase launches the beginning of an organization’s data center migration (DCM) and an internal dialogue about the following:

  • Your business case
  • Your approach and solution
  • A project charter
  • A migration methodology
  • A project plan and schedule
  • Kick-off

Identifying a business case for a migration forces an organization to address the corporate reality of this once in a lifetime project.  It encourages institutional buy-in, a key requirement when budgets, resources and people are stretched and political pressures mount.  A well-crafted business case identifies the risks of executing a migration and the risks of doing nothing. It facilitates ownership of the process by all stakeholders and justifies the timing or its delay.  It translates the conceptual return on investment into quantifiable dollars. 

These first steps define why an organization is initiating a data center migration.

Select Approach & Solution

Data center migrations are complex political and technical endeavors internally and externally with stakeholders, executive sponsors, and vendors.  Strategic to your success are intelligent and intentional conversations about—

The current state of your data center(s),
The type of migration that best meets your stated goals and
The resource model that will efficiently plan and execute your migration.

These details may seem pedantic, but we have seen organizations spend million
with little to no results otherwise.

Start with a baseline of information about your existing data center(s).  We recommend it include preliminary details about your requirements, server population, major services,  site infrastructure, organizational framework, and resources.

The DCM Evaluation Tool helps you capture these details.  It’s intentional, and it’s targeted.

Next, understand what type of migration best accomplishes your stated goals. Data center migrations are frequently referred to as consolidations, collocation, or relocation projects.  The reality is different needs and requirements precipitate the type of migration to best execute.  The ability to differentiate the various types of data center moves is fundamental to understanding what you are trying to accomplish.

Here are the most common types of migrations and their definitions:

  • Data Center Consolidations reduce the number of physical data centers and/or the number of servers being used by either decommissioning legacy servers, repurposing servers and/or the reduction in servers via virtualization. 
  • Data Center Colocations move some or all of an organization’s data center operations to a colocation service provider.
  • Data Center Relocations move infrastructure from their current location(s) to a new location. 

By clearly identifying the type of data center migration, objectives, roadblocks, and resources are readily identified.

And finally, converse about the project team and required skill-sets.  A data center migration project team should include 3 groups: the core team, technical subject matter experts, and the business organization.

The core team provides continuity for the project.  They include the project manager, virtualization architect, network engineer, migration analyst, and a storage architect. They must have past experience with data center migrations and are the force du jour, architecting the right solution and keeping the project on schedule and on budget.

Technical SMEs may or may not be dedicated full-time resources to the migration project but are essential to your migration strategy. They matriculate into the core team when their expertise is required. 

With only a few exceptions, neither the core team nor technical SMEs must originate within the organization.  Sometimes resource availability is limited due to day-to-day IT operations and projects. Often, an enterprise will have organizational strengths in some areas and less so in another.  It is important to determine what resources are available in-house and which require the help of outside expertise. 

None-the-less, there are 4 in-house resources whose availability is necessary: a project manager, a disaster recovery coordinator, a data center services/operations expert, and an executive sponsor.  While each of their roles is distinctly different, their corporate knowledge is vital to the overall success of the project.

A data center migration affects every part of your organization and external customers.  With so many stakeholders affected, strong executive leadership is a must.  Their strategic role drives the team to a successful finish.

Develop Project Charter

A project charter for a data center migration should include these details:

  • Scope
  • Objectives and milestones
  • Governance
  • Communication plan
  • Stakeholders
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Assumptions
  • Deliverables
An effective project charter should also speak to the expected risk of every migration:  internal politics.
 
The people in your organization are the most critical component of your migration — for better or for worse.  Ownership and control, service levels, agility, loss of power or prestige is just a few of the many potential issues that will arise.  Internal politics is a major problem in data center migrations. 
 
The communication plan is an excellent tool to proactively minimize these risks, and communication is one of the most important components of your migration.
 
Consistent and unfiltered communication of project status to site staff, in particular, is essential. They can help resolve the political and business issues that are sure to surface. 
 
Organizational concerns must come first.  Regardless of how flawless you might execute, if you fail to communicate consistently and constantly, you’ll experience mutiny in the ranks. 
 
Involve your human resources department in your communication planning — and in every other step.  Full disclosure is always the best policy and a key motivator for the team.

 

Select Migration Strategy

A migration strategy or methodology helps you plan ahead and anticipate your next move.  It can also help harness scope creep and prevent you from overextending yourself.  
 
But, do not go it alone.  Seek expert help.  Both Gartner and Forrester caution organizations from going it alone and urge them to secure a data center migration specialist. 
 
And when you do seek help, talk with their clients.  Also, determine if your internal dynamics synergize.  Your internal systems and processes need to blend homogeneously with the specialist’s migration methodology processes.  A good firm understands how to merge the two processes into a unique blend that works — an essential requirement as you begin to create the initial plan, schedule, and budget.

 

Create Plan, Schedule & Budget

It’s time to begin preparing the plan, schedule and budget.  Using the information gathered in your initial evaluation, begin piecing together the early numbers and details such as:

  • Your team headcount for your core team, in particular your subject matter experts (SMEs), program staff and site staff.  
  • The estimated resource costs.
  • The number of sites to be moved.
  • The number of estimated move groups.
  • The estimated number of days to move each group.

We recommend leveraging the details captured from the Migration Evaluation Tool to begin gathering this information.  When estimating a budget, keep in mind there are five primary cost drivers of a migration. 

  • The migration team
  • Infrastructure buys 
  • De-installation
  • Transportation
  • Re-installation 
One of the most significant costs is typically the migration team.  
 
To help synchronize the plan, use the Data Center Migration Team Cost Estimator tool.  It helps calculate your resource costs and gives you a first look at your schedule and move groups. The results are displayed both graphically and numerically.  
 
By leveraging these details, your organization is equipped for kick-off. 


Kick-Off Migration

A data center migration can seem, at times, like contained chaos.  To mitigate risk, and the chaos, do not skip any of these steps. Thoroughly review your project plan with your team, set expectations, and listen to their concerns and suggestions.
 

Summary

The Initiation Phase is where an organization positions itself for migration success or failure. Pushing through the details of the business case, the approach and solution, developing the project charter, selecting a migration methodology and creating a plan, schedule and budget are challenging.  But, by doing so, it positions an organization for a successful data center migration.

Initiation Phase

  1. Develop Business Case
  2. Select Solution Approach
  3. Develop Project Charter
  4. Select Migration Strategy
  5. Create Budget Plan Schedule & Budget
  6. Kick-Off Migration