Creating an Enterprise Data Migration Plan | Knowledge of the data center

Today’s business has many storage and data options. And data control requirements will continue to grow and evolve. With that in mind, let’s discuss an aspect of the IT and data center administrative process that some organizations hate to discuss: data migrations.

What if you need to move a massive amount of data? What if it wasn’t as easy as just re-mapping a storage repository? In some cases, you can migrate entire storage providers to align with specific business strategies. Either way, when dealing with critical business data, you need to have a plan. So here are 8 steps to create an enterprise data migration plan:

Business Impact Analysis. To best identify the business and operational requirements of a data migration project, a BIA should be performed. The BIA process will involve different business stakeholders who will work to ensure that their requirements are taken into account in the migration plan.

During this process, four elements will be identified:

  • The IT team will review and define available network bandwidth, storage, CPU requirements, allowed downtime, and migration schedule.
  • As more and more teams are involved in the process, database and system administrators define the application and database requirements.
  • Key trading partners will work to define the importance and requirements of specific applications and data types.
  • Internal security and compliance groups define the compliance requirements for a given infrastructure.

This document is not filled out just for a data migration plan. The BIA is a critical blueprint that helps with disaster recovery planning and infrastructure management.

Data Discovery and Requirements Planning. The discovery stage makes it possible to define the hardware and software migration environment; as well as general requirements for migration. Do not leave any features unchecked in this process and be sure to perform a thorough discovery of your current systems. This means understanding dependencies, permissions, user groups, data organization, network configurations, etc.

Data mapping and storage design. Once the data discovery phase is complete, you will use this data to create your mapping and design architecture for the new ecosystem. In some cases, this will be easy when you work with the same supplier. However, for heterogeneous migrations or working with multiple vendors, this process is especially critical. Although there are migration tools that can help, there must be a manual review process to ensure proper mapping and design of data, storage, and configuration.

Creation of the data migration plan. In many situations, you will be able to set up your secondary storage or data control ecosystem alongside your existing environment. This allows for seamless migration. Nevertheless, you should still have a comprehensive migration plan. You need to understand the impact this can have on users, your business, your applications, and other critical workloads. When creating your plan, consider these four points:

  • Constraints should be identified through business and operational requirements. Be sure to consider your business operations when undertaking a data migration project.
  • Identify all data to be migrated and all necessary associated attributes. When creating the migration plan, use your mapping and design metrics to ensure that all data attributes are considered and configured.
  • Use vendor-specific migration tools if needed. You don’t have to do it alone. In addition to being able to work with a migration or data storage partner, you can take advantage of vendor-specific data migration tools. These can help you plan the design, requirements, and even the migration process.
  • Always incorporate environment and application storage best practices. Should the VM be shut down? Can the VM be migrated via hypervisor migration? Can you migrate storage repositories live? When working with virtualization, next-generation storage appliances, and highly mission-critical workloads, ensuring application and storage best practices is critical. Since each environment is unique in its requirements, creating a migration plan is often a challenge. Different types of data may require different migration tools and strategies. Additionally, business and operational requirements (eg, downtime) may require creative ways to migrate data.

The key thing to remember is that the planning phase is truly a living document. At any time, environment variables may alter the course of the project, or the execution may lead to unexpected results. All of this can impact the migration plan as originally documented.

Data and storage preparation and provisioning. During provisioning, the destination storage environment is prepared for data movement. This is where you design your repositories, LUNs, volumes, specific policies, security rules, virtualization integration, etc. Remember that we work with many different types of storage environments today. Understand the differences between hybrid, all-flash arrays and traditional spinning disks. Plus, know how to provision new features like caching and even dynamic provisioning/deprovisioning features. Additionally, when designing around a new storage system, ensure that you are familiar with all new features in the environment.

Validation tests. This is a critical step. You can perform load testing and ensure that policies and configurations are transferred correctly. This is your chance to create a “production” test environment to ensure that your new storage solution can meet user and business needs.

Migration and failover. At this point, your migration plan is ready, you’ve done all your testing, and you’ve finalized the configurations. Now you can start migration and failover. Now, there are vendor tools that you can use from a destination storage technology. However, several factors play into choosing the best migration methodology. These factors may include:

  • The type of source and destination storage systems
  • Infrastructure network and storage topology (NAS or SAN)
  • Physical locations of servers and equipment
  • Mapping requirements for specific applications
  • Use of app and database data
  • Specific project, commercial, technical and operational requirements of the client

With effective data migration, the truth is that there is no one right way to do it. Everything will depend on trade-offs based on the environment’s infrastructure, basic business and operational requirements, and migration experience. This is why the first planning phase of any data migration plan is so important. It provides the best in class migration plan for the specific migration project at hand.

After the data is moved, all clients should be redirected to the destination devices.

Testing and validation of the final migration. The final and certainly very critical step is to validate the post-migration environment. This final step will confirm that all business and technical expectations have been met. On the testing side – at a minimum – network access, file permissions, directory structure and database/applications should be validated in their new environment.

When planning your own data or storage migration process, be sure to work with storage engineers and architects who can guide you through the process. Remember that you are dealing with very critical data resources here. Spend more time planning effective migrations, ensure effective backups, and work to ensure the safe transfer of your information. In some cases this means working directly with the supplier, in other cases a partner can help you. Either way, take data and storage migrations seriously. Storage failures are never fun; good planning can help avoid the situation and maintain an operational environment.

Sean N. Ayres