Data Migration Process: The Tips and Tools You Need to Succeed

The Trump administration’s new “Cloud Smart” strategy encourages federal agencies to continue moving data to the cloud. The strategy also notes that data migration planning is an essential part of these moves.

“The adoption of cloud technology requires agencies to prioritize migration planning, retention, and organizational maturity in order to take full advantage of these services,” the strategy indicates.

Yet, for data migrations to be successful, agency IT teams must rigorously plan these migrationsreview their scope, examine the agency’s existing infrastructure and data, and determine how the data will be structured once it is moved into a more modern architecture. According to experts, these processes should be deliberate and involve strong IT governance as well as technology.

“You can’t take all your infrastructure, apps, and data and move it to the cloud overnight,” says Dave McClure, the senior director of Accenture Federal Services, which leads its CIO leadership program. “It’s a multi-year adventure, if you will.”

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How can agencies successfully undertake data migrations?

Agency IT managers should ask themselves and their staff many questions when undertaking a data migration process. As Valeh Nazemoff, executive vice president and co-owner of Acolyst, an enterprise technology performance management consulting firm, notes in FCWthis includes asking why the data needs to be migrated, what it is currently used for, and what personnel will be involved.

Additionally, says Nazemoff, agencies should consider the timing of a migration, where the data should go once it is moved and how it will be migrated.

McClure, who used to be the Associate Administrator of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration, agrees, and says that most agencies need to consider the target of migrating legacy databases to the cloud and why it is necessary. “What will this bring us? ” he says. “Does this allow us to make more savings? Does it give us better security because it’s safer? Does it improve our performance so that the mission is more satisfied with the process tools and service delivery tools available in the cloud environment? »

Once agencies understand the scope of their migrations and why they want to move data, they need to collect critical infrastructure and application data. This will help them determine whether the data is structured or unstructured and whether it’s integrated into legacy proprietary systems, McClure says.

“What data do I need to move and why?” Just having these strategic discussions about it is quite important,” he says.

Agencies should also undertake a in-depth analysis of the value stream, cost savings and performance improvement resulting from moving specific applications to the cloud, he adds. This allows agencies to develop a roadmap of what is going to be moved, when, how and why.

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Types of Data Migration Agencies Should Consider

There are several types of data migrations that agencies can undertake. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the main ones:

  • Migration to the cloud: Agencies that undertake a cloud migration typically do so because it guarantees greater reliability and availability of their data, McClure notes. Legacy systems put agencies at risk, according to a recent Accenture survey of 185 federal IT managers; 58 percent of respondents say their agencies have experienced two to three major disruptions or outages in the past decade, and only 4 percent avoided any discontinuity in this period of time. Agencies are also moving data to the cloud for greater security protections than exist with legacy systems, in part because cloud service providers continually update security protections. Computing power is also relatively inexpensive, which saves money, McClure notes. And the cloud allows agencies to achieve compliance goals and increase transparency in reporting their data.

    The biggest fears with migrating to the cloud are data loss and lack of interoperability between different cloud platforms. “How easily is this data reconciled and made transferable again to another system? What guarantee do I have that it is indeed my data and that it is not infiltrated by other data? McClure said. Agencies also have to deal with potential disruptions to cloud services and the costs associated with new cloud services.

  • Database migration: With database migrations, agencies often need to address the challenge of data stored in proprietary systems with built-in logic and rules around its use. “Moving a database to a cloud environment may not be as seamless as expected if you don’t understand how that data, business rules, and logic will behave when moved to an entirely different infrastructure and entirely different way of storing and computing data,” says McClure.

    Agencies need to ensure that new databases have a reputation for performing as well or better than what was in place before. In many cases, databases are not portable to the cloud, McClure warns, which means agencies need to discover new database systems or cloud applications that can perform the same functions more efficiently.

  • Migrating apps: The “lift and shift” migration of applications to the cloud from traditional data centers is often difficult, McClure says, and agencies often have to restructure applications in cloud environments. Accenture recommends federal clients also consider moving non-production environments to the cloud as they tend to be less complex when it comes to migration and often represent a large portion of an agency’s IT budget. This gives agency IT teams a cloud experience without having to move core operating systems or mission applications first.

    Agencies may need to renew old software, McClure says, and in some cases the software may no longer be supported. If so, it may make more sense to look for a software-as-a-service solution that can replace existing software.

What is a data migration test and why is it important?

According to the Software Testing Help Blogdata migration testing involves “a process of verifying the migration from the old system to the new system with minimal disruption/downtime, with data integrity, and without data loss, while ensuring that all specified functional and non-functional aspects of the application are met after migration.

Essentially, agencies need to undertake a health assessment to determine if applications and data are suitable for the cloud or other new environments, says McClure. Agencies need to consider technical issues, as well as those related to migration costs, risks, business values, and the complexity of moving and re-orchestrating data to work in cloud environments.

These data migration tests are designed to give agencies a clear idea of ​​the relative complexity or simplicity of moving data. McClure says agencies shouldn’t begin data migration until they’ve done this analysis, which Accenture calls a Fit for Cloud assessment.

Data migration tools agencies can use

Agencies have no shortage of tools to review their infrastructure and data. Unfortunately, says McClure, agencies often don’t have a complete picture of their infrastructure, applications and data. Once this inventory is done, data migration becomes more feasible, according to McClure, and “the roadmap of what gets moved when, where, why and how becomes easier to decipher.”

Agencies often have a lot of “obscure” data that is unknown to IT teams and department-wide reporting mechanisms. To control their data, agencies can turn to extraction, transformation and loading tools (ETL), which are often associated with data warehouses. These tools are designed to extract, examine and clean data, and learn how it is used.

IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are among the top ETL vendors, says McClure. Other providers, such as Computer science, Qlik and NetAppoffer similar tools.

As TechTarget notesthere is also several categories of file migration tools, including host-based file-level migration; host-based block-level migration; network-based file-level migration; network-based block-level migration; and array-based block-level migration.

According to McClure, regardless of the tool, agencies need to understand what data they want to move and why, then do it in a way that minimizes risk and addresses the most common issues associated with remediation issues: moving from one database scenario to another or from one infrastructure or set of applications to another.

“It requires careful analysis to reduce risk factors and dramatically improve the chances of success,” he says.

Sean N. Ayres