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Myth or Truth: Can I migrate my data without disruption?

Calvin Gluck

migrate data without disruptionA disruption-free data migration is undoubtably the Holy Grail for most CIOs. There are IT storage vendors, like Dell, that claim they can deliver disruption-free migrations. The lure of a ‘disruptive-free’ migration is hard to resist, but considering the complexity involved in a large-scale data migration, can any vendor really deliver on this promise? Or is it just smoke and mirrors?

Data migrations are fundamental to any enterprise undergoing an IT transformation to drive greater business agility and competitiveness. In its simplest form, a data migration is about taking data from a legacy storage platform and putting into a new one. Sounds straight forward.

However, things get complicated at the enterprise level where legacy systems have grown organically with questionable data quality. It is essential to extract the data, and determine:

  • Who is the primary owner?
  • What are dependencies, users and applications associated?
  • Where and when to migrate  and
  • What transformation may be  required to fit the new environment?
Couple that with the often-evolving requirements for a new system to respond to the changing needs of the organization even as the migration project is running. There are typically many configuration items across these complex legacy systems and every single one needs to be assessed to determine which are required for operational, regulatory, or analytical needs.

Is it reasonable to believe that all this can take place without some interruption to business as usual?

The truth of the matter

If disruptions and outages during a data migration are likely required, how can some vendors claim they can be disruption free? The truth is that few  large-scale data migrations are completed without disruption. Instead it’s all about how you organize, define, and plan for the migration so you can identify how much and when disruption may need to occur while minimizing the impact to  the business. You do this so that it ‘appears’ to your organization that there are no disruptions to critical business operations.

The key word is plan!

Careful planning and experienced execution are fundamental ingredients for ensuring a smooth and successful migration. Without careful planning the potential for unplanned disruptions or outages during a data migration is significant and can be devastating to a business. According to Trend Micro, a short outage could result in the loss of one or more lives in a life critical situation such as a refinery or hospital.

When planning for a successful migration, it’s essential that you have experienced migration specialists guiding you through the process so you are not caught off-guard and can quickly mitigate any risk to business-critical systems and applications. To accomplish this, you need to:
  • Know who owns the data – let me say it again, make sure you know who the decision makers for the data are. It may be a group of different owners across your organization. Also, know who can approve outages, and don't assume it is the same person who owns the data.
  • Know where the data is going – be sure you understand any unique circumstances around the data. For example, are there special access control lists, system, or User ID requirements?
  • Have an agreed-upon checklist – establish a set of standards and be proactive in identifying and managing disruptions that may occur. Establish detailed schedules and gain agreement among data owners for planned cutovers and timelines.
  • Make sure you understand the varying levels of disruption that can occur – including time durations and how different disruptive variables may impact a migration.
  • Ensure you have the appropriate migration tools – provide integration capabilities into the broader enterprise and ongoing insights through extensive tracking of the effort and broad reporting to all levels of the organization.

The right partner can make all the difference

Large-scale data migrations are often not a core competency for IT organizations. So, don’t assume that your IT staff has either the bandwidth or the expertise to successfully plan and execute a smooth data migration.

The main reason migrations fail is due to a lack of experienced execution. According to Gartner, 50 percent of data migration projects will exceed budget and timeline and/or harm the business due to flawed strategy and execution. So, it’s often a good idea to leverage a seasoned partner with the expertise to achieve a successful migration with minimal disruption to your systems, applications, and business by ensuring:
  • A plan is in place and there is agreement across multiple stakeholders in your organization
  • Your IT team is prepared, and timelines and schedules are established
  • The right balance of automation and human management are in place to execute the migration

Rely on NetApp Professional Services

Not a newcomer to large-scale data migrations, our migration experts use field-proven best practices and tools to help you plan and execute a successful data migration strategy. We can help you plan a migration strategy that mitigates operational disruptions, reduces the risk of costly overruns and delays, and gets your new NetApp system into production quickly and efficiently. We also have seasoned experts who can support cloud migration to accelerate the transition of large-scaled and virtualized workloads from the data center to the cloud.

For more information, visit us at Think twice, migrate once.

Calvin Gluck

Calvin Gluck is a Migrations Specialist with 14 years of experience leading complex consulting engagements with customers globally in his roles as a Consultant, Technical Marketing Engineer and Program Manager. He lives in Arlington, TX.

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