Solutions To The Data Center Relocation Maze

Some of the most strategic considerations and key steps necessary to properly execute a data center relocation.

By Kieran Brennan

There are few facilities operation decisions that can have a greater impact on a business than the relocation of its data center infrastructure. Developing a strategy and effectively managing the many crucial steps of your data center move will be paramount for success. Despite the increasing (and impressive) lifespan of data center technology today, the technology landscape is ever evolving and requires a vigilant approach to managing infrastructure, which means some companies may need to  relocate their data centers.

data center
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Advantages Of Data Center Moves

A company might call for a data center move (DCM) simply to upgrade performance, energy efficiency or security. Upgrades can be layered with many advantages—one being cost. Migrating to a new location can enable the data owner to reduce operational and maintenance costs via efficient hardware, virtualization technologies and cloud-based services.

Another potential motivator is expansion or consolidation. For example, when two companies merge, odds are their operations will require additional capacity and resources or the consolidation of resources, both instigating a move. In other cases, the consolidation of two disparate systems turns into one more efficient and modern location.

The benefits are plentiful, and when done right, moving to a new data center can mean increased data volumes, minimized network latency and scalability for dynamic workloads.

Planning A Move

When planning a DCM, there are a few boxes to check to meet desired timing. Normally, the first step in the planning process is a site survey. A technician conducts a site visit, lays eyes on the new spot and acquires preliminary information needed to move forward—i.e., is there enough space at the new site? Can it handle the power and cooling requirements? Is this location most conducive for the business?

The onsite visit is a critical step, as the documentation for the site and the reality of the implementation are often not perfectly aligned. From there, the project manager will advise as to what infrastructure to move, replace or retire based on your communicated business objectives and goals.

Choosing A Dependable Move Partner

Data center moves involve inherent risks. It is important to carefully choose a partner with a proven record of accomplishment that understands the operational needs and can handle the complex aspects of the DCM. Too often, companies try to save time and money using internal staff. While the internal team is often made up of exceptionally talented IT professionals, they lack the experience and expertise that comes from planning and executing DCM projects on a regular basis, particularly with today’s ever-changing power, cooling and data infrastructure.

If not working with a service provider to manage the move, it is always best to at least engage a service provider to guide the internal team. Identifying potential risks, developing contingency plans, ensuring data backup and recovery plans are in place—these are all action items in a DCM partner’s wheelhouse.

The right partner will clearly communicate their game plan, from preparing the new site and its network connectivity to ensuring power and cooling requirements are met. Beyond the relocation aspect, the ideal partner designs and configures a data center that can grow with emerging technologies and, more importantly, the customer’s business based on strategic and business goals.

Executing A DCM

The first key to the DCM process is having an accurate list of existing equipment and any new equipment, as well as its delivery timeline, along with an understanding of the scope of what the customer really needs and wants to accomplish. If the relocation team is not aligned with these, there is an increased risk of lost data or insufficient infrastructure, which can be devastating to the company.

Working from a comprehensive checklist aligned to the client’s needs and strategy that is managed by an expert with experience in relocations of data center infrastructure is a requirement in achieving a successful move within the required or desired timeline. While the actual move itself can be executed in a matter of days, or sometimes hours depending on the distance and infrastructure, one should always plan on two to four weeks to properly plan, prepare, execute and ensure successful relocation and proper operation of the relocated data center.

The logistics of the move itself are to be taken seriously as well. Unfortunately, racks cannot be shoulder-tossed in the back of a pick-up truck, moved and simply plugged in at the new location. All equipment—including servers, switches, storage devices and cables—must be cataloged, documented and labeled with their respective destinations. Cables are carefully documented, unplugged and bundled. Custom crates, antistatic bags and shock-absorbent containers are in place to securely package the data center technology for its trip, often in a climate-controlled vehicle from site A to B.

There should be a realistic timeline in place, with downtime constraints and unique business needs in mind. Ideally, the move can occur during off-peak hours or weekends to minimize business disruption and avoid traffic. Mapping the relocation path is sometimes an overlooked portion of the planning process but can have a significant impact. If the locations are not far, moving during a weekend or over-night might seem simple, but it is during those hours that municipalities and road departments often close routes for construction and repair, causing unplanned challenges.

Upon reaching the new site, racks are unloaded, assembled, and positioned according to the preplanned layout. Testing begins here: Are servers functioning? Are switches, routers and firewalls configured? If the answer to questions like these is yes, then the DCM is almost complete.

The company and/or service provider should ensure that the data center can and will monitor and communicate as needed. Also, the move partner should share a written report detailing the activities, the final implemented design, and results of the move with any lessons learned that will help with future management and maintenance of the technology, as well as improve the success of any future potential moves.

Regardless of the driving factor as to why a data center move is taking place, there are a few nonnegotiable processes to keep in mind. Comprehensive planning, surveying, inventory management, risk assessment, packaging and transportation and testing procedures are all needed to ensure a smooth relocation process. However, with a partner that has proven experience and expertise in place, customers should be able to plan and execute the move without any interruption to their operations and ensure stress-free and successful relocations.

Brennan is the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Total Site Solutions (TSS) and an expert in the technological logistics field. Prior to joining the Executive Team at TSS, from 2013 until January 2018, Kieran was the Director of Sales – Technology for Neovia Logistics Services, LLC, a privately held global third-party logistics and distribution company. From 2010 until 2013, Kieran was the Director of North America Business Development for Syncreon, Inc., a global contract logistics company.

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