This client recognized early on that they were going to need help with this initiative. Although they had some expertise in all of the technical areas, they did not have any staff with experience in a large scale consolidation and migration projects from a technical, business or project management standpoint. With a need for minimal down time due to the availability requirements and service level agreements (SLAs) they had with their customers, they quickly realized that they would have a great deal of risk trying to internalize this type of project.
The benefits of consolidating with a green field build out is that everything can be built to meet your needs, provided they are within budget. However, many companies are overwhelmed by the myriad of vendor technology solutions. It is not uncommon for requirements to change frequently when there are so many choices if a project is not carefully managed and expectations level set across organizations. This client was suffering from “analysis paralysis” and needed some expert advise on how to weight their options for architecture, design, and vendor selection.
With this type of project the client wanted to leverage the partner they brought in to deploy new technologies such as virtualization, VoIP, and new networking equipment. However, their staff had limited exposure to these technologies.
Consolidating and migrating equipment from three separate data centers can be very tricky, and this project was no exception. Radical Software experts first went to work to identify everything installed in the data centers, their owners, configurations, connections and purpose. Since these datacenters were not static and did not have strict change control, there were constant add, moves and changes within the data centers. To combat this constant movement, Radical Software tagged and tracked weekly every asset in the data centers. An asset database was created for tracking each asset, its location, connections, and dependencies. Processes were created for temporary change management during the project and cultural change was driven by key stakeholders.
All of the data centers were interconnected, with dependencies between servers, storage, applications, network components, people and processes. Radical Software developed a complete data and application map, reviewed all network configurations, mapped out data traffic and redundant paths, and interviewed all technology owners extensively. The result was a solid understanding of all installed assets and intersystem dependencies; The customer was not aware of almost 20% of the assets they had deployed.
There were several strategies developed to complete the system migrations. It was determined that due to the size and complexity of the project that the migrations would occur in manageable groups. Every asset was assigned to a specific move group based on identified dependencies and user/customer dependency. By breaking the move into discrete groups, risk could be mitigated and effective contingency plans developed.
Some systems could not be physically moved due to high availability and SLA requirements. For these systems a strategy of data migration or replication was adopted. This strategy required some capital outlay to ensure that there was N+1 redundancy for these migrating systems. Radical Software and the customer were able to negotiate terms with some of the vendors for temporary loaner” systems for the migration, and/or system trade outs for like systems after the move was completed
Radical Software advised this client to deploy a Pseudo Operational Network Domain (POND) prior to the migrations. This is a technique that Radical Software has developed to mitigate some of the risk of migrations by testing the effects of a migration under controlled conditions during a scheduled outage window. the last thing you need is to move an asset from one facility to another only to find out that the system will not work in the new environment. When systems are moved and IP addresses or physical connections change, many applications and severs are sensitive to the change and require special handling or configuration changes. During POND testing, the client logically moved each device into a new network domain within the existing data centers. By doing so in a controlled environment each asset and application owner was able to identify issues that might arise during the physical migration. This allowed each owner to document solutions and work around to problems without the tight tolerances associated with the physical moves.
RFI/RFP Creation and Evaluation
Radical Software worked with the customer key stake holders to develop standards and requirements for the new data center on which to evaluate potential vendor solutions. Radical Software’s broad knowledge and expertise in multi-vendor solutions allowed us to aid the client in conducting objective analysis of available vendor solutions. Radical Software developed several Request for Information, RFI, and Request for Proposal, RFP, documents and managed distribution to and vendor responses. Working with key client personnel in an objective manner, each response was evaluated and criteria weighted against requirements and business goals. The results were a selection of vendors that would exceed the clients needs.
Network Architecture, Engineering, and Deployment
This client leveraged what we call our “tribal knowledge” which is a collection of best practices, experience, and expertise of some of the top resources in the industry. Our expert IT consultants developed an architecture for this clients datacenter and corporate headquarters based on a converged data and VoIP architecture. This allowed the client to use their resources more efficiently. Radical Software IT consultants developed detailed configurations, staged the solutions, and deployed the new network.
This client settled on a multi-gig Cisco architecture in and end of the row configuration. This solution was the most economical and that would meet their bandwidth and performance needs.
Managing the Physical Move
Moving a data center takes thorough planning and strong co-ordination to accomplish within defined move windows. There are tight tolerances, several contingencies and every member of the team must be trained and aware of the plan. Radical Software developed move day plans with 15 min increments to track progress for this client. Radical Software supplied a team of people to perform the physical equipment moves, utilized a professional moving company experienced with moving data centers, and managed several vendors to certify the move and install of their equipment. Radical Software network and systems experts were on hand along with the clients asset owners to power down systems, power up, connect, test and certify.
When planning meets opportunity you have success. Although this was a very complex move, it was accomplished on time, under budget, meeting minimal downtime requirements, and with few minor issues. The resulting new data center systems have allowed this customer to reduce their energy consumption by reducing the number of servers through virtualization, upgrading assets to newer more energy efficient solutions.
The new network architecture has provided the client with a highly available solution that utilizes available bandwidth and resources efficiently and fairly with comprehensive Quality of Service, QoS. VoIP, data, net-backups, web traffic, now share the same pipes without degradation of quality or slowdowns to critical systems.
The customer has realized significant cost savings due to eliminating the high costs of operating 3 data centers. Further savings have been achieved by gaining greater energy efficiency and reducing complexity of their systems. Also, operations and management of their systems has been streamlined allowing the customer to reduce their operations costs to support the data center.