The Big Secret to Painless Data Migration

By CIOReview | Monday, August 8, 2016
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On June 29th 2016, the Enterprise File Synchronization & Sharing space leader, Box, launched a new service Shuttle. The goal, Larry Dignan, ZDNet wrote is obvious for Box: “they want to make migrating data from legacy systems as easy as possible so it can become the system of record.” His perception on shuttle was supported by Aaron Levie, CEO, Box as he added, “Shuttle has a software side and managed service. It is designed to move large amounts of information to the cloud without losing some of the organization’s schema and context.”

Google built a similar migration service in 2010, Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange, to help companies shift data from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps. And it built migration tools to bring Lotus Notes and BlackBerry Enterprise Server messages to Google Apps. In 2013, Microsoft built a tool to help Gmail users migrate to Outlook. The type of traction that Data Migration has received in the recent past affirms the importance this process has for service providers which also includes tech giants and new entrants alike. It is a no brainer.

Having said that, Data Migration hasn’t been a “happy-go-lucky” process for any organization! An organization in the midst of migrating its databases to another system, has witnessed their offices full of tired and hapless human resource. So, what are the pain points of this process, and what is the Big Secret to Pain-less Data Migration? Let’s find out!

Grounds of Data Migration Headaches

Whether it is about expanding existing storage capacity or upgrading to next-generation storage systems, the data needs to be migrated to new systems. And most often, data migration means extended downtime, diversion of expensive resources, performance glitches, and technical incompatibilities. Moreover, Data Migration costs account to an estimate of $15,000 per terabyte (according to Hitachi Data Systems). No surprise as to why data migrations have become such a daunting challenge for vendors and providers alike.

Modern arrays don’t help the case either. Implemented with many tiers of storage and performance management features such as dynamic tiering to deliver optimum I/O response time, they add complexity to the already hectic process. So how should a CIO approach this chaotic process?

Making Data Migration a Painless Process

The success and hardship of the leaders in the field of Data Migration was shared during “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Things to Consider When Planning a High Volume Database Migration” session of DMA’s 2016 Washington Nonprofit Conference. Alicia Meulensteen, VP, direct response and stewardship stated, “A database migration is not something an organization should change for the sake of change. Budget and staffing and resource should be considered. Can your existing team handle the extra work? Will outside partners be needed? Necessary timeline and time remaining on an existing contract must also be considered.” Stability was emphasized by Meulensteen as another vital point in the whole process. “‘Could your new provider potentially be bought out by the provider you just moved away from?’ is an important question to ask before staring the process,” she pointed.

Catherine Ewald, director, revenue database/operations at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) highlighted the importance of checking the ability of a new system to synchronize with existing CRM and payment-processing software. Thus is it imperative that CIOs need to work around the “who and why” questions before staring the Data Migration process.

Once these preliminary queries have been deciphered, below are some of the tips to ensure a smooth transition.

A Sample Timeline

It takes around 12 to 18 months to complete the Data Migration process not considering an estimated year or two for refinements. A timeline with space for roadblocks must be constructed which will help CIOs in setting realistic expectations. The staff must be educated on the migration process and informed about its advantages.

Keeping the Conversation Going

A stakeholder group must be set up by CIOs for keeping the lines of communication open. Considering all the key scenarios is important here. After setting the timeline for running the data migration process, a backup must be prepared in case things don’t go in the right direction.

Engaging Key Human Resource

CIOs must consider directing key employees to head this process. The point of hiring new talent can also be entertained if existing hires don’t have expertise in analytics and stewardship. Bringing or directing someone on to tend to the day-to-day necessities of the migration must also be considered. Questions like “Will job descriptions change post-launch?” “Will new positions be needed?” must be given a thought. Skilled workforce must be hired to run the data migration process.

Combining People, Processes and Technology

Data migration processes are complex projects that possess significant cost and risk. To successfully complete a data migration project, organizations must develop a comprehensive plan encompassing people, processes and technology. A team comprising of people, supporting tools, services, methodology, best practices, partnerships, go-to-market, and business development must be built around focus areas to drive business results.

Considering Novel Storage Systems

Cloud and traditional storage aren't the only data storage platforms these days. We're seeing the emergence of scale-out storage solutions and data repositories (sometimes known as data lakes) for storing large quantities of data. Open source platforms such as Ceph and Gluster provide scale-out file and block capabilities and are maturing to a level where data migration will be relatively easy to achieve. Scale-out storage solutions from the likes of SolidFire and Nimble Storage enable clusters to grow and shrink on demand.

The Last Words

At any enterprise IT data center, Data Migration is an ongoing activity. Costly resources are consumed by traditional data migration projects and also involve considerable risk. Best practices and technologies must be leveraged by organizations to lower cost and risk of data migrations. This is where the research and industry data of an IT organization will help. Virtualization-based storage platform vendors can be evaluated by IT management to buy-in the best. Non-disruptive migration solutions and vendors that have vast migrations expertise must also be kept in conjunction. The results will guide IT toward lowering the organization's data center operation expenses.