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Guide to data center migration types

Businesses that rely on physical and cloud storage need to use data migration to simplify their infrastructure and choose from three major types to accommodate specific needs.

A data center migration is a way for a business to simplify its infrastructure, offload applications and save on costs.

Data center migrations might be necessary for any business that relies on technology and eventually outgrows its existing IT infrastructure. This would cause the need for increased capacity or additional functionality.

Data can be migrated through on-premises and cloud locations. With multiple options available, a business should pick the right migration type for its needs.

Data center migration types explained

The three main types of data center migrations include consolidation, cloud and colocation. To make an informed decision on the best option for their specific pain points, businesses should take into account each type's advantages discussed below.

Data center consolidations

Consolidation migrations primarily focus on reducing the number of physical data centers run by an organization, or the number of servers in use at any location. This usually happens due to cost-saving initiatives, server sprawl, and as the result of mergers and acquisitions.

The goal is to achieve higher data center density with decreased physical footprints. Most companies do this to scale down their data centers and related infrastructure to reduce operational costs, increase efficiencies and generally streamline workflows.

Migrations to the cloud

Cloud migrations involve moving digital operations such as applications, workloads, systems and infrastructures into cloud environments. Companies tend to move data centers to the cloud for financial reasons and to take advantage of various cloud benefits, such as automatic workload scaling.

Cloud migrations include moving physical or virtual components to a private or public cloud. This kind of migration also includes moving between clouds, whether private or public.

Colocation or relocation migrations

Colocation migrations involve moving infrastructure from one data center to another, usually to a shared data center location. Companies choose colocation to increase the ROI of their tech stack and decrease the number of data center spaces to manage.

Colocation and relocation types include:

  • Physical-to-physical. Physically move hardware and associated workloads from one data center to another with little to no infrastructure modifications.
  • Lift and shift. Move workloads from one data center to another with minimal infrastructure modifications. Also known as a forklift move, these migrations are typically done from on-premises to the cloud.
  • Physical-to-virtual. Replace physical hardware with virtual instances and machines.
  • Virtual-to-virtual. Migrate to or from one VM to another (or multiple destination VMs).
  • Physical-to-cloud. Migrate workloads from physical machines to public or private clouds in IaaS, PaaS or SaaS clouds.
  • Virtual-to-cloud. Migrate a virtual instance or machine to a cloud environment.

The option organizations choose should depend on specifics like infrastructure, workloads and budget.

Steps to prepare for migrating

Data centers are complex entities. Migrating them can be complicated and expensive. Here are some steps to help you avoid potential pitfalls of data center migration:

  • Define reason for migrating. Identify the business case for the move; otherwise, it will cost more time, effort and money.
  • Inventory current infrastructure. Know what infrastructure is being used and where the data is stored in order to replace or leave anything that's not needed. Catalog all the applications, services and hardware in use.
  • Define roles and responsibilities. Assign migration roles and responsibilities by recruiting employees from key stakeholder groups within the organization. These people can help guide the process, make relevant decisions and know what internal technical resources to tap.
  • Evaluate the costs of the move. Move systems already in use in data center migrations to save money. Many businesses use migration to streamline IT infrastructure by ditching unused data, applications and hardware. Also, be sure to include the cost of any employees involved in the migration, as emergency help can quickly increase costs.
  • Check current data center contractual obligations. Pay close attention to termination clauses and penalties of the facility before the company moves to another data center. The duration of a data center lease can vary, and penalty costs can arise if the total lease time is not met, along with facility care and maintenance.
  • Study SLA requirements. Review and investigate all SLAs at the current and future data centers for updates or items that need change before the move.
  • Ensure security during and after the move. The security of data during and after the migration is critical, especially if it falls under legal or compliance guidelines. Be sure to understand how your systems are protected during the migration.

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