Moving on: data centre migration has come a long way
At some point, most organisations need to migrate business applications and data to more suitable facilities: either fewer, internally-managed data centres, or externally-hosted infrastructure (the cloud) managed by third party suppliers. But, how best to manage the stress?
Previously, companies have been rightly cautious about migrating applications and data to third parties, until the market and its service offerings had matured. Now, secure and stable platforms are the norm, underpinned by reliable infrastructure and flexible application management services.
Equally, moving systems used to be challenging. Now, it is a relatively straightforward process with lower risk than ever. So, whether the ultimate destination for systems is to internal strategic data centres or to the cloud, the pain of migration is significantly less than it used to be.
The prospect of migrating applications and data can be daunting. The whole process needs careful planning, expertise to guide the process and a competent team to implement it.
It also helps to have Board-level understanding and that requires a solid rationale for making the change in the first place: evidence of a clear, positive return from an operational, financial and competitive perspective. Otherwise, the first question the Board will ask is “why bother?”
There are undoubtedly risks involved: there may be migration failures, system downtime, loss of data, impacts on other initiatives and so on. But, the maturity of third party expertise and technical tools mean these risks are decreasing significantly.
Data migration on a global scale is also not a low-cost option. It includes capital purchases of hardware and software, and revenue expenditure such as leasing costs, fees for advice and implementation and in-house resources. However, significant rewards can come from optimising available resources from the outset, rather than a piecemeal transition.
Initially there are usually many obstacles identified by users or managers for why a particular application or system suite ‘absolutely should not be migrated’. But, on closer inspection and in Peru Consulting’s experience, many of these are based on misconception or old information:
1. “This application is too complicated, it has a host of environments and tens of interfaces; it won’t work properly after being moved”
The belief: Any complicated, multi-environment application that is running effectively and trouble-free, will always suffer a degradation of service after migration.
The reality: Migration experts now have tools and processes specifically designed analyse the intimate workings of every system. This is checked and re-checked with desk based research, interviews with users and the application of tried and tested templates and technical tools. There's little they won't have seen before.
2. “This application contains sensitive information. There is no way we can have this offsite, in the cloud”
The belief: The in-house infrastructure has to be more secure than any offered by global service providers, right?
The reality: No system can be absolutely fault-proof, but the sophistication of providers’ enterprise security layer - and the ability of customers to specify and maintain accesses privileges - makes this reason less relevant. Third party suppliers also stand and fall by the reputation of their system integrity, which makes infrastructure security an absolute imperative.
3. “The Users don’t want to risk moving it. There’ll be technical issues, like latency, that concern them and they won’t support it”
The belief: Third parties can’t understand the way users think in your organisation because they have a unique set of needs and perspectives on the technology they use.
The reality: Any reputable migration firm listens to, and works collaboratively with, users and application owners at every step of the process. There are a host of examples where, from initial scepticism, users have subsequently embraced change enthusiastically and seen application performance enhance their experience.
4. “Our IT function has the applications covered, there’ll be no service delivery or cost benefit from moving them somewhere else”
The belief: Often IT departments spend too much time and budget managing legacy and unstable systems, with heroic efforts being made to keep everything up and running.
The reality: Data migration comes at a cost and that can be headcount. However, the right migration decision can sharpen an organisation’s ability to compete and innovate for its people and customers. Such initiatives create more interesting work, thus offering a more attractive environment in which to recruit and retain IT professionals.
Which returns us to The Board’s question: “why bother?”
In Peru Consulting’s experience, the process of preparing for migration and the due diligence conducted on systems and their interfaces, often reveals previously unseen weaknesses, issues and opportunities for improvement even before migration begins.
But most of all, with a strong business case and the right expertise, migration can be good for business and a great deal easier than most organisations think.
As one of Peru’s Principal Consultants Geraint Williams has led many initiatives to enable corporate IT functions to improve the benefits they deliver to their business customers.
Geraint has been an Applications Service Delivery Executive at EDS, a rationalization and migration lead at Cognizant and has led applications and data migrations programmes for clients including Astra Zeneca and ABB