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CIO Corner: Pitfalls of a Data Center move and how to avoid them

I recently reviewed a data center design.  This is of course the first step to planning for a data center move.  What it reminded me of is how complicated and time consuming the planning is for moving and consolidating data centers.  Many companies are contemplating data center moves as the current environments are aging and were never built with today's power and heat load in mind.

Here are the pitfalls of data center moves and how to avoid them:

1. Very Poor Planning:
  Not understanding and then underestimating the complexity of data center moves -the time it will take, the skills required to do the job, the hardware needed-is more the rule than the exception when it comes to relocation and consolidation. You have to understand and then plan for the number of servers the new facility will have to accommodate.

In addition, you have to understand the account application dependencies. In the heterogeneous environments that characterize most IT application portfolios and IT infrastructures-with their many bolt-ons and homegrown systems developed over the years.  Only now are there technologies and tools that allow you to see all of the interdependencies. Because these tool sets are limited to certain companies, they are expensive to use.  The best way still to account for interdependencies is collecting the knowledge from the people managing the applications which are a very time consuming task. Moving a data center the right way places a large burden on IT departments that already are fully utilized and often over-booked.

It's wise to dedicate a full-time team to planning the move and to look outside the organization for professional guidance and help.

2. Underestimating The Power Requirements: Data centers built for today's equipment range from 150 to 300 watts per square foot.

IT professionals frequently underestimate power requirements, and power costs, particularly if facilities management pays the bills-as is typically the case.

It is important to make sure facilities and IT talk about their respective issues so that they gain an appreciation for their differing perspectives and areas of expertise. This is the only way to prevent their issues from turning into problems, and their problems from turning into data center relocation and consolidation disasters.

3. Failure to Establish and Understand the Pre-Move Baselines: Many times the baseline data before the consolidation is either grossly understated or nonexistent.

You can't improve what you can't measure. Know your current data center TCO and have the numbers in hand before moving into your new facility or risk opening yourself up to ceaseless fingerpointing and complaining.

4. Upgrading Your Systems During the Move:
Any change undertaken during a move adds risks and complicates the project. This is especially significant when it comes to today's popular practice of using a data center move or consolidation to drive server virtualization.

Although worthwhile, virtualization is a significant project in and of itself.  Attempting to implement server virtualization during a move means trying to do two very difficult things at the same time-a sure recipe for disaster.

The only exception is your network gear since you will be re iping the network.

5. There's Absolutely No Substitute for Experience: Because a data center move has generally been a once in a career event for IT professionals, few companies have the expertise on-hand to do it well.

Very high density power and cooling environments require specialized expertise and coordination. Unfortunately, IT knowledge does not translate into an understanding of how to move a data center, nor does a knowledge of facilities (and operations) translate into an understanding of the singular requirements of today's data centers, not to mention tomorrow's.

Experience counts. If your organization has someone with the requisite experience, get him or her on the moving team. If it doesn't, find someone who does.

dan webber

Dan Webber is a CIO in Atlanta, GA.  He delivers his unique perspective as Chief Information Officer on technology, business, and the Atlanta IT industry. He is a recent recipient of Oracle's CIO of the quarter award.

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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.