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OptimizeYour Data Center Migration with ITIL

Data center migration is primarily a business challenge, not a technology challenge, writes ITSM Watch columnist Mike Tainter of Forsythe.
Jul 21, 2008

Mike Tainter

Businesses today are in constant motion, and growth often necessitates bigger data centers and greater capability. Migration of a data center is a major challenge—an exercise in process maturity, project management and business continuity. Using ITIL best practices can lead to a streamlined migration and deliver greater maturity in the new environment.

A migration is an effective and advantageous moment to introduce sound process development techniques to ensure not only that your migration flows smoothly, but also that its continued operation after the migration is managed in a mature manner.

Once the requirement to migrate the data center becomes clear, the first step will be to assess your organization’s current process maturity. It is recommended that you use an established framework for identifying level of maturity, such as the one contained in the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). You can select a target maturity level that you wish to achieve prior to planning the activities related to the migration.

The established levels of maturity are: 1) Initial, 2) Managed, 3) Defined, 4) Quantitatively Managed, and 5) Optimizing. Be careful not to set the bar too high. It may not be reasonable to accomplish a Level 4 or 5 in the scope or timeframe of the project because the number of changes required may introduce undue risk. In most cases, Level 3 is a reasonable and achievable target.

The scope of the assessment should include incident/request fulfillment, problem, change, configuration, release/deployment and service (service portfolio and service catalog) processes. Determining your process maturity in these areas will help you to understand the gaps that will exist in your ability to manage operations in the new environment.

The assessment report should include observations, gaps, impacts, and project descriptions to close the gaps, as well as a roadmap of projects. The assessment should be conducted in the first phase of the data center migration planning effort. Timely focus on the following ITIL processes will pay dividends in your ability to plan and manage the environment in the new data center.

Service Desk

Applying the best practices for your service desk ensures appropriate reporting of incidents, along with effective escalation procedures. The service desk can serve as the first line point of contact for all incidents, including consistent and accurate logging. Using the service desk as a single point of contact will ensure that all stakeholders involved in the migration are using the same information. Additionally, notifying the service desk will ensure that appropriate reporting is maintained during and after the migration.

A good practice is to provide a mechanism to augment the current service desk process during the migration. An effective approach is to have a specific team within the service desk to focus on migration issues and a way to tag relevant items specifically as migration tickets for easier analysis and post migration reporting. The introduction of additional communication mechanisms during the migration will also allow stakeholders to either escalate status or log non-critical issues as appropriate. This approach helps manage the call volume and allows focus on priority issues.

Incident Management

The ability to manage incidents is critical to success during and post migration. Using incident management best practices during the event can help manage any incidents caused while the migration is taking place. After the migration, incidents can continue to be managed using this process. Logging each incident in a mature manner ensures consistency and allows for trending in the new environment, along with accurate assignment of responsibilities that lead to efficient closure.

Augmenting the incident management process during the migration can also help in assigning incidents to the appropriate parties on the migration team so incidents are resolved in a timely manner.

Change Management

In its simplest form, a data center migration is a collection of changes that need to be appropriately filtered and analyzed to ensure risks and impacts are addressed. Using mature change management techniques will ensure the changes related to the migration are filtered, analyzed, approved and coordinated in an effective manner that ensures success.

Logging each change planned for the data center migration will lead to a more successful data center migration. Evaluation of all changes in the environment will also be necessary to understand impacts to the migration. Often, what seems like an unrelated change can be the cause of an avoidable issue, and its recognition can lead to a quicker resolution of an incident. All aspects of each change should be planned and executed with the level of management required.

Integration with the incident management process is also necessary to ensure that any incidents caused by changes are managed and resolved, along with all the necessary notifications to all stakeholders.

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