In 2012 NetApp set forth on a new global data center strategy to support future business growth while also increasing the availability, resiliency, and efficiency of our global business applications. Our four-year roadmap included a plan to vacate a colocation data center and migrate the applications to our new production data center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Over the past four years we have had to address a few bumps on the road that taught us the importance of being flexible during any large data center migration.

Our Strategy

One of the essential cost-saving steps of our data center migration was the planned evacuation and exit strategy from our colocation site in Sacramento, California. This leased data center space had four different sections that we built out over the years and referred to as “cages.” Cages are physically secured, fenced-in areas where we keep essential data center equipment.  Our goal was to vacate one cage per year in four consecutive years.

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Of the four cages, we decided to move Cage 4 first. As the most recently acquired cage, it contained an overwhelming majority of systems running on virtualized systems deployed on the NetApp® FlexPod® reference architecture with the latest hardware and software. Cages 1, 2, and 3 contained an abundance of physical applications and legacy platforms that required additional scrutiny from the team. For these reasons, Cage 4 was the logical choice to accelerate the initial migration while allowing time to better assess the legacy environments.

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Be Flexible

We successfully migrated about 25% of the applications out of Cage 4, including a few very large global business applications and smaller integrated applications out of the other cages, when we encountered our first bump in the road. The Hillsboro data center experienced an issue with one of the first migrated applications. We needed time to figure out what was going on, but we also had an obligation to meet our colocation ramp-down target to lower our colocation costs as soon as possible.

We put the migration on hold while the team worked through the issue. Upon analyzing our list of remaining applications residing in Cage 4, we discovered another challenge. The window to migrate a couple key applications was closing because of business cycle demands. We immediately stopped and reviewed all of our options. We wondered if Murphy’s Law was conspiring to upend our data center migration plan.

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Ahead of Schedule

After some evaluation, we decided to switch our primary focus to Cage 2. We had identified some Cage 2 applications required to support the applications housed in Cage 4. By migrating applications out of Cage 2, we could vacate Cage 2 months ahead of our Cage 4 migration schedule.

Following improvements to stabilize the environment in the new data center in Hillsboro, we reinitiated our migration out of Cage 4 while taking into account migration windows and opportunities for key applications.

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In the end, NetApp IT completed the final migration and exit from Cage 2 in four months. It was a great feat, accomplished with planning, creative thinking, and collaborating teamwork. The cost savings from vacating Cage 2 helped us reduce our short-term costs.

There was a lot of momentum and ‘can-do’ attitude coming out of the team’s exit of Cage 2. We set an aggressive exit plan and in less than two years we were able to migrate all applications previously housed in Cage 2 and those in Cage 4.

The best part is that we are now on track to a complete a full exit of the Sacramento colocation facility in three years-a full year ahead of our original plan! The accelerated schedule frees up resources, reduces our costs, and consolidates our applications into one of our major data centers.

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Lessons Learned

We learned several key lessons during this migration process, including:

  • Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and adjust your plans when you hit a bump in the road.
  • Make decisions based on information you have available.
  • Challenges can be opportunities in disguise.

The ability to be flexible despite bumps in the road will build your team’s confidence and fortify your reputation as a team that achieves results. And that is one of the biggest benefits of any data center migration.

To find out more about NetApp’s data centers, check out our past blog posts, What is a GDL and Why Do We Need Two? and The Hillsboro Data Center: The Foundation of the NetApp IT Hybrid Cloud Transformation.

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.

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Stacey Rosenberry