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The Complete Data Center Migration Guide


Data center migration is happening more frequently and at a faster pace now than ever before. Today, IT teams must be equipped with the right knowledge, resources, and skills to execute migrations seamlessly and without disruption to business as usual.

In this guide, we’ll explore exactly what data center migration entails, common types, and 5 steps to successful migration using proven approaches to migration assessment, planning, and execution.


Quick Takeaways

  • Data center migration means transferring data and its infrastructure from one location to another.
  • Companies migrate data centers for many reasons, including to upgrade or modernize their infrastructure, lower costs, or reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Types of migrations include consolidation, lift-and-shift, cloud migrations, hybrid migrations, and decommissioning.
  • Working with a trusted data center migration partner gives you access to expertise and technologies that help you execute with confidence.

What is Data Center Migration?

Data center migration refers to the process of transferring an organization's data, applications, and infrastructure from one location (data center) to another. It involves relocating hardware, software, and networking components while ensuring minimal disruption to ongoing business operations.

There are several reasons why organizations may choose to perform a data center migration:

  • Infrastructure Upgrade — As technology advances, legacy data centers may become outdated or inefficient. Migrating to a new data center allows organizations to take advantage of modern infrastructures (i.e. the cloud) to achieve better performance.
  • Business Expansion or Relocation — When a company expands its operations or relocates to a different geographical location, a data center migration is often necessary to establish a new IT infrastructure that can support the changing business needs.
  • Cost Reduction — Consolidating multiple data centers into a more centralized or new cloud-based facility can help reduce operational and maintenance costs. 
  • Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity — By moving a data center to a modernized location, organizations can mitigate risks and protect critical data and applications in the event of a disaster.
  • Compliance and Security Requirements — Changing compliance regulations or increased security concerns may necessitate a data center migration. Organizations may migrate their infrastructure to meet new compliance standards, strengthen security measures, and safeguard sensitive data.
  • Reduced Carbon Footprint — Migrating data centers to the cloud can substantially reduce a company’s carbon footprint because they’re more energy efficient and utilize modern sustainability measures.

In order to be successful, data center migrations must be designed to minimize downtime, data, and disruptions to current business operations. This requires the right levels of planning, testing, and coordination with stakeholders and service providers. Let’s look at some common types of data center migrations and walk through actionable steps to executing them well.

Types of Data Center Migration Processes

1.    Consolidation

Data center consolidation aims to scale down the number of existing physical data centers for greater efficiency, cost and energy efficiency, and asset optimization (ex: less licenses to maintain or overhead spent on data center maintenance staff). Data center consolidation can (and today, often does) mean moving data centers to the cloud, but it can also simply mean reducing the number of physical data locations.

This type of migration requires strategic planning around where and how to consolidate data (i.e. which data centers to keep vs. eliminate and where data from eliminated locations will be moved) for maximum operational efficiency and effectiveness.

2.    Lift-and-Shift

Lift-and-shift data center migration means moving data from one location to another without making any significant changes to its applications or architecture. Lift-and-shift migrations can be executed between two physical locations or from an on-premise to the cloud.

3.    Cloud Migration

Cloud migration involves moving all or a portion of the data center infrastructure to a cloud environment. This type of data center migration offers scalability, flexibility, and cost savings by leveraging cloud hyperscaler service providers like AWS or Azure.

As mentioned, companies can migrate data centers to the cloud using a lift-and-shift approach or plan to modernize completely to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities.

4.   Hybrid Migration

A hybrid data center migration combines elements of on-premises infrastructure with cloud-based resources. This approach allows organizations to maintain certain applications or data on-premises while migrating others to the cloud. This option is particularly valuable for companies that want to modernize with cloud and use new cloud-native technologies, but have certain security and compliance concerns that require maintaining some level of on-premise operations.

5.    Decommissioning

Decommissioning involves shutting down and retiring a data center altogether. This typically occurs when organizations no longer require an existing infrastructure due to business changes, technology advancements, or the adoption of cloud-based services.

Decommissioning migrations require careful planning to ensure data is securely transferred or archived and services are transitioned smoothly.


5 Steps to Successful Data Center Migration

1.    Pre-Migration Assessment

The first step to every successful data center migration is a thorough migration assessment. It’s essential to clearly identify the business drivers and goals behind a planned migration, the gaps that exist across your current infrastructure, and expected migration outcomes.

Build a planning team comprised of your internal data experts and key stakeholders to set goals and identify the KPIs and metrics you’ll use to measure success. Conduct a comprehensive inventory and assessment of your existing hardware, software, applications, and dependencies. Identify any potential risks or compatibility issues.

2.   Migration Design and Preparation

Once you have a complete and documented understanding of your migration goals and existing assets, develop a strategy that outlines the type of migration you’ll execute and create a detailed roadmap that includes sequencing and prioritization of systems, action steps, timelines, resource allocations, and persons responsible for each part of the plan.

Be sure your plan also includes a detailed representation of your target environment, including hardware, networking, and storage. Keep scalability, redundancy, and security requirements in mind as you complete this step.

Educate stakeholders and end users about the process wherever needed and effectively onboard contributors to the migration (i.e. IT staff who will play a part in its execution).

3.    Migration Execution

Implement a phased approach to migration execution that divides it into manageable phases to minimize risk and disruption. Coordinate with all stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page and ready for parts of the data center migration that will impact them. Throughout the execution process, provide regular updates and communicate about unplanned changes.

Put clear processes in place to track progress based on the goals, KPIs, and execution plans you put in place during the previous steps. Doing so keeps your teams accountable and your migration on track for on-time, successful completion. Maintain a solution-focused approach, knowing that no execution is completed 100% as originally planned.


4.   Ongoing Validation and Testing

No data center migration should be executed without validation and testing. Failing to test your new environment as you migrate can result in unplanned failures, delays, and disruption.  

Throughout your migration, be sure that you:

  • Perform testing and validation to ensure functionality, performance, and data integrity
  • Conduct user acceptance testing and involve your end users to verify that applications and services meet business requirements
  • Simulate realistic workloads in your new data environment to evaluate the capacity and performance of your new data infrastructure
  • Identify and address any bottlenecks or scalability issues that arise during the process

Test the failover mechanisms and disaster recovery processes to ensure you can maintain business continuity and data protection

5.    Post-Live Optimization

Successful data center migration doesn’t end when you move to a new environment. Continue to optimize and fine-tune your infrastructure by evaluating performance and making necessary adjustments to resource allocation, network configurations, and application settings.

Document your migrated infrastructure comprehensively, including new network diagrams, system configurations, and operational procedures. Doing so contributes to the successful future management, troubleshooting, and maintenance of your migrated data center.

Finally, conduct a post-migration review to assess the success of the migration against your previously-defined objectives. Collect feedback from key stakeholders and identify areas for improvement, and use this review to improve future data center migration processes.

The Advantage of a Trusted Data Center Migration Partner

Completing a data center migration is a complex process with many moving parts. It requires a number of human and technological resources that most companies don’t have in-house.

For this reason, many companies choose to hire a trusted third-party migration partner. A data center migration service provider delivers access to the expertise and leading technologies you need to execute a successful migration while keeping costs optimized and manageable.

Working with an external partner also ensures that you won’t run into mishaps like data loss or business disruption due to lack of internal experience.

Achieve Data Center Migration Success with Protera

Protera provides comprehensive data center migration services for SAP users that include thorough assessment, an automated migration platform, modernization and optimization, deep SAP expertise, and white-glove SAP and IT services.

Talk to a Protera expert to learn more about how we can help you transform.