Data Center relocation can be a daunting and often costly undertaking for an enterprise, but more and more businesses are considering relocation as part of their overall optimization strategy. Yet, what is motivating companies to relocate their data center operations? The evolution of Big Data, the explosive expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ever-increasing push toward virtualization certainly incentivize companies to consider relocation. However, there are several other key factors currently driving data center relocation:
Increased performance capabilities: Whether it’s the growing number of IoT devices, internal company growth, the surge in streaming applications, or increased server throughput, data centers must keep pace with faster data speeds—and this often translates into more space to support the increased performance demands. Conversely, businesses that move more of their data center operations to the Cloud may find that their data center’s current footprint is too large.
Geographical proximity: The primary motivation for relocation is to locate data centers closer to client markets, other branches of an enterprise, or closer to other resources. However, frequency of natural disasters, inclement weather, or other security concerns can also necessitate a relocation.
Reduction in capital expenses: While potential reduction in size or energy consumption undoubtedly informs a company’s need to relocate their data center, there are several states offering data center-specific tax breaks to incentivize major tech companies to expand into growing markets.
Improved energy efficiency: Five years ago, The New York Times released a scathing review of data center energy practices, noting that data centers can waste 90% of the energy they pull from the grid. Much of this waste stems from the internal temperature regulation required for data center equipment to run optimally. Consequently, many companies are relocating their data centers to more hospitable climates that allow them to minimize energy consumption and environmental impact.
Challenges of Data Center Relocation
Data center relocations will invariably introduce challenges that are unique to that specific data center and location, but there are several common issues businesses often encounter:
Preparation: The biggest challenge every company faces with data center relocation is planning. Accounting for the voluminous workload or the massive strain the move can put on equipment and system functionality is critical for a successful move. Additionally, businesses should ensure that communication with application owners is established early to pinpoint the appropriate timetables for application migration.
Hidden complexity: Although a company may have an extensive IT staff, their employees may not have extensive experience with back-end equipment setup and maintenance. Data center equipment is extremely sensitive, and improper breakdown, transportation, or storage can significantly impact its future performance, and potentially cost businesses more if equipment needs to be replaced. Businesses who do not regularly maintain inventory, or who do not take a comprehensive inventory before the move, may also discover legacy hardware or software as well as hardwired IPs that will be difficult to migrate.
Downtime/uptime: Data center relocations are massive projects that can impact regular work hours and employee productivity. Since data center infrastructure is a complex web of interdependent servers and systems, creating a careful schedule for server or application downtime is imperative to minimize impact to employees and customers alike. Furthermore, relocation preparation and post-relocation testing can be extraordinarily time consuming. To avoid uptime, it’s important to account for the extra strain on staff and internal systems.
Configuration: Application Delivery Optimization (ADO) is a broad term that covers several key components of an enterprise’s data center infrastructure that support efficient distribution of data traffic across your servers. Lack of insight into how the current configuration of load balancers and other optimization products that will handle the relocation can significantly hinder a company’s ability to quickly set up their new data center operations. A lack of modularity in current configurations could also result in a reduction of operation performance after the move.
Five Important Questions to Ask Before Relocating Your Data Center
While the ramifications can be severe, the key to circumventing these obstacles—and any other unforeseen challenges that may appear—is developing a proactive relocation strategy well in advance of executing the move.
If a business is considering moving its data center operations, it will be better equipped for success by considering the following questions:
- What is the scope of the relocation?
To better gauge the demands a move will place on a business’ resources and personnel, clearly define the scope of the relocation early in the planning process. Will the relocation involve expanding an existing site or entirely building out a new location? Additionally, businesses should also account for the lifecycle of their equipment when moving. If a new version of server hardware will be available imminently, ensuring that the new data center can accommodate the equipment—both in terms of physical space and power requirements—will dramatically improve the longevity and performance of data center infrastructure.
- How do you determine the right location?
Finding the right location for a new or expanding data center can be daunting, but diligently analyzing the size, power, and security requirements of the new location insulates businesses from unforeseen expenses. When determining the appropriate spatial and power requirements for a data center, consider if the location leaves room to grow. Additionally, take the time early in the planning process to assess security measures—like fences, locks, or badging equipment—and identify any additional measures that are needed to meet security standards.
- What are the best practices for tracking equipment?
Companies should take inventory of equipment and monitor its transportation to the new location. Should staff create barcodes and manually scan equipment in and out of each location, or should companies rely on Cloud-based tracking software? Data centers require extensive hardware components to function, and losing even small amounts of cabling can extend system downtime and severely impact a business’ ability to function. Develop a clear methodology for tracking and determine if there are sufficient resources to accommodate that approach.
- Are there compliance factors to consider?
Ensuring that a new data center meets information security compliance standards is critical, especially if a business’ server traffics payment card information or Protected Health Information (PHI). Businesses should review prior audits to clarify their data center’s current state of compliance and use the move as an opportunity to remediate any gaps for future audits.
- How will you execute the relocation?
Successful data center relocations require a significant amount of time and manpower. From taking inventory and breaking down servers to setting up equipment and testing functionality, moving a data center can necessitate overtime for staff and prolonged system downtime. Additionally, data center equipment is fragile and correctly implementing this equipment at a new location requires extensive experience. As such, businesses should weigh the benefits of executing a move in-house against leveraging the expertise of a Managed Services Provider.
Although relocating business-critical assets can be difficult and time consuming, thorough planning will ensure a seamless transition of data center infrastructure. Moreover, a meticulously planned relocation minimizes impact to both staff and customers while providing businesses with an opportunity for growth. To learn more about how your business can manage IT relocations and improve data center operations, read our Data Center Operations Best Practice Guide.