Speed vs. Transformation, a careful balance when consolidating or relocation data centers

Relocating and consolidating your data centers offers a golden opportunity to increase virtualization and standardization, improve existing processes as well as implementing new ones, introduce fit-for-purpose life cycle management and even re-structure your organization. 
However, these opportunities must be carefully balanced against the need of keeping a high pace throughout the whole project. One of the most important lessons learned from the projects I’ve been running is that keeping a high pace is one of the key success factors; otherwise you will get stuck and constantly challenged. Lack of visible progress often leads to loss of momentum and a sense of urgency in the project. These projects are challenging and put the whole organization under tremendous pressure, IT and Business alike; and while implementing the agreed changes incidents will occur in the old environment just as usual, whether you like it or not. My recommendation is to limit the execution phase of a data center consolidation/relocation project to less than 18 months. My experience is that few organizations can keep focus for longer periods than that. 
In order to achieve this I introduce the colored “Zone Concept” in the target data centers:
  • Green zone, the zone where all “approved” applications and infrastructure are transferred to. “Approved” in the sense that they fulfill all demands in terms of technical, organizational, documentation and process demands that have been defined in a target definition exercise in the pre-study.
  • Yellow zone, made up by the applications and infrastructure for which the basic demands in the target definition/architecture is met. These basic demands are usually compliant with the fundamental infrastructure demands, such as running on the right network, storage, OS versions, if the servers are virtualized or running on shared infrastructure.
  • Red zone, for all other applications and infrastructure where none of the requirements are met and where a very limited changes is made, usually the ip-adress in not changed for example.

The Zone Concept have been introduced in our projects in order to ensure deadlines while keeping momentum and pressure both in the project as well as on the business.
The target should always be to migrate to the green or yellow zone, but the red zone works as buffer enabling the project to keep the deadlines. After several failed attempts to migrate to the green or the yellow zone, i.e. when a service/application is passing the migration deadline, we instead move them to the red zone to ensure the overall deadline, instead of risking to actually increasing the number of data centers for an extended time, which is often the consequence otherwise.
This approach is more cost effective both in the short and long term, no matter if you need to run a “cleanup” project in the target data centers or if you decide to leave the remaining migrations from the red to the green zones to the line organization to finish at a later stage. This said I strongly recommend setting KPI´s on the zones to steer a behavior to really do everything possible to land in the green zone and not the yellow or red zone and to set a dead line for closure of the red and yellow zones that the line management needs to commit to.
Don’t miss my next post on data center consolidation and optimization project KPI’s
Magnus Manders, CTO, Capgemini Infrastructure Services Nordic
PS. I believe that everything should be virtualized until proven not possible 

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