Data Center Transformation and Transition made easy—Part 3

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The last key steps to ensure a successful Data Center Transformation & Transition project.

In the third and last part of “Data Center Transformation and Transition made easy,” Ljiljana Katchkin, Senior Program Manager in the Capgemini global Data Center Transformation team, outlines the last key steps to address in order to ensure a successful Data Center Transformation and Transition project.

Step 6—Establishing the One Team approach and standardization

Two of the most important key elements of a successful transformation or data center transition/consolidation are clarity and standardization. While having talked about the importance of clarity in the previous blog posts, let’s concentrate on standardization.

Standardization starts with the approach—a standardized approach and methodology is essential in order to bring order and structure to what otherwise while very likely be a very chaotic initiative.  Without a standardized approach and methodology, slow progress and no control is almost a given result combined with a team and organization suffering from very high levels of stress for extended periods of time.

Most companies have generic project methodologies and accelerators, and the focus is often around transition servers from a client data center to their own data center as part of an outsourcing deal, with an extensive period of stabilization and transformation at the back of that transition.

At Capgemini we have established a methodology and approach specifically dedicated to the challenges of a data center transformation and consolidation/relocation projects specifically, not catering to the needs of a transition in an outsourcing deal.

Keep in mind that this has not been developed for transitioning data centers as part of the transitions scope in outsourcing deals, but for combined transformation and consolidation/relocation efforts of client data centers. The route the Capgemini global DCT team has chosen allows for a more extensive preparation phase and an iterative approach to execution and transformation. The advantages are many; it helps mitigate the inherent risks in transformation and relocation projects, it allows for transformation as part of the scope while focusing on a quick and secure execution. It’s been a continuous journey for more than 10 years to develop the standardized approach, tools, templates and accelerators used in our deliveries.

The Capgemini methodology for Data Center Consolidation and Optimization projects covers all phases in a transformation and relocation project. It basically covers three main phases:

  • Advisory and Discovery phase, typically addressing data collection & review, incl. technology status and inventory or a strategy piece of work
  • Pre-study and Project strategy phase, detailing the fundamentals of the initiative, such as business case, dependency mapping and risk handling and project plans
  • Execution phase, ranging from high-level to detailed level planning, execution and decommission activities.

A key success factor is that each subsequent phase continues to build on the clearly defined standard inputs and outputs from the previous phase. That means that templates and tools introduced already in the Discovery phase are continuously updated and detailed in the Planning and Execution phases as well.  I have found that using a standardized approach allows for better control of the migration flow from start to the end, including cut-over(s), downtime duration and resource allocation. This helps minimize business impact and while securing the execution of the Data Center Transformation and transition within agreed timeframe and agreed budgets.

Step 7—Migration industrialization

Standardization allows for a higher level of industrialization, in this case the use of offshore or near shore migration factories. Standardization allows for a proven, reusable migration approach which can be executed quickly and reduce overall timelines. In my experience, this means standardizing processes and procedures, introducing standardized templates and processes early on in the project. It’s equally important to have a standard way of managing people as well as employing standardized migration scenarios.  This allows for effective and quick cut-over activities, greatly reducing lead-times while improving quality at the same time.

My key message? With extensive planning (adopting the 80/20 rule of planning vs. execution) and the use of standard process and procedures, you will achieve:

  • A controlled migration  with no roll backs and no fire-fighting post migration, and minimal negative business impact
  • A detailed financial control, avoiding costly extensions to the project and completing the initiative within budget and on time
  • Introduce an approach that can be used in other initiatives at the client.

Combined with implementing a standardized and transparent reporting, allowing for an effective stakeholder management you will also secure that you have a happy customer.

Step 8—Securing the cut-over

I’ve found that an iterative approach with multiple parallel cutovers of migration batches is optimal in terms control, work effort and quality. It also provides the foundation for accelerated and industrialized migrations. However; any successful cut-over requires a significant effort in terms of planning in order to ensure a successful implementation with no negative impact on day-to-day operations. Activities need to be detailed down to individual hours and minutes in the migration run books. I would also recommend implementing lessons learnt sessions after each cut-over for the whole team.

This phase is about bringing together all work and results from the previous phases. During Discovery, Pre-study and Planning phases a number of templates and documents have been created, including the Data Center Migration Blueprint as well as other key templates. Combined, they document the needed technology, application, information and infrastructure architecture, providing the migration batch candidates. The migration batches will be based on multiple logical and physical dependencies, and optimized from an overall dependency and risk perspective, hence the need for detailed planning and cut-over analysis.

The combination of detailed cut-over planning and lessons learnt sharing will result in creating a team of experts well equipped to handle the challenges thrown at them. By supporting the team with a set-up that is standardized and iterative at its core, helps break down seemingly impossible tasks.  From a project management perspective, it’s then your responsibility to ensure a strong stakeholder management and involvement, using the tools available:  reporting, communication, governance and approval processes.

The result will be a successful cut-over and a very happy client.

Step 8—DC closure

The very last step in many of the Data Center Consolidation Transformation and Transition projects is the actual closure of the site and hard decommission of the servers and HW, once all services, servers and associated applications have been relocated, following for example the European Union directives of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE).

The disposal activities are normally carried out by the incumbent or a partner, but I recommend managing both the partners and the process around it as part of your program. This is actually a key activity, not only in terms of security and such, but more importantly, from a business case perspective. Lights out in the old data center is often a project KPI, and part of the process of freeing up capital tied to the site. One thing that is sure to kill the business case for consolidation and relocation projects is the failure to close the old data centers, potentially doubling the number of data centers in the organization.

Step 9—Project closure

The very last stage of the Data Center Consolidation, Optimization and Relocation transition process is DC closure once all services, servers and associated applications are relocated.

Capgemini has a green approach to disposal activities. The disposal activities are normally carried out by the incumbent or one of our partners. We manage the partners and the process as part of our normal methodology, following the European Union directives of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) or similar, depending on the geography.

On a final note

Data Center Transformation and Transition projects often become very complicated. The multiple dependencies between infrastructure components as well as applications, combined with the need of a strong stakeholder management makes them challenging to all participants. However, as with most things in life, you will come a long way with planning and experience. If you want to know more, please feel free to get in touch.

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