The challenge of migrating data in the data center is one that IT teams face every day. It seems like there is always a new technology or solution that delivers a promise of faster performance, lower cost or simply more impressive flashing lights. However, these migrations are akin to running on a treadmill – you migrate the data and applications and yet afterwards, very little changes. The problem has become more acute as technology evolution has accelerated. I focus on data protection and so let’s look at the challenge of migrating backup data.
The data protection process is typically controlled by an application such as Backup Exec, Data Protector, NetBackup or Tivoli Storage Manager. These systems maintain information that is vital for both protecting and recovering information. However, how do you maintain this information when you migrate to a new application? The complexity of this task is directly related to the amount of data being stored and the type of migration being performed. Here are three migration strategies.
Maintain the legacy infrastructure
A common approach is to maintain the legacy hardware and software infrastructure. In this model, you keep older systems operating to provide access to the older information. In practice, this is an effective strategy, but it introduces some challenges that can add significant costs and complexity. Here are three considerations:
1. Hardware cost – You need to maintain the existing hardware and its support contracts. If you forgo this option then what happens if your hardware fails for whatever reason? Additionally, what do you do when that hardware goes end of life?
2. Software cost – You need to maintain the retired application over time which means you will likely want a support contract which adds cost. However there are also important operational questions regarding software updates. What happens when the provider releases a new software revision, do you upgrade? Upgrades create more risk, but may be required if you ever need phone support.
3. Employee cost – Since you are maintaining the older systems, someone in your organization must maintain current knowledge on how to access and retrieve data from the retired infrastructure. This can be challenging especially since employee responsibilities change and the need to access the information is likely infrequent.
Migrate the data
Another strategy is to migrate older information to the new infrastructure. This approach only works if new the architecture is similar to the old one (think backup application migration) and is not relevant for disruptive change (think backup application to some kind of CDP backup). Migration is also highly sensitive to the amount of data and so if you have little data retained then the process may be quick, but if you have large amounts of data then it can be lengthy. Here are three considerations:
1. The technology – As discussed above, migrations can be easier in some instances and virtually impossible in others. You need to carefully review and understand the options.
2. The time – You need to understand the amount of time it will take to migrate the data. Time is more than just the hours spent copying information, but can also incorporate planning and integration.
3. The people – The final consideration is the number of people hours required to complete the process. You need to understand if you have appropriate resources or budget for additional ones.
Rely on a third party
The first two options focused on insourcing the migration. However, outsourcing is also an option primarily because it could allow your IT teams to focus on other and potentially higher value areas. With this approach, you could rely on a vendor, like Iron Mountain, to store the legacy tapes and to provide a searchable index of the data and to enable recovery of the information as needed. This approach provides some unique benefits:
1. Predictable Costs – Typically for these solutions, you pay a minimal fee to get searchable access to the data and then an additional fee for recovery. Thus, your base costs are consistent and predictable; the remaining challenge is forecasting recovery requirements.
2. Consistency – One of the benefits of relying on a third party is that they have a proven process so you can be sure that your data is available when you need it. This can provide greater confidence and reliability than the alternatives.
3. Time savings – With this model you can significantly reduce the amount of time that your team has to dedicate to migrations which can result in meaningful cost savings and improved service levels.
There is really no one “right” way to migrate backup data. We have reviewed three of the most common options and you should consider each. Many customers are unaware of the third party option and may find it compelling; Iron Mountain’s offering is called Archive Tape Management solution. Regardless, the business of IT migration is like a treadmill and every IT practitioner needs to think about their migration strategy now.