Anatomy of a Data Center Exit: What’s really going on?

Times have certainly changed.

Times have certainly changed.

Anatomy of a Data Center ExitNo longer are companies choosing to build out their own infrastructure. In fact, most are doing the opposite – exiting their data centers either completely or partially, reducing their resource overhead and CapEx expenditures.

Today, companies are opting to put most, if not all of their new “workloads” and high-value business applications in the cloud.  This digital transformation is really unburdening companies of their on-premise footprint and making it quicker and easier for them to deploy technology that makes their business more agile and more competitive. 

It’s time to go

In basic terms, a data center exit (data center decommissioning) just means removing the cost of leasing the space, paying the utility bills and maintaining the equipment in one or more data centers from your IT spend. 

You may think that data center decommissioning is synonymous with adopting a more “cloud-centric” approach to IT modernization. This is not a hard and fast rule, as there are some compelling events that may favor a data center exit irrespective of your cloud-adoption strategy.

Here are two examples:

Data Center Exit Consolidation After Merger or Acquisition (M&A)

You may have recently acquired a company including their technology and their employees and are now ready to enjoy the benefits that this will bring to your organization.  With this comes all the infrastructure to support the acquired organization. There will undoubtedly be a big overlap in the utility infrastructure supporting corporate collaboration and productivity, which is typically the first target for consolidation. You may have been going through M&A activities for years and putting off the consolidation work. Either way, companies will need to address this to ensure a better return on investment (ROI) from these events and taking an expensive data center spend off your IT budget is a great way to realize that return.

Data Center Lease Terms Are Coming Up

Data Center Lease Terms Are Coming UpAs your company has grown, so have your points of presence and that may have previously necessitated the need for building out regional data centers to align with business needs. As these leases come up for renewal, it makes sense to re-evaluate your IT-sprawl and decide what works best – newer technology today means higher density compute and storage devices.  Maybe the costs of real estate and electricity have shifted geographically.  Your data center decommissioning plan should evaluate these factors and allow you to focus on maintaining the data centers that provide the most cost-effective and secure solution for your company.


Data Center Hardware Is Aging or EOL

The majority of the hardware that exists in your data center is nearing its end of life, or maybe on extended support contracts – all of which is becoming more expensive to maintain year after year. Replacing this equipment in full is not feasible, so decommissioning and consolidation will serve your organization better.

With these things being said – a data center exit strategy will include a cloud migration strategy aligned with your IT modernization program.

Cloud Migrations

The question isn’t

“Should I migrate to the cloud?”

It is

“What should I migrate to the cloud and when?” 

This is not an all-or-nothing proposition, almost all organizations are using the cloud today – in fact, you’d be challenged to find one that isn’t - whether it is for specialized SaaS applications, general productivity, or collaboration. The decision is finding the workloads that should be migrated to the cloud to give your company the best cost structure, most flexibility and competitive advantage.

Why should I migrate to the cloud?  What do I gain from leveraging cloud-based services?

There are so many reasons companies are opting to leave the traditional data center model and migrate those workloads to the cloud. 

  • OpEx vs CapEx (pay as you go) – flexible payments options allow you to pay only for the services you are using and shift these costs to a more tax-advantaged OpEx model, which translates into a better ROI.
  • Lower TCO - Replace aging equipment and get transparent refreshes of technology – cloud providers offer the best technology available at the time, and refreshes happen transparently in the background, typically with zero downtime. Extended support contracts for aging equipment and software on which you rely increases year-on-year, in addition to the associated repair, maintenance, and upgrade costs.
  • More redundancy / resilience - better uptime SLAs and the ability to store more copies of your data at less cost than you could achieve yourself
  • Cost-effective disaster recovery strategy – leveraging your cloud provider’s backup and high availability offerings such a geo-redundancy and paired regions allows for a virtually worry-free continuity of business planning
  • Leverage high-value IT resources for high-value work – have your staff focus on projects that make your organization more competitive and agile, rather than maintaining equipment, patching operating systems and on-premise software
  • Adherence to rigorous information security standards (ISO 27001, SOC2, etc.) – while this doesn’t negate the need for your organization to assume best-practice Information and Cybersecurity policies, it makes it easier for you to implement policies and procedures
  • Business ideas can be transformed into solutions on-demand – with the plethora of services available, be it SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS – you have the ability to go quickly from ideas to implementation to production much quicker with less cost

We’ve discussed a bit about the golden age of the corporate private data center, the reasons why you may need to plan a data center exit and some of the benefits organizations see when adopting cloud technologies. 

Next, let’s focus on some of the challenges that may arise during any IT modernization project.

Data Migration Ain’t All Roses - Challenges Will Be Met:

Business person looking at road with question mark sign conceptCareful planning and preparation can typically be measured in years, necessitating a thorough evaluation of your data center decommissioning strategy and journey to the cloud.

  • You will employ a myriad of analysis and procedures – there are lots of options and workloads to consider, all of which require different treatment during a cloud migration to be successful.

For all applications and data that will remain on-premise (but consolidated into a different data center), re-homing them will require application and data migration planning – or you may choose to go the low-tech route: box up all your gear and have it delivered via a white-glove service to your target datacenter.  Of course, this assumes your equipment is worth the move, and will survive the transport!

For all applications that are migrating to the cloud, Gartner published a paper in 2011 identifying the “5 Rs” of cloud migration techniques:  Originally referred to as Rehost, Refactor, Revise, Rebuild and Replace – while the concepts remain the same, the actual Rs may have changed a bit over the years.  Ultimately, each application will be analyzed to determine how to best handle its transition to the cloud, with IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS typically being employed.

We've got more information on the 5 Rs in this blog post.

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Not all applications are candidates for cloud migration – there needs to be a cost-benefit to make it viable, some will remain on-premise for the foreseeable future.

  • Interruption of business-critical applications during cloud migration and cutover – while there are many techniques to reduce impact during a cutover, you will be well-served to plan for the inevitable - there will be issues! Be obsessive about your testing – ensure as many business units are involved as possible.
  • Migration times for legacy archive data may interfere with your well-laid plan – the movement of large repositories of data (typically used for compliance and eDiscovery) will require a long-lead time, whether you are migrating to another private datacenter or to a public cloud infrastructure. Understanding these timelines will allow you to evaluate the impact of migrating these repositories.  Moving 100s of terabytes of data is not a trivial task - is it usually stored in proprietary formats and on aging hardware (outdated and out of support).  Consider this: it may have taken you 10-15 years to get all that data into your archive, but you may need to get it out in a small fraction of that time - perhaps 6-9 months!  This legacy infrastructure will need to be maintained in good working order during the migration.

If you want to know about how to successfully migrate legacy data, take a look at this blog post.

  • More vendor contracts, more evaluation - leveraging cloud-based services may raise additional security and privacy concerns and have you reviewing and preparing more documentation - your overall security posture is tied to your weakest link – which means thoroughly vetting any third-party providers.

Savvy customers of yours will want to know that you are doing everything possible to ensure that their data and PII (personally identifiable information), is just as safe and impervious to theft as it travels throughout your new “cloud-based” infrastructure. This necessitates ensuring all the policies and controls are in-place and you are able to provide documentation of those controls. Third party audits, PEN tests, vendor assessments and cloud evaluations are all part of the game.

  • Penalties for termination of existing contracts - consideration must be given to the life and impact of existing contracts – whether it be data center leases or HW maintenance contracts. Ideally, planning a data center exit will coincide nicely with the lifespan of these contacts, but if not, hopefully the ultimate cost-savings will outweigh any potential penalties incurred.
  • Repurposing / retraining existing employees for the new world – As you make the transition to cloud-based technologies, take the time to ensure that staff is adequately prepared for the new technologies and processes that will be upon them. There will certainly be new methods of deploying, maintaining and configuring workloads. The same concepts may apply between cloud and on-premise workloads, but the implementations could be very different.  Some staff will readily adapt, while others may be reluctant to change.

In Summary:

Exiting a data center is part of a normal business cycle. Many customers are trying to rationalize their IT spend, better use their resources and look for ways to be more agile and prepared for the future.  Your project may be as simple as consolidating user data from one data center to another, retiring some legacy applications and hardware, but oftentimes it will be more complex – requiring a blend of consolidation, cloud migrations, data migrations, application rationalization, and all the services that go along with it. 

With unmatched next generation cloud migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your cloud migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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