If Data is Everywhere and Anywhere, What Map Do I Use to Get Directions?

MapBy Stacey Rosenberry, Data Center Program Manager, NetApp IT


One of the key phrases NetApp CEO George Kurian used at Insight Las Vegas was that data is everywhere and anywhere. Defining policies to manage the data has become increasingly important as it can be found on-premises in a data center or in a private or public cloud. So if data can be anywhere, where do I find the directions on getting it to the right destination? What does the journey look like?


As a NetApp IT project manager, I thought about George’s comments as it applies to data migration and realized that what matters is not where data is going as much as that it gets to its destination securely and safely. It may need to be moved within a data center, between data centers or in and out of the cloud. We just want to make sure that during its journey it doesn’t end up in the wrong location. While this may sound simple to accomplish, it isn’t. Unfortunately, data doesn’t live in a vacuum. 


Here are six guidelines I use for managing data during our data migrations. While these guidelines are common sense for most IT project managers, they are worth repeating as the rules of engagement for data evolve in light of new cloud strategies.



To get to your destination, you need to know where you are starting from on the map. To prepare for a data migration, you need a complete inventory or audit of your starting environment. You not only need to understand what data you have, but also the tiniest details: the relationships within an application, between applications, who the users are, and how much performance you need among other things.


A detailed map and guidebook of both your start and end points are essential. We integrated NetApp’s OnCommand Insight (OCI) storage management software and the ServiceNow configuration management database (CMDB) to gain a complete picture of our current environment. Then we focused on the destination by creating a new infrastructure strategy that standardized on FlexPod using clustered ONTAP. By understanding that origin and destination environments could be completely different and having a guidebook for each, we were able to streamline the migration.



Make a practice of using a standard set of checklists across all migrations. We completed a big migration in 2015--moving all our production systems from one data center to another. We came up with a deliverable plan using standard checklists, but our process allowed for adjustments. Checklists should not be step by step guides, but rather confirm that you are asking all the right questions to arrive at your ultimate destination. These best practices can then be applied to other projects or adjusted when there are unexpected hurdles. Which leads me to my next two points…


Face the Fork in the Road

Build flexibility into your processes. Most migrations will have bumps in the road. After encountering an unexpected hurdle during one migration, we had to put one phase on hold and move our resources to a different phase while we solved the issue. We still finished the migration program ahead of schedule and budget. A process shouldn’t be something that locks you into a rigid set of directions that must happen EVERY single time. It should allow you to move left or right at the fork in the road as circumstances change.


Don’t Let Your Directions Gather Dust

Your processes should be based on best practices that can be applied over and over to any type of project--migration, upgrades, etc. Best practices are not step-by-step directions anymore. Rather they are a guide to make sure you ask the right questions related to a process. Some migrations have detailed deliverables; some require a lighter set. Last year we closed a data center and migrated all the apps to a new one. This year we have a smaller set of migrations. Past documentation helped us prepare for the new set of migrations. Do we still need a test plan? Yes. Migration Readiness checklist? Yes. Migration notifications to senior IT management? No. We won’t be doing multiple migrations over any weekends, so no special communications are needed. 


Watch the Shortcuts

Shortcuts save time and resources. But just like taking backroads instead of the highway, if you don’t do your due diligence, you could end up lost. Make sure you truly understand any shortcut you are implementing and that the team all agrees this is the right path. You don’t want any unexpected surprises that set back your schedule and increase your costs. And you don’t want to leave support teams driving aimlessly looking for the correct turn.


Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks. But always remember the big picture: data is only as good as the ability of business users to safely and securely access and use it. During one particularly troublesome migration, the window to migrate some key applications closed due to business cycle demands. We stopped our migration. Our job is not to meet our deadlines. It’s to support our business users in doing their jobs to make our customers happy. 


The landscape of enterprise IT is changing rapidly as data makes its journey to different destinations, whether in the private or public cloud. Managing data, especially during data migrations, is no longer a step-by-step process that follows a strict set of instructions. A data migration plan should be like a guidebook--a living, breathing document that allows you to easily change course during your journey. Processes should be like the navigational system on your phone—delivering directions to help you reach your destination, but flexible enough to adjust to changing road conditions.


The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.


Stacey, Well done. Great pointers.