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Planning a Successful Data Center Move or Relocation 

Planning a move of any sort can cause significant stress and anxiety for anyone. Planning for a data center move or relocation, however, has the added pressure of potential disruptions to critical business operations and/or data losses that can severely damage an organization's overall business and reputation.

Many organizations have recently encountered the possibility of a data center move or relocation. The key business factors driving the decision to go forward with such a large-scale and expensive investment (estimates range from $300 - $400 per foot to move existing equipment and $750 - $1,000 per foot to implement new equipment) as a data center move or relocation include:

  • Need to upgrade data center facilities
  • Need to identify cheaper data center facilities
  • Requirements for redundancy -- business continuity improvements
  • Physical data center consolidations as a result of mergers and acquisitions

Once the business decision to invest the necessary resources for a data center move or relocation is made, it is critical to follow a detailed and integrated roadmap to ensure a successful implementation. As Gartner states, a data center move or relocation plan requires diligent and seamless integration between the data center facilities plan and the IS organization plan, and ensuring coordinated project management and execution. Most difficulties (in data center moves and relocations) can be traced to a breakdown between two major functional components -- IS requirements and data center facilities location and design specifications. For example, miscalculations in locations, equipment densities, power and heating and HVAC capacities can severely damage IT operations and service availability.

The following guidelines relate to the most critical phases of a data center move or relocation project and are applicable for smaller data centers (3,000 to 5,000 square feet of raised floor space) as well as large facilities of more than 10,000 square feet of raised floor space.

Step 1: Form a multi-disciplinary project team with key advisors.
The multi-disciplinary team should include members from IT operations, applications, data network operations, facilities and real estate specialists and human resources. The team will require a dedicated project manager, who is closely aligned with the IT organization, to lead and coordinate all activities during the planning phase, through the implementation of the data move or relocation and during the post-move occupancy to ensure newly defined processes and procedures will continue to be utilized going forward. Key stakeholders should be recruited early on as advisors for the data center move or relocation project to ensure buy-in throughout the organization.

Step 2: Create a business case that highlights the business rationale and technical "do-ability".
The business case should highlight the critical success factors of the data center move or relocation project as well as help the team and organization understand the potential obstacles that lay ahead. This step in the project helps the team prioritize key issues and manage expectations for the team and the rest of the organization.

Step 3: Develop a comprehensive requirements plan.
The project team must establish a comprehensive requirements plan that specifies both near-term and longer-term needs for data center operations. Included in this plan should be details on data center facility size, location, site plans, physical security requirements, risk management initiatives (security priorities and business continuity issues) and critical infrastructure capacities - initial estimates of equipment densities, power and cooling capacities and levels of redundancy.

Step 4: Prepare an exhaustive inventory.
A detailed physical inventory of all data center equipment that will be moved and that will need to be replaced should be developed. This analysis should be made on a multi-dimensional level to include the physical, logical and holistic aspects of everything within the existing data center and the relationships between each of the assets. Developing the inventory becomes a good starting point to document and track assets and the contracts associated with those assets prior to the actual data center move, if this process has not been instilled within the IT organization yet.

Step 5: Create a detailed space layout and design for the new data center facility.
Review the desired state for the new data center with regards to functionality, technical and financial considerations and any new process improvements that must be made. The space layout and design should include all engineering and space aspects for the new data center including the logical and physical (spatial) environment, the critical operations infrastructure (power, cooling, network connectivity) and future growth considerations. Utilizing visual databases and maps to develop the rack layout and to determine the optimal electrical and air cooling distribution systems is highly recommended.

Step 6: Develop a detailed data center move/relocation project plan.
Perhaps one of the most critical steps within a data center move/relocation project, the team will need to create a detailed move plan that includes the equipment move sequence, back-up operations during the move, installation and testing and ongoing operations. The sequencing plan will outline the specific equipment relocation steps -- for example, how each device will be positioned within the racks and how each rack module will be positioned within the overall raised floor space. It is also essential to have a well-coordinated plan with facilities to ensure the appropriate electrical distribution, HVAC capacities, back-up power are in place and compliance with building codes and local ordinances are established.

Step 7: Conduct a post-move audit and process improvement analysis.
It is highly recommended for the project team to conduct a post-move audit and review of the data center relocation project. The evaluation should compare the results to the initial business case, conformity to schedule and cost estimates and feedback from team members and key stakeholders. The lessons learned from the data center move/relocation project can be used to leverage process improvements to enhance future projects.

Success of data center move and relocation projects are highly dependent upon detailed and coordinated planning and execution of many functional participants. By taking the time to think through all possible scenarios and how they will be addressed and by understanding the intricacies and interdependencies that exist for data center move/relocation projects, companies can avoid the risks of budget overruns, missed schedules and serious business disruptions and enable a successful relocation, click here.

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