The Modern Data Center: Making Migration Easy

“It’s yours, free. Just pay shipping and handling!” claims the infomercial host. We’ve all seen them, the advertisements for home maintenance, gardening equipment, or even cooking products that promise the world but end up costing a lot of money. Whether it’s through shipping fees or the need to sign up for long contracts that are hard to break, unfortunately, most deals that seem “too good to be true” usually are not what they seem.

I can think of many examples of offers that appear free but always result in unexpected costs and lost opportunities. The same can be said for outdated network-attached storage (NAS) migration tools. Your organization may have something in place that looked brilliant in the advertisement (and was maybe even free), but now that you have installed it, it’s bringing up a whole load of problems: lost data, lack of security, slow processing speeds, and the inability to handle anything remotely complex.

That’s because many legacy migration tools were created when data amounts were much smaller and there were fewer major storage companies in existence. This is not the case today, and it has made moving from one platform to another extremely complex, and, as a result, many projects are failing.

Let’s look at why legacy NAS migration tools are costing companies a whole lot more than they realize, how to modernize your data center with software that suits you, and where the migration industry is heading.

Cut the Cord on Old Storage

As with many free infomercial products, deploying an outdated legacy migration tool often leads to hidden total cost of ownership and lost opportunity.

Many data center managers and CIOs tend to solely focus on upfront hard costs such as personnel time when contemplating modern storage transition tools. Instead, they ought to consider the fact that a slow and disruptive migration means succumbing to the costs of maintaining old storage and wasted opportunity. Each day it takes to make the move is a lost day of business benefits.

Ask the Tough Questions

I recommend asking these three questions about any software being considered:

  1. Can it handle scale, speed, and complex configurations?

Modern NAS migration tools should be able to graphically define a migration and dictate what content gets copied between the source and target, as well as the frequency at which that content is resynchronized. Just 10 or 15 years ago, a typical NAS migration was in the tens of terabytes. There weren’t many storage companies in existence then, so we were typically dealing with transfers between similar systems. This means that the legacy migration tool you may be currently using is likely not able to handle complex or important data transfers. Today, it is not uncommon for a NAS migration to involve thousands of terabytes and billions of files. The storage market is booming, and every company has its own take on how to implement a storage protocol. This provides you with a wide variety of storage choices, but it also makes things much more complex.

  1. Is it easy for my team to manage?

The tool should also present administrators with a single pane of glass for easy monitoring and management. Your NAS administrators must be able to understand the ins and outs of the migration so that they can confidently determine cutover event schedules and agree on a tolerable amount of downtime with end users. Many organizations have data center administrators within their IT teams, and when they’re able to work with a simple user interface, they find they can quickly initiate and complete all steps of the migration themselves without being experts on every detail of either the source or target platform. This helps maintain costs and complete all migration tasks quickly.

  1. Can it track/validate my files securely?

NAS and object data have become some of the most important data stored by an organization, often including customer data subject to government regulations, financial data subject to audit, or research information used for business intelligence. Any loss of this data or disruption to the systems that store it can cause business damage and expense. Yet many companies are still using migration tools that have no chain of custody integrity checking.

Even external tools designed to check integrity are rarely used because they add steps to the migration process that are slow and painful, require additional scripts to run, and, when errors are found, require even more scripts to be created—leading to an error-prone and long migration. If any integrity-checking is done, it is mostly to verify the timestamp and size of a file to declare it has been copied correctly.

However, data corruption can occur without affecting the timestamp and size of the file. Any corruption of the actual content of the file during the migration is not discovered by this rudimentary check. Your software of choice should provide chain of custody by hashing every single file as it is migrated. A file is declared successfully migrated only if the source and target match. A report can be created to show every single hash of every single file, which can be kept for future auditing.

Where the NAS Market Is Trending

Many organizations say they offer enterprise-class software to help organizations transition to new storage technology quickly, but there are very few that were actually designed to safely protect unstructured data on any NAS or cloud. Using a tool designed for NAS migration means that projects of any size are no longer tedious and time-consuming, but fast, easy, and affordable.

Data center managers today are looking for a consultative approach when choosing a NAS solution. They’re taking a longterm view rather than jumping from one storage solution to the next. I predict more NAS solution providers will trend toward a custom, consultative partnership model. And I advise anyone looking to modernize their data center to seek providers that were specifically designed to handle NAS migration of unstructured data for storage and cloud environments.