Data Migration Is A Channel Opportunty

By Samuel Tam

November 6, 2008

Are problem-free data migrations a pipe dream for VARs when it comes to networked storage data migrations? Can we turn a typical migration project from 3-6 months to one or two weekends?  Is storage data migration an opportunity or a sales obstacle? While VARs are solving many emerging challenges of data growth with new technologies and infrastructure, the less visible, but growing problem of data migration looms large and unaddressed.

Today, data has an inherently longer life than the storage systems that contain it. Over the life cycle for any given data, IT staffs will need to migrate it to other systems multiple times to satisfy operational and regulatory requirements. With one of the gating factors for a new system sale being the migration of data from existing systems to the new ones, resellers are now looking towards outsourced services during the key deployment time when the data needs to be migrated to the new storage platform that the reseller has just sold.  

By offering migration solutions along with storage, channel partners remove customer anxiety over storage replacement and reap the benefits. Turnkey services are economical, and a growing revenue opportunity that VARs should consider, as they can contribute greatly to increased sales, customer loyalty, and total solution storage offering.

Emerging data migration challenges such as skyrocketing data growth, transport of data across the physical and logical boundaries of different systems and architectures and shrinking migration windows in the age of 24/7 operability, dictate that data migration is no longer a simple process. Gone are the days of simply copying data from one system to another. With the invention of complex storage network innovations like SAN, IP or iSCSI come a host of new hurdles to be jumped during a data migration. 

Migrations of even modest scale require transport of data across physical and logical boundaries of different systems, storage architectures, and software with countless variations of device drivers and operating systems, making the operation complex. Moving increasingly larger volumes of data takes longer because interface speeds have not kept pace with storage density improvements. All of these elements combine to create a scenario in which problem-free data migrations are fast becoming a critical and recurring infrastructure management issue.

There are a number of methods and dedicated tools available to perform data migration for those customers who have the staff resources. Regardless of method, all require physical data moves consisting of server, array, switch, or appliance.  System to system interoperability often could be a major concern.

Management of the data migration generally is accomplished manually, with storage management software, or with dedicated data migration software. Selection criteria will vary with migration objectives, storage environment composition, internal service level agreements, need for fallback options, staffing, and budget. New technologies and services are playing a key role in solving the data migration problems that companies are currently facing. For the right customer situations, these new solutions save time, eliminate risks, simplify complex problems and are cost effective. For example, migration automation software that maps the entire storage infrastructure in a matter of minutes allows that each migration is verified and effectively simulated before it is performed, ensuring consistent, problem-free migrations.

Any number of approaches can be used for data migration. However, today a medium or large-scale migration can pose an enormous undertaking of staff resources and time, while the unpredictability of the migration process stands to adversely affect business operations. Even routine migrations now involve multiple servers and tens of terabytes, file systems, and LUNs, requiring significant time and attention from overworked staffs.

The growing data migration dilemma has progressed to the point that simply throwing labor at the task is no longer sufficient. The migration process is becoming mission-critical. For all but the most routine migrations, IT organizations must invest in tools and people or outsource to migration service specialists who can provide the tools, experience, process and exception-handling to ensure fast, problem-free, on-time bring-up of new storage systems. 

Faster storage deployment means happy customer and earlier payment. This is where VARs have the opportunity to provide the full solution to both a new storage architecture and a fast, problem-free data migration – thus solving the migration problem for the customer while simultaneously creating a new revenue stream for the VAR.

(Samuel Tam is founder and CEO of Vicom Systems, a leading innovator in transparent, wire-speed data services.)