Data migration is a big IT headache – but could software-defined storage be the remedy? Let’s see how Dell EMC ScaleIO software-defined block storage makes data migration blues a thing of the past.
Traditionally, data migration during a hardware ‘tech refresh’ is a costly and painful process that also puts your data at risk – but it’s unfortunately been a requirement with traditional SAN arrays on a 3-5 year repeating cycle.
There are three major categories of pain that need to be considered in regard to a traditional data migration:
- Human impact
- Technology challenges
- Financial costs
The pain of data migration to your people
First consider the human impact of data migration. There’s the stress caused to the storage admin or team – and the owners of the applications and data that are hosted on the storage. A data migration is very disruptive and can typically be a year-long process from start to finish.
For any datacenter-class array, the planning for a data migration is a months-long exercise that involves going to every single affected application owner, and scheduling a window to migrate their application and planning for the potential downtime. The storage admin then needs to build a calendar with the schedule for each individual app migration. This negotiation process can be a very painful and politically charged process – and causes a lot of stress on the admin and the organization.
Then, the execution of the migration takes place, usually over many months, with the migration team using nights and weekends to perform the migration during lowest impact hours. During the actual execution of the migration, the storage admin will face even more pain, such as:
- 24/7 monitoring and daily reporting
- Angst and stress of the migration process
- Constant demands from application teams during the process
- Time away from other job activities (and potentially family) due to the migration.
The technology challenges of data migration
Another key category of pain is the technology aspect of data migration. How will the migration be executed? Using a specialist migration tool or application? Conducted by professional services or storage team? What processes will be used to decrease risk and minimize downtime?
There are also big risks associated with data migration. What if you don’t complete your data migration within the allotted time? What if the migration fails due to a data corruption during the movement? There’s no 100% guarantee of success. Organizations that are particularly risk-averse will move all production off that system first – but this kind of pre-work beforehand leads to more costs.
The economic and financial costs of data migration
A study by Wikibon in 2014 estimated the cost of a storage migration project to be approximately 17% of the total cost of ownership for a storage array, including initial cost and maintenance. The typical cost of a data migration could therefore amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a datacenter-class storage array.
The expense of moving to a new storage system will include not only the so-called ‘hard costs’:
- Purchase and installation cost of the new storage array itself.
- Cost of specialized migration software and services if using them.
- Overtime costs for admins executing and monitoring the migration.
Additionally there are the ‘soft costs’ involved:
- Economic impact of lost revenue from application downtime.
- Typical loss at least a year of serviceable time on the storage array due to the year-long migration process.
- Any costs associated with risk / downtime / migration issues.
A future without data migration?
All these kinds of painful issues are top-of-mind for admins when it comes to data migration. Getting rid of migrations is about getting rid of all these hard and soft costs. It also releases value by giving your IT people a big chunk of their lives back, and allowing them to focus on value-added projects – instead of another year of moving data around.
One of the attractive promises made for new software-defined storage (SDS) is its elimination of the dreaded process of data migration. So can SDS really remove data migration from the storage management equation?
Eliminating data migrations – with Dell EMC ScaleIO
With Dell EMC ScaleIO software-defined block storage you really can transform your approach. In a similar way that VMware virtualized the compute operations of the datacenter 15 years ago, ScaleIO today abstracts and pools local storage resources in each server, and automates provisioning of capacity and performance back to applications on those servers.
Your shared pool of ScaleIO storage is physically dissociated into distributed software components running on industry-standard x86 server hardware. This software-defined approach helps make data movement between storage painless and automatic.
To extend the analogy with virtualization, think about how an admin does a ‘slow roll’ when upgrading a compute cluster. There is no wholesale VM migration or replacement of the cluster – it’s an ongoing perpetual process, performed a server at a time as needed, and requiring no downtime or impact to the hosted applications. There are also specific tools in place (from the hypervisor) to execute and automate this as a seamless and transparent background process.
Guess what? ScaleIO achieves a very similar transformation for storage!
A seamless, perpetual process
Of course, data movement still happens within ScaleIO – but we like to think it’s nothing like ‘data migration’ as you’ve previously known it. And much of the time, you won’t even notice it’s happening.
The processes of balancing in a new node and evicting an old node are all seamless to your applications. When a new server node is added to the cluster, an automatic data rebalance occurs, spreading some data from each existing server node across to it. Similarly, when the storage admin decides to ultimately decommission a server node, it is removed by issuing a command that automatically redistributes its data across the rest of the servers in the cluster. This is all completely transparent to your applications.
With ScaleIO, maintaining and upgrading storage becomes a painless process – rather than the old-style painful epic project. This is basically the model of storage management pioneered by web-scale companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. They had to overcome the challenges of their huge data environments, running mission critical apps that cannot afford any downtime, and where wholesale migrations are not feasible. They achieved this by moving from arrays to home-grown software-defined infrastructure running on top of many x86 servers. ScaleIO is an enterprise-grade, commercially supported, and standards-based solution that follows similar operational principles.
It’s automatic, it’s programmatic – it’s ScaleIO greased lightning!
Organizations that are making the best use of software-defined technologies like ScaleIO tend to be highly automated in their IT. They are already using software automation tools for deployment of servers, OSs and applications. With ScaleIO, storage provisioning and deployment is automated in the same framework – programmatically.
You can simply decide when it’s time to expand your storage and do it in granular steps, one x86 server at a time. Similarly, when a server is old and no longer desired, you can decide to evict it from the cluster, one server at a time, on-demand. ScaleIO enables the concept of a perpetual rolling upgrade, so you maintain optimum efficiency and performance across all your storage – without the headaches of traditional data migration.
With ScaleIO, it doesn’t really matter what specific kind of server is attached to the storage cluster – whether it’s VMware, Hyper-V, bare-metal Linux, or whatever. There’s no need to worry about operating any particular environment. ScaleIO takes a platform-agnostic, heterogeneous approach. It enables the same processes, regardless of your OS or applications.
Say goodbye to data migration challenges with ScaleIO
We think you might enjoy a world without data migration headaches. So why not explore the advantages of Dell EMC ScaleIO software-defined block storage for yourself?