Why Discovery is Critical for Successful IT Migration

by | 01/02/2021 | Migration Insights

An IT infrastructure migration is a large and complex undertaking, and most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the people in your organisation. Whether you’re migrating your data centre, your network or your critical business applications, the project will impact on everyone in your organisation, and even your customers. So you need to get it right. That takes careful planning, and that starts with the process of Discovery: creating an inventory of what you have in place. Next you have to decide what has to be moved, what should be replaced and what can be chucked out. It’s a lot like moving your family from Hobart to Brisbane: you won’t need all that heavy winter gear.

Due diligence in the discovery and planning phases are critical. State of the Cloud 2020, Flexera Survey

If you don’t have a clear picture of your current IT environment, it’s difficult to make informed decisions about the shape of your future IT environment.

Know Your Current State

Unless your IT teams have religiously documented every change to your environment since it was first built, every network change, every server installed, every router, switch and firewall configuration, and of course every application, who uses it and how they access it, you run the risk of missing important pieces in the migration that can break critical business processes. The purpose of the discovery process is to create an accurate picture of the current state of your IT infrastructure. Depending on the scope of the discovery, as long as it is carried out with due diligence, the key outputs should include:

  • a complete Infrastructure Asset Register
  • infrastructure to Application Dependency Maps
  • as-Is Network Diagrams
  • current Infrastructure and Application Cost Models

Discovery – Peeling the Onion

“All business decisions, including those about cloud, are ultimately about money. Even if agility is the ultimate goal, cost is still a concern. Don’t assume you will save money unless you have done the hard work of honestly analyzing your situation.” ~ Top 10 Cloud Myths, Gartner

It’s best done one layer at a time, starting with a high level overview of your infrastructure: the number of sites, your servers, physical or virtual, your critical business applications and so on. Layer by layer, you capture the information that is critical to your migration to gain a clear understanding of how your current IT environment operates. You don’t have to capture all the details, just enough to make informed decisions about the migration and to complete your transition plans. It’s essential to work to a deadline here, because discovery can drag on if it’s not contained. Once you have the technical outputs we listed above, the discovery report should reflect the context of your migration. It should also take into account its intended audience, and address the issues it has vital interest in. A complete discovery report should also include observations on the suitability of your current technology to meet your future needs, and make suggestions for improvement. The report should also address is cost models since you’re unlikely to have an unlimited IT budget, so that you can compare the current cost of your IT operations with the likely future costs. ‘In order to compare the current cost of your IT operations with likely future costs, it’s a good idea to include cost models in the report as well.

The Importance of Buy-In

Since an IT migration usually impacts your entire organisation, you’ll need the buy-in and support of everyone right through the migration process. If you’re the CIO, you’ll want to share your reasons for the migration with your CEO and fellow executives, along with your vision of the future. And you’ll want to do the same with the business managers, and with your IT manager and her key staff.

“Our IT team simply didn’t have the experience to do something like this, and Riteway came into a somewhat hostile environment. My team soon realised the extent of the gap and, by the end of the project, they were almost worshipping some of the Riteway team. It was interesting to see how Riteway won them over.” CIO, government agency

as, or dark corners that no one’s looked in for years. Bringing your IT team on the journey of discovery can help allay some of these fears, so will sharing your plans for the future and the reasons for the transition. Help them understand the importance of their knowledge to the success of the migration process, and think about how their skills can be used to best effect in the new IT environment. Outside of the IT area, you may face resistance from other business leaders who envy the size of your budget, regard the migration as an unnecessary luxury, and see the discovery process as a distraction. It pays to ensure you have their support early on by showing them the business benefits they’ll see from the migration, in terms of improved agility, flexibility and competitive posture.

Designing the Target State

An effective discovery process provides a detailed inventory that shows each service in terms of the purpose it serves, how it is used, how it is integrated with other services, its capacity and performance (both used and available), and most of all how critical it is to the business function it supports. These are invaluable inputs, which you can now use for the detailed planning of your migration. It also makes it easier to group similar services and applications together, so you can identify:

  • the future service capabilities you need
  • the criticality of certain applications and services
  • any important interdependencies between applications and services
  • key risks that exist in the current environment and
  • potential risks in the migration process.

Before beginning your IT migration, you’ll want to know what your new IT target state will look like. A clear picture of your current environment helps your team determine what services the new environment will need to provide, and how it should be designed. You’ll also want to identify elements in your current environment that need attention before they can be moved, or may need to be replaced as part of the migration. For example, do you have the right level of security in place for the future, or does moving to the Cloud mean you will need more firewalls to protect your sensitive data? Will your legacy applications function on a newer operating system or virtual server? Should you plan an application upgrade as part of the transition? Impact on your Business With the data from the discovery, you can also establish selected performance baselines for your critical applications, so you can compare with accuracy the performance of your key workloads with their performance in your previous on-premise environment.

“Well-managed organisations must understand and mitigate these risks to better leverage their cloud computing initiatives.’ How to manage five key cloud computing risks.” ~ Sai Gadia – KPMG

Having a clear picture of your current environment also lets you manage your technology migration with little or no impact to the business, since it will make it much easier to see whether or not moving something will break something else. It also allows you to

  • understand the impact of potential changes to the services you provide
  • prioritise the availability and performance required by each service plan for your cloud, application or data centre migration with your business and customers front-of-mind mind
  • accurately plan for the right levels of services and capacity you will need
  • address any security vulnerabilities that might impact on important or critical services.

Total Cost of Ownership

Before moving any of your infrastructure services to the Cloud, you should carry out a dispassionate TCO analysis. Your discovery process has produced all the details you need to calculate the total cost of ownership of your current IT environment. You should include peripheral costs such as ongoing licence renewals, hardware warranties and repairs, operational costs, staff costs, premises costs, energy consumption, security services and so on. Once you have completed this analysis, you can use the output to compare your current costs with the cost estimates for running your systems in the cloud or a multi-tenant data centre.

Expert Help

Many organisations opt for contracting migration specialists to handle and manage the discovery phase. It tends to be painstaking work, not unlike an exacting audit of your accounts. Since most IT teams are stretched just doing BAU work, it makes sense to contract discovery specialists who know the process and pitfalls really well. A specialist team will have developed the right processes, tools and templates for capturing the information needed. They should also be comfortable working with both business and technical teams in your organisation to minimise the impact on their normal roles. As we flagged earlier, some of your IT team may see this as a threat, and resent any encroachment on their turf by strangers. Once again, sharing your intentions with your IT team, and adding genuine reassurance, is key to the success of this crucial phase. That means choosing a specialist group that understands this aspect of the project and makes it a priority to share its plans, its processes and its findings with all concerned parties. This way, you’ll end up with better quality information from teams that cooperate fully.

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