The Cost of Free. The Hidden Costs of Server Migrations PERSPECTIVE

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1 The Cost of Free The Hidden Costs of Server Migrations PERSPECTIVE

2 Table of Contents The Hidden Costs of Server Migrations... 2 Why Migrate... 2 Migration Issues... 4 Cost of Free... 5 A More Cost Effective Solution Than Free... 8 For More Information Contact: Matt Searfoss Chief Technical Officer (770) ext

3 The Hidden Costs of Server Migrations All servers and the data and applications on them eventually have to be migrated to new hardware. It s inevitable. In light of this, the IT department must perform migrations cost-effectively, without undue disruption to business operations. That can be a challenge. Traditional migration techniques require lengthy shutdowns while server images are unloaded from one system and loaded onto the new one. Back in the days when many businesses closed on weekends, that wasn t a significant issue. The IT department deferred migrations until long-weekends, allowing it to halt even critical business systems for up to 72 hours without seriously impacting the business. That s no longer an option for most organizations. Global operations, expanded business hours, and the use of e-commerce mean that every hour of downtime, no matter when it occurs, is costly. This, combined with the hidden costs of the risks associated with migrations, mean that free do-it-yourself migrations are rarely, if ever, indeed free. In fact, the costs are often very high. Incomplete knowledge of the hidden and indirect costs of migrations can lead to expensive surprises. This white paper examines the true price of free migrations and offers a solution that is, ironically, typically less costly. Why Migrate? The cost and challenges involved in migrations raises the question, why migrate at all? One inviolable rule of life, including business life, is that change happens. This immutable law makes server migrations inevitable. There are a number of types of changes that might force a migration, including the following: Business growth The availability of game-changing technologies Other upgrade requirements Hardware failures Many changes are for the best. All businesses want to grow profitably. But growth places increased demands on IT infrastructures. At some point, existing servers will no longer be able to handle increased transaction loads. This is a problem that all businesses would like to have, but to resolve it organizations must overcome the challenges of migrating to higher-performance servers. The pace of technological change is legend and it is accelerating. As new technologies become available there may be an inclination to follow the rule of if it isn t broken, don t fix it. However, the wisdom of that advice depends on the definition of broken. 2

4 If a new technology dramatically reduces the cost or enhances the functionality of IT infrastructures, companies that adopt that technology will achieve a competitive advantage over companies that don t. In Darwinian business environments, survival requires that organizations adopt significantly better technologies when they become available. If they can hold out long enough, organizations might leapfrog their competitors by migrating to successor technologies later, but that merely defers, not avoids, the migration. Virtualization may be an example of a game-changing technology for organizations employing a number of servers. It allows companies to deploy server capacity more flexibly, while reducing the acquisition, real estate and power costs of running servers. However, moving from a physical to a virtual environment adds another level of complexity to the migration task. Migrations sometimes become necessary because there is no other choice. If a server fails and can t be repaired fast enough to satisfy the organization s uptime requirements, a migration may be the only available option. However, this raises another question: How can you migrate from a system that is not available? The above are just a few of the reasons for migrating servers. As revealed in Vision Solutions State of Resilience 2013 research report, a survey of over 3,500 IT professionals found that seven factors dominated the reasons for server migrations, with improving performance and replacing unsupported, outdated hardware topping the list. Figure 1 shows the full list of migration objectives of the survey respondents. Figure 1: Migration Objectives 3

5 Migration Issues Problems often arise during server migrations. What s more, sometimes migrations fail, forcing organizations to revert to the old server until they can attempt the migration again. Some issues are obvious and may cause organizations to defer migrations beyond when they would otherwise be optimal. IT professionals cite many reasons for delaying migrations, but, according to the survey, the downtime that would be incurred during a migration ranks top among them. Yet that is not the only factor that causes organizations to defer migrations. A lack of resources was also cited by almost 50 percent of the respondents as a cause of delays. And about 25 percent of respondents deferred a migration for budget reasons. Figure 2 lists all of the factors that the survey respondents listed as causes of migration deferrals. Note that this was a check all that apply question so responses will not add up to 100%. Note also that this question also applied only to those who had delayed a migration. Figure 2: Migration Concerns Obviously, despite the concerns, migrations must happen. As stated in the introduction, given enough time, server migrations are unavoidable. Yet, not all migrations are completed without a hitch. As shown in Figure 3, a little over 10 percent of survey respondents cited a lack of a plan as one of the challenges they experienced in a previous migration. This implies that almost 90% of the respondents did have a migration plan. Yet, despite the best-laid plans, the majority of respondents still experienced one or more challenges in their most recent migration. 4

6 The survey proves that organizations were right to be concerned about the downtime associated with their server migrations. More than 50 percent of the survey respondents said that they experienced a server downtime challenge during their most recent migration. Human resource issues were another major challenge. Almost 50 percent of the survey respondents had an issue with having to ask staff to work overtime on weekends to perform their most recent migration. In addition, more than 30 percent of the respondents experienced problems validating the data on the new system. And about 20 percent of the respondents felt that their staff had enough migration experience and lacked adequate software tools to perform the task efficiently and adequately. Figure 3: Migration Challenges These challenges are significant, but they are also surmountable, as will be discussed in the final section of this white paper. However, first, it s important to consider a common free migration option that, it turns out, neither fully overcomes the challenges, nor is truly free. The Cost of Free Many software vendors including vendors of operating systems and virtualization platforms provide free migration tools to help customers move data onto new or upgraded platforms. Yet these tools are free only in the sense that they carry no licensing fees. The reality is that using those tools could cause an organization to incur significant costs when performing migrations. 5

7 Consider, for example a basic migration involving a front-end application server attached to a back-end database server using one of these tools. Considerable planning is required before beginning the migration processes. During this planning effort, the following issues must be addressed: How much downtime will be required and how will that downtime be accommodated? What staff will be available to complete the migration job? How will the new environment be validated before declaring it ready for production processing? Who will perform the validation work? After answering the previous three questions, overtime likely on a weekend must be scheduled for the required staff. Using vendors free migration tools, the first task after the planning is complete and the migration begins is typically to deploy a migration agent through the hypervisor. An administrator then configures the migration job. Using vendor-provided tools, the basic administration work is relatively straightforward: Start the process, take initial snapshots of the data, transmit the snapshots to the new environment, and create the new replica of the production server. However, that is only part of the job. In addition: An administrator must perform the cutover to the new server. A database administrator must verify the integrity of the database. An application owner (or owners) must verify that the application is functioning Test users must ensure that the application functions properly. All of the above is likely only a first step and only a test of the migration process. If so, operations can continue on the primary system during the test. However, when the actual migration begins application(s) must be taken offline and all production work must stop on the server(s) being migrated. Only then can the final data snapshot be taken, transmitted to the new server and loaded into the new environment. Production work can resume only after that work has been completed and the new environment has been fully configured and tested. The length of downtime varies depending on a few factors. For the most part, the labor hours required for server and migration job configuration is proportional to the number of servers being migrated. However, the amount of work involved can also vary based on the complexity of the migration. For example, using the vendors tools, migrating from a physical to a virtual environment might require more work than a straight physical-to-physical migration. The time required to take data snapshots, transmit them to the new server and load them on the new server is principally proportional to the volume of data, but other factors will also affect the amount of time required, including: The transmission medium (physical or electronic). The available bandwidth (if the data is transmitted electronically). The distance between the old and new servers (in the same room or at geographically remote sites). 6

8 All told, using this migration technique, migration downtime might total anywhere from a couple of hours for a small amount of data transmitted locally, to several hours, or even a few days, for large databases sent on physical media to a remote location. During those hours or days, all production work must stop. Otherwise, data added or updated on the old server after the final snapshot is created will not be reflected on the new server. And, because the new system will not be functional, users will not be able to begin working on it until after the migration is complete. The above assumes that everything proceeds exactly as planned. However, because operating system and virtualization vendors tools require considerable manual configuration and intervention, human error is possible. If a mistake is made, the migration may have to be restarted, thereby adding significantly to the required downtime. The cost of each hour of downtime varies depending on the size and nature of the business. It can range from a few hundred dollars for a small business that can still carry on some work while a server is down, to millions of dollars for a Fortune 500 business-to-consumer company that provides services primarily on the Internet. Consider an example of a simple migration at the very low end of the downtime-cost scale. This hypothetical migration involves just two servers (an application and database server) with a small amount of data. In this example, the company incurs downtime costs of only $500 per hour, which likely grossly underestimates downtime costs for all but the smallest of companies. Staff costs (averaged between in-house staff and consultants) in this example are $100 an hour. The following is an estimate of the migration costs in this most minimal of migration cases: Thus, even in an example that intentionally used a very simple migration scenario and what is likely the lowest of hourly downtime costs, the migration cost was still $5,200, despite not incurring any licensing fees for the migration tools. A more complex migration would be even more costly. If for example, ten pairs of application and database servers were migrated, but all of the other costs were equal, the cost would rise to $52,000. Furthermore, if the hourly cost of downtime was higher or if more downtime was required because there was more data to migrate, the total migration cost when using these free tools would increase yet further possibly has high as hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for, say, a large financial institution. 7

9 Case in Point TeleComputing, a leading supplier of cloud computing, centralized IT on-demand solutions and outsourcing to the SMB market, used Double-Take Move for Windows software to migrate 700 servers with very little downtime. Leveraging Double-Take Move s full integration with Microsoft System Center, all data, applications and registry settings were copied to the new VMs in the background, while customers continued working without interruption. In addition, Double-Take Move ensured that all data updates applied to the production servers during the migration were continuously captured and copied to the new target servers, keeping the source and target servers synchronized in real-time until the target servers assumed the production role. Using Double-Take Move migrations took no more than 30 minutes per server, typically including only from 2 to 15 minutes of downtime, well within the maintenance windows allowed. By comparison, traditional unload/ reload migration techniques typically required from two hours to multiple days. A More Cost Effective Solution than Free It might seem counterintuitive, but the use of a licensed migration tool might considerably lower the cost of migrations. For example, Double-Take Move for Windows and Linux and Double-Take Availability for Windows and Linux dramatically reduce labor costs and minimize the chance of human error by automating most of the migration process. In addition, they virtually eliminate the downtime and, in turn, the downtime costs normally associated with migrations. Double-Take Move and Double-Take Availability provide much the same functionality. Therefore, they will be discussed below as a single set of functionality that is referred to as simply Double-Take. The difference between the two solutions is that Double-Take Move is licensed for limited-time use, essentially to be employed for a single migration. Double-Take Availability, on the other hand, is a high availability and disaster recovery solution that will usually stay in place after the migration. To begin the migration process, Double-Take is installed on the new server. A push install, initiated through the Double-Take console, then installs Double-Take on the production server. Neither server needs to be rebooted after the installations. The migration job(s) are configured from the Double-Take console. Double-Take then immediately begins to create a replica of the production server on the new server. After creation of the replica server, Double-Take continues to replicate data changes from the old server to the new one to keep the two servers synchronized for as long as necessary. This allows IT staff to verify that the new server is, indeed, a replica of the old server before switching users to it. When migrating to a virtual environment, Double-Take automatically creates the replica virtual machine (VM). The replica VM can be reconfigured in many ways, including adjusting the size of the volumes, changing the location of the disks in the virtual environment and altering the automatic alignment of the new disks. The use of Double-Take does not eliminate the need for validation of the integrity of the new server before cutover, but it does allow the testing of the new server to be performed without any impact on the production environment. Using Double-Take migration tools, you can complete a test migration and bring the new server online, without affecting production. In addition, much of the validation and user acceptance testing can be done on a test cutover, without the need for any downtime. Furthermore, these tests can be performed on a large scale, eliminating the need to, for example, perform 10 separate tests when migrating 10 pairs of servers. After the server validation is complete and you are confident that the new server is ready to assume the production, you can initiate the migration of users to the new server by clicking a single button in the Double-Take console. The production server is then powered off and the Double-Take connection is severed. There is no need for a final synchronization of the data because, throughout the migration and validation processes, Double-Take replicates data between the new old and new server in real-time, keeping them continuously synchronized. 8

10 Within minutes the new production servers, come online and the migration process is complete. The IT team can then, if necessary, perform any final validation testing and users can, again if necessary, perform user acceptance testing. Contrast this scenario with the hypothetical free tool scenario described above. Using the same very conservative hourly downtime cost of $500 and staff costs of $100 per hour, the total costs of a migration using Double-Take Move would be as shown in the table below: Thus, even when using what is an hourly downtime cost that is considerably below what most organizations would incur, a migration of just two servers holding a small amount of data would likely cost about $4,000 less using the Double-Take solution than it would using vendors free tools. And if the hourly downtime costs are higher, a higher volume of data must be copied, or more servers are migrated, the total incremental costs of the free tool would be even higher. Consequently, despite being counterintuitive, a free tool can be significantly more costly than a more highly automated, comprehensive licensed solution. To learn more about high performance, low cost migrations or about Double-Take migration solutions, please contact Vision Solutions. 9

11 About Vision Solutions With over 25,000 customers globally, Vision Solutions is one of the industry s largest providers of business continuity and information availability solutions for Windows, Linux, IBM i, AIX, and Cloud environments. Vision s trusted Double-Take, MIMIX, itera and brands keep business-critical information continuously protected and available. With an emphasis on affordability and ease-of-use, Vision products and services help customers achieve their IT protection and recovery goals, which in-turn improves profitability, productivity, regulation compliance and customer satisfaction. Vision Solutions also offers the tools and competency needed to migrate complex, multi-layered computing environments. These solutions are designed to eliminate the strain on resources, dramatically reduce server downtime, and offset the risks associated with migrations. Regardless of OS or hypervisor, Vision Solutions offers the technology needed to make every migration a success. Vision Solutions oversees a global partner network that includes IBM, HP, Microsoft, VMware, Dell and hundreds of resellers and system integrators. Privately held by Thoma Bravo, Inc., Vision Solutions is headquartered in Irvine, California with development, support and sales offices worldwide. For more information call: (toll-free U.S. and Canada) or visit Also find us on: Facebook: Twitter: YouTube: Vision Solutions Blog: Barranca Parkway Irvine, CA Copyright 2013, Vision Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 10

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