Opinion: How to decommission legacy storage

With various aspects of storage evolution marching forward (in areas such as network convergence, unified IP and SAN switching, solid state devices, content...

With various aspects of storage evolution marching forward (in areas such as network convergence, unified IP and SAN switching, solid state devices, content management, data value and security), it can be useful to consider the other side of the innovation adoption cycle, i.e. how we identify, manage and decommission legacy storage, writes Scott Hunter.

There are more challenges involved with this than first meets the eye. In fact, many organisations struggle with this aspect due to the complexity of their storage estate and overall infrastructure.

Take, for example, a large financial client we worked with recently. It faced significant pressures to reduce datacentre power consumption and support costs. Analysis showed poor storage utilisation figures, highlighting how storage rationalisation could help ease these power and cost pressures. However, the next steps were not as straightforward as it thought, and it was only with careful planning that the project succeeded.

To start with, abstracting the data layer from the infrastructure was not easy, but progress was made on an application-by-application (or database-by-database) basis. The next challenge was to identify suitable existing platforms with capacity, performance and availability to fit the requirements. Selecting the appropriate data migration methodology was also complex as there was a plethora of tools available. Our approach was to select tools that the organisation was most familiar with, as this was critical to success.

The process of data migration could then begin - not a trivial undertaking in a 24/7 live environment. Clarity around what was being migrated (and what it should look like post-migration) helped, as did provision of sufficient storage and back-up.

It was important to get the timing of the migration right, ensuring that it took place when there was the least business demand on the environment. By doing this we were able to minimise the potential data changes and test exercises that needed to be carried out following the exercise. A combination of brief maintenance windows and live copy technology simplified this.

After revising back-up and disaster recovery plans, we were ready to decommission, under the usual regulatory restrictions around environmental and secure disposal. The migration was a success and the added bonus was that by being sufficiently proactive in selecting the legacy estate, we were able to raise some funds through trade-in and resale of the decommissioned equipment. Everyone is happy when you put cash back in their hands, but specifically this helped in justifying the next phase of decommissioning.

Scott Hunter is senior consultant at Morse

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