The relocation of servers, storage, and networking equipment to a new data center presents substantial costs, operational risks, and inconveniences for organizations. Consequently, many choose to engage specialized services for data center relocation and moving, to help navigate the complexities of this task.

Data center relocation is the process of moving a data center’s infrastructure, such as servers, from one location to another, a task that demands careful planning to minimize downtime. It includes logistics and adapting to the new site’s specific space, power, cooling, and connectivity needs.

Dgtl Infra provides a thorough examination of the reasons, strategies, and detailed planning required for a successful data center relocation. We cover every stage, from initial planning and assessment to the post-relocation review and optimization, ensuring organizations have the essential knowledge to manage this complex process. Additionally, Dgtl Infra delves into specific strategies like server relocation. Keep reading to discover valuable insights and practical advice for your data center relocation endeavor.

What is Data Center Relocation?

Data center relocation involves transferring a data center’s infrastructure, including servers, storage systems, networking equipment, racks, and cabinets, from one physical location to another. This move can be as minor as shifting small servers and network devices to a different room or as significant as relocating large storage arrays and mainframes to a new physical address.

Men Standing Discussing the Relocation Project in a Data Center

This task is complex and requires careful planning and execution to minimize downtime and securely transfer sensitive data and hardware. Key aspects of a successful data center relocation include logistics coordination, risk management, and ensuring the new environment meets specific requirements for space, power, cooling, and networking.

In the process of relocating a data center, there are two primary strategies:

  1. Single-Step Relocation: This approach involves transferring all hardware in a single step, usually overnight or over a weekend. Its advantages include time efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and minimal operational downtime – assuming the process is executed without issues. However, it carries a higher risk of system downtime and service interruption. There’s also an increased likelihood of equipment damage or loss
  2. Phased Approach: This strategy involves moving IT equipment in smaller steps or “waves” over a period of time. For instance, the relocation might start with the test environment, followed by the production environment. This approach reduces the risk of system disruptions and allows parts of the data center to remain operational while others are being relocated. However, it requires a longer timeframe to complete the move and generally incurs higher overall costs compared to a single-step relocation

The decision to choose between these strategies depends on several factors. These include the size of the data center, the complexity of the systems to be relocated, the intricacy of the organization’s IT operations, and the availability of personnel to manage the relocation process.

Reasons for Data Center Relocation

Data center relocation involves the transfer of IT operations and facilities from one physical location to another.

Two IT Engineers Handle Bubble Wrapped Server in Computer Facility Aisles

Organizations might choose to relocate their data center for several reasons:

  1. Capacity and Scalability: If an organization’s current data center is at its limit in terms of physical space, power availability, or cooling capacity, relocation may be necessary to support growth. Expanding IT needs can outgrow the capacity of an existing data center, making it inadequate for additional servers, storage systems, and network equipment
  2. Cost Efficiency: Operating costs, such as power, cooling, and maintenance, can be high in older data centers. Relocating to a more modern, energy-efficient facility, or to an area with lower real estate and utility costs, can lead to significant long-term savings. This is also true for areas offering tax incentives, like reduced property taxes or sales tax exemptions on equipment. Data center consolidation, often enabled by expiring leases, is a key aspect of cost-efficient relocations
  3. Location and Connectivity: The geographic location of a data center influences network latency, staff accessibility, and connectivity with customers, service providers, and other data centers. Factors such as proximity to major internet exchange points (IXPs) or carrier hotels, the presence of multiple carriers in the new data center location, and local availability of skilled labor are crucial
  4. Risk Mitigation and Compliance: Some relocations are aimed at mitigating major risk factors related to natural disasters (like earthquakes or floods), political instability, or inadequate disaster recovery strategies (such as insufficient physical distance between primary and secondary data centers). Compliance with industry regulations or corporate policies may also necessitate a move to a location that adheres to specific data sovereignty standards and offers enhanced security and data protection

Data Center Relocation Plan

Data center relocation is a complex and critical endeavor for any organization. This high-level plan is segmented into six essential steps to ensure a smooth transition:

1. Planning and Assessment

Men Working on the Planning and Assessment of a Server Farm Moving Project
  • Objective Setting: Clearly define the goals, scope, and constraints of the relocation. The scope may include physical site-to-site relocation, cloud migration (to private or public cloud services), or a hybrid approach (a combination of cloud and on-premises servers)
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Involve all relevant stakeholders, including IT staff, management, and vendors, for their input and support. Identify service and device owners and clarify roles and responsibilities pre- and post-relocation
  • Inventory Audit: Catalog all hardware, software, and network components. Ensure all operating systems, database, and application licenses, along with service level agreements (SLAs), are accounted for. Verify support levels for each piece of equipment and map out dependencies
  • Risk Assessment: Identify potential risks and challenges in the relocation process. This includes planning to prevent hardware and software failures during transit, paying attention to details such as time zones, arranging for security clearance, reconfirming schedules, ensuring technician awareness of the project plan, and addressing safety concerns
  • Technical Preparations: Ensure full backups are completed prior to the site move and confirm disaster recovery plans. Disable server monitoring and instruct database and application administrators to disable services. Develop a rollback plan for system restoration in case of relocation failure
  • Networking Configuration: Document and verify all public IP addresses (IPv4 and IPv6), associated domain names, firewall/NAT rules, IPsec/VPN configurations, and third-party connections/APIs. Distribute updated network configuration details to administrators, detailing the internal computer room local area network (LAN), storage area network (SAN), and external wide area network (WAN) circuits. Moving the network is a significant challenge in data center relocation
  • Project Management: Appoint a project manager to oversee the relocation, conducting weekly meetings to monitor progress and ensure tasks are completed on time. If internal staff lack the necessary expertise or availability, consider hiring third-party assistance for full or partial project management
  • Procedure Documentation: Thoroughly document every aspect of the relocation process for reference and compliance. This includes coordinating shutdown, de-installation, shipping preparation, installation, and power-up procedures. Also, document all power connections and network cabling, such as Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections

2. Design and Strategy Development

IT Technician Working on Facility Design and Strategy Development
  • Design New Layout: Develop a design plan for the physical environment and network layout of the new data center. Assess the future needs for size, space, cable management systems, power load capacities, cooling, and ventilation. Ensure adequate rack space and optimized air flow management, as well as sufficient room for staff to install operating systems and connect cables
  • Resource Allocation: Identify the resources needed, including personnel, equipment, and budget. Assign specific team members to relocation tasks with clear deadlines to enhance accountability and adherence to the schedule. Assess additional needs for cabling and network equipment
  • Warranty and Spare Parts: Check the hardware warranty and support for all active equipment. Decide on the necessary spare parts, such as hard drives and CPU/memory. Ensure arrangements are in place for rapid parts delivery or on-site hardware support
  • Migration Strategy: Develop a detailed migration plan to avoid delays. This plan should include timelines, milestones, and logistics, such as delivery truck appointments, vendor access, space and power requirements, and remote console access. It should also address specific environmental, hardware, and software needs
  • Hardware Move Plan: Formulate a comprehensive plan for relocating hardware like servers. Consider factors such as loading dock specifications, transportation logistics, equipment handling, packaging, prioritization of equipment transfer, racking requirements, and cabling responsibilities. Collaborate with external vendors and service providers to review and refine this plan

3. Pre-Relocation Activities

Work Ongoing for Data Center Move Pre-Relocation Activity
  • Vendor Coordination: It is crucial to maintain clear communication with external vendors and service providers about the relocation. Confirm the physical move date with hardware vendors, as they may have specific resources, procedures, or requirements for the IT equipment in the new location
  • Site Access: Secure data center access by coordinating with security at the new location. Ensure that all necessary team members have the required access, including security clearance
  • Backup Testing: Before relocation, verify backups of data on external storage arrays, ideally replicated at a disaster recovery site. Test the recovery and restoration process in a similar environment (development, quality assurance, staging) for the new data center
  • Network and Connectivity Setup: Preconfigure and test network switches, patch panels, and firewall settings for IPv4/IPv6 at the new site, ensuring network and storage connectivity. Install and manage cabling and connectors for networking, and establish a reliable network with the new internet service provider (ISP). Request IP whitelisting and conduct extensive local area network (LAN) and application testing before the final backup
  • Equipment and Storage Preparation: Confirm the arrival of all equipment and spare parts at the new facility. Install rail kits and ensure storage provisioning in the new location

4. Implementation and Execution

Data Center Moving Services with Workers Loading Pallets into Truck Transport
  • IT Infrastructure Shutdown: Begin by stopping all front-end applications and databases. Then, systematically shut down and power off all servers, storage systems, and networking equipment at the existing location. Carefully remove, label, and prepare all active equipment and cabling for transport
  • Physical Move: Conduct the physical relocation of hardware. This involves carefully racking the equipment in the new location according to a predefined move plan. This plan ensures each IT asset is precisely placed in its designated rack or cabinet. Pay attention to specific requirements for rack unit (U) positions, network and power cables, rack power distribution unit (PDU) outlets, and panel or port switches
  • On-Site Setup: In the new location, install and configure the equipment. Start by powering on external devices, network, and storage equipment before the servers. It is critical to ensure that rack power distribution and environmental sensors are set up, configured, and monitored from the moment the first IT asset is installed and powered on
  • System Migration: Migrate data, operating systems, and applications as per the planned strategy. This step may require reconfiguration of network settings, which should be handled remotely by operating system administrators

5. Testing and Validation Post-Move

Men Inspecting Server Room for Testing and Validation After the Move
  • Hardware and Software Testing: This involves testing to ensure the proper functioning of all hardware, software, operating systems, and services. It includes checking server health, such as network connections, disk status, filesystem integrity, and log reviews. This phase also consists of starting databases and applications and carrying out system application testing
  • Network and Connectivity Testing: Here, the network administrator is responsible for conducting comprehensive end-to-end tests of the network and storage connectivity. This includes thorough inspection of patch panels, accurate labeling of cables, and evaluation of switch configurations and firewall connections to confirm network security, integrity, and redundancy
  • Infrastructure Testing: Validate the performance and usage of the power supply, cooling equipment, and other infrastructure components in the new data center. This step involves testing the backup power circuits, as well as making sure the air conditioning and fire protection systems are functional
  • Remote Access Verification: It is crucial to confirm that remote console access is operational. This access allows administrators to control and troubleshoot servers and other hardware remotely, which is essential for efficient data center management
  • Issue Resolution: Any issues or discrepancies identified during the testing phases must be promptly addressed. Utilizing the inventory audit list, confirm the correct installation and location of each component
  • Quality Assurance: Have a quality assurance team meticulously test and certify all applications. Only after their approval should the data center environment be declared fully operational

6. Post-Relocation Review and Optimization

Working on Computer to Finalize the Post-Relocation Review and Optimization Project
  • Operational Debrief: Conduct a comprehensive review of the data center relocation process. This debrief should assess both the efficiencies achieved and any shortcomings, focusing on adherence to established best practices such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) standards and TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) standards
  • Infrastructure Modernization: Leverage the data center relocation as an opportunity to update the current data center equipment. This step involves making critical decisions about equipment upgrades, decommissioning outdated components, replacing hardware, and implementing virtualization strategies to enhance efficiency
  • Resilience Planning: Update and improve disaster recovery and business continuity plans to align with the new facility’s capabilities. This planning should include incorporating redundancy designs like N+1 or 2N+1 configurations and considering cloud-based disaster recovery solutions to enhance resilience

Data Center Relocation Services

Data center relocation services are offered by skilled professionals with extensive experience in physically moving IT hardware. Field engineers, who are regularly engaged in data center work and can manage critical systems, perform these tasks.

Data Center Mover Handles Package in Relocation Environment with Many Boxes

Key examples of these relocation services include:

1. Site Audit

A site audit is an essential data center relocation service. It involves expert field engineers and technicians inspecting the current infrastructure to collect crucial information, such as the exact make, model, and configuration of these components, as well as their power and cooling requirements. This data is vital for making well-informed decisions and strategizing the relocation process effectively.

2. Asset Discovery

Asset discovery services use specialized software tools to identify and document all hardware and software assets in the data center facility. It is fundamental for planning the transfer of data center resources. Utilizing Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software aids in creating detailed room layouts, generating rack diagrams, and visualizing patch panel connections. This comprehensive planning helps in reducing the likelihood of errors during the relocation.

3. System Dependency Review

A crucial data center relocation service is the engagement of relocation experts who assess system interdependencies and devise a migration strategy. These experts review critical systems such as servers, storage units, networking hardware, and backup power supplies to ensure their interdependencies are well understood. This process is designed to minimize downtime and mitigate risks associated with physically transferring IT assets.

4. Project Management

Employing qualified project managers or data center relocation specialists is essential for overseeing the planning and execution of a successful data center relocation. This role is critical in ensuring the project remains on schedule, within budget, and is executed efficiently. The project manager coordinates various aspects of the relocation and addresses emerging challenges, such as organizing the process for the disassembly and reassembly of critical equipment.

5. Asset Tagging and Cable Labelling

This service involves tagging and labeling assets and cables with serial numbers and warranty information prior to the relocation. It is crucial for maintaining an organized and efficient relocation process and for streamlined asset management after the move.

6. Cable and Port Mapping

The creation of a detailed cable and port mapping matrix is a vital data center relocation service. This is achieved through onsite cable tracing. Accurate mapping ensures that all connections are correctly re-established at the new location. Quality checks are conducted to enhance the reliability of the process, thus preventing connectivity issues that might result from improper cable and port configurations during the move.

7. Equipment Packers and Handlers

Field engineers are responsible for the de-installation, reinstallation, and activation of data center devices. Their services are crucial in handling fragile, sensitive, and high-value IT equipment. Professional packing is used to protect this specialized equipment from physical damage during transportation.

8. End-to-End Uptime Assurance

Maintaining hardware reliability after a data center relocation is essential. An end-to-end uptime assurance service involves repairing or replacing any hardware that was functional before the move but fails afterward, thus minimizing service disruptions during the relocation. These services include sourcing local spare parts for quick hardware repairs.

Data Center Migration: An Alternative to Physical Relocation

Data center migration is the process of transferring data and applications between systems or storage devices, regardless of their locations. This process can include various forms of transitions such as moving to another on-site data center, switching between different hypervisors or virtualized environments, relocating to a third-party colocation facility, or migrating to a cloud-based environment. It offers an alternative to the physical movement of hardware involved in data center relocations.

Choosing to conduct a data center migration is particularly advantageous in environments bound by strict service level agreements (SLAs). It effectively minimizes downtime and ensures a reliable contingency plan in the event of any failures. Data center migrations are especially useful for replicating servers in a new location while keeping the current data center operational, either for staging purposes or as part of a disaster recovery plan. Additionally, they allow for necessary offline periods to build and thoroughly test the new environment.

READ MORE: Data Center Migration – A Comprehensive Guide to Moving

Server Relocation

Server relocation involves the physical transfer of server hardware and related equipment from one location to another, often as part of a data center relocation, office move, or infrastructure upgrade.

Professional Men with Uniforms Handling Server Relocation Activity

The most common methods for relocating servers include:

  • Dismounting Individual Servers: Each server is carefully removed from its rack, unplugged, and transported individually, often in protective cases. The server is then re-mounted back into a different rack at the new location
  • Moving Entire Racks with Servers Mounted: The entire server rack, with servers still installed, is moved to a new location using rolling platforms, pallet jacks, or forklifts
  • Using Specialized Server Lifters: Specialized server lifters are employed to safely lift, move, and reposition servers to a new location within the data center

The server relocation process requires careful planning to ensure minimal downtime, data integrity, and the safe transportation of sensitive and expensive IT equipment. It involves coordination between IT professionals, logistics experts, and specialized moving services to handle the unique needs of server equipment.

Server Relocation Services

Server relocation services are specialized offerings provided by IT and logistics companies to ensure the safe and efficient movement of server equipment and data centers from one location to another. Here are the most common services included in server relocation:

1. Pre-Move Planning and Consultation

  • Initial consultations to understand the customer’s needs and objectives for the relocation
  • Assessment of the current setup, identifying potential challenges, and drafting a detailed move plan that minimizes downtime
  • Risk assessment and contingency planning are key aspects of this service

2. Dismantling and Reassembly

  • Expert technicians carefully dismantle server racks and related equipment
  • Proper labeling and documentation are crucial to ensure efficient reassembly at the new location
  • Handling of cable management, ensuring all connections are properly reestablished

3. Packaging and Transportation

  • Anti-static packaging materials, foam inserts, climate-controlled packaging, among other techniques are used to protect sensitive server equipment during transit
  • Transportation is typically executed in climate-controlled, secure vehicles to safeguard the hardware from environmental factors and potential security threats

4. Installation and Configuration at New Site

  • Once at the new location, physical servers and related equipment are reassembled, installed, and configured
  • Setting up racks, cabling, and ensuring all hardware is properly mounted and connected
  • Testing and verification to ensure all systems are operational and meet the required performance criteria

5. Data Integrity and Continuity Services

  • Ensuring that data integrity is maintained throughout the relocation of computer systems
  • Services include data backup before the move and data restoration services at the new site
  • Continuity planning to minimize downtime and ensure that critical business functions remain operational during the move

Server Movers

Server movers are professionals specialized in safely relocating computer servers and associated hardware from one location to another. These moves typically involve both planning and execution, including the physical transport of servers, ensuring data integrity, and reestablishing network connections in the new location.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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