The challenges in migrating to a Software-Defined Data Centre

Migrating to a Software-Defined Data Centre enables a paradigm shift in the way you think about your IT infrastructure. Rather than the traditional approach of an architecture that is centred around how you want the infrastructure to work, you are creating an environment that focuses on what you want the infrastructure to achieve – the ‘intent-based’ approach.

Through working with many organisations embarking on technology transformation and in particular those making this fundamental move to SD Data Centre, there are a number of common challenges that we consistently see that I am sure will be familiar.

Minimising The Risk To Business Critical Applications

This goes hand in hand with the next challenge about migration. There is a risk that has to be managed and minimised when moving critical applications to a new infrastructure, however, you should not ignore the risk of continuing to run these critical applications on an aging or end of support infrastructure.

Leveraging Experience In Technology & Migration Methodologies

For most organisations and their IT team, this is the first time they have embarked on a migration to a SD-Data Centre environment such as Cisco ACI.  As with all technology migrations, there are multiple options available that you will need to take the time to fully understand , seek advice where necessary, and identify which are the most appropriate approaches for you.

Having A Full Understanding Of Existing Infrastructure & Services

In order to map your journey, it is critical that you fully understand where you are starting from. You need to fully understand and map how your critical business applications operate across your infrastructure. We find that many application owners, through no fault of their own, generally lack the deep understanding of how their applications work end to end

Avoiding Drift Before Benefits Realisation (ROI)

A business case is generally approved based on the fact that you will see a return on investment within a defined period of time. Any delays in the project will result in this benefit being eroded to a point where you may end up running your old and new environment side by side for an extended period. This not only becomes a support challenge but will ultimately result in you paying twice. A key challenge is to be able to accelerate the time to value.

The Need for a Defined End State Architecture Or Vision

Many organisations embark on their journey with a somewhat high-level objective, ‘we want an SDN capability’, ‘we want a hybrid cloud’, ‘we want to automate’.

Whilst all of these are valid and indeed possible, the most successful projects are where there is clarity of vision and a defined end-state architecture. Without this you are building elements in isolation and then trying to integrate further down the line which becomes far more complex and costly

Avoiding Internal Resistance

Whether it is resistance or lack of inclusion, it is critical you do not have a fragmented approach, you do not want to have your network teams and your server teams looking to install their own version of ‘SDN’.

It is essential that you get early involvement and inclusion of all of the stakeholders, in particular two teams that are traditionally left out until the end of the project:

(i) Internal Security teams

Companies generally have a well-trodden process in place for approval, such as firewall changes. Moving to an application centric approach with ACI will change the way approvals are required. Security now need to focus on the ‘policy’ around the security of the infrastructure or the application. Once this policy has been approved and transferred into an ACI contract model, then there are no more approvals required each time a new host or subnet is added to the application profile.

(ii) Operations teams

It is vitally important to get network operations teams involved at the very start of the project. The way that network issues manifest themselves and the subsequent troubleshooting methodology is fundamentally different with ACI and allowing these teams to be involved at inception will help with the transition into day two operations

Lack of Detailed Planning

The building of a fabric is generally a pretty quick process as most of the work can be automated and we have found that the build of an ACI fabric only takes roughly 10-20% of the time before the migrations can start. The rest of the time, and the most critical part, is taken up with detailed planning on what the new environment needs to look like to support the migrations and deliver on the desired outcomes.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the challenges that can be faced by organisations migrating to a Software-Defined Data Centre, but it includes those that we most commonly find and those which we feel should be high on the priority list to overcome in order to ensure success.

In the next blog in this series, we will outline our methodology for Cisco ACI deployment and highlight how this can de-risk migration and accelerate time to value.

If you are currently exploring a software-define data centre or expanding your multi-cloud environment and want to understand what is possible, why not join us on the 3rd of March at our Breakfast Briefing in London at the Cisco City office. For further details and to register your place, please see below:

Written by Neil Dearman, Head of Technology, HighPoint