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Data center modernization streamlined through data migration

Data center modernization projects can take many forms, like data migration, which helped one enterprise streamline its consolidation.

As enterprises look for ways to modernize their data center, one approach, data migration, has streamlined consolidation for lean IT shops.

Due to the rapid growth of technology, a data center cannot be expected to last much longer than five years without major adjustments, according to Clive Longbottom, co-founder and service director at Quocirca, an IT research company in the U.K.

But IT shops with lean budgets and very limited resources don't do data center modernization projects on that schedule.

"Our data center migration was long overdue," said Feroz Merchhiya, chief technology officer for California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA) in Glendale, Calif.

CIGA pays insurance claims of insolvent insurance carriers and is the largest guarantee fund in the United States. Whenever a claim arrived, Merchhiya had to spin up infrastructure through CIGA's managed hosting provider -- a laboring process.

Merchhiya knew it was time for an upgrade and searched for a simpler way to access CIGA's vast insurance records.

"When we started this process we looked at two things -- agility and consolidation," Merchhiya said.

Data migration across multiple environments

Merchhiya turned to Delphix Corp., a data management vendor based in Menlo Park, Calif., that helps enterprises migrate large, complex amounts of data quickly across a data center or cloud. Some of its customers include major companies such as Facebook, eBay, DirectTV and Comcast.

Its most recent product, Delphix Modernization Engine, creates, manages and archives virtual copies of applications, databases and files, and also assists with Unix-to-Linux conversions. Delphix claims to accelerate project completion by up to 50%.

Using Delphix has made a significant change. We can now run multiple instances with a full complement of data available.

Feroz Merchhiya, CTO, CIGA

Step one in CIGA's migration process was to ensure its records would be easily accessible and secure. Each company and insurance holder CIGA works with has a specific policy number, so it is crucial there is no conflicting data.

"When we bring external data into our systems, one of the key things we need to do is to make sure we bring the data into up-front testing and validation," Merchhiya said.

After virtualizing the data within databases, applications and files, Delphix shares data blocks across copies of each that act like a fully realized environment. Each copy only takes a small amount of space and can be created within minutes.

Previously, the quickest turnaround through CIGA's managed hosting provider was 24 hours, or 48 for a nonpriority. With Delphix, Merchhiya said he can access records in a manner of minutes.

"We can now run multiple instances with a full complement of data available," he said.

In addition, Delphix allows database moves to be carried out as an effective extract, transform and load engine, and it allows for a move from an on-premises application to Software as a Service, Longbottom said.

Delphix virtualized most of CIGA's environment and about 80% of its applications, and Merchhiya has seen "easily a 50% reduction in cost" since using Delphix.

"If I had to set up environments for three developers, it would have tripled the cost," he said.

Pricing for Delphix Modernization Engine varies, but starts at $200,000, depending how many applications a company is moving, a company spokesperson said.

Delphix alternatives scarce -- for now

While Delphix offers a unique platform for enterprises, it isn't going to be alone in the market for long, said Trevor Pott, an IT consultant with eGeek Consulting in Edmonton, Alberta.

Similar tools could be built with scripting and some of the replication capabilities intrinsic to a given platform. An example is MySQL's replication abilities, but the coding is very complex, Pott said.

Other data management vendors include CommVault Systems, which uses native SAN snapshot capability, and Actifio, which creates virtual point-in-time copies of data on demand.

Traditional data management companies are there to prevent data loss, but may be slow and inconvenient when it comes to data reversion, examining the data as it existed at a previous point in time, Pott said.

"The best way of looking at [Delphix] is either snapshots on steroids or volume shadow copy for your database," he said.

Pott cautioned to always have a backup system in place in addition to Delphix.

"Any decent backup company can do incremental backups with versioning," Pott said. "The issue is getting that data out of the backup and restored in a usable form."

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