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Migration best practices: Budget and plan as if taking a business vacation

VacationIs a migration as much fun as a vacation? That seems like an easy question for the HP 3000 homesteader who's still got a transition in their future. Only a small percentage of the managers of these servers plan to homestead forever. For the rest of the installed base, this transition is a matter of when, rather than if.

With its feet in both camps of homesteading and migration, MB Foster held a webinar yesterday that delivered best practices for the CIO, IT director or even systems and programming manager who faces the someday of moving away. When an organization with the tenure of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga shuts down its servers -- after 37 years of service -- it might be evidence that migration is an eventuality. A possibility for some sites.

For those that still have that mighty project on their futures calendars, the advice from Foster mirrors things like home remodeling and vacation planning. 

"This is a business decision, not a technical decision," CEO Birket Foster has always said, in delivering these practices over more than a decade. "A migration’s just like a vacation –- the more you plan, the less it costs, and the better the results." Perhaps the comparison might align with the concept of taking a business vacation. That's the sort where you tack on a few extra days to a business trip, and carry along the same set of bags while you go further.

MB Foster's eight-step process takes HP 3000 customers through migration with in-depth planning and expertise. A key piece is understanding the business and technical baselines, as well as an assessment of the business and technical goals of the migrating company. The results of the assessment form a plan presented in a one-day Executive-Level Workshop which highlights the major issues and recommendations of migration.

The work takes place side-by-side with a customer's IT staff, producing a complete evaluation of a company's data environment. The company's experts put data in flight with Data Blueprints, Software Selection, and Staffing Plans.

"What we've found in best practices is that you should do a skills matrix, for both the baseline and target," Foster advises. "When you go to put in a new application, you'll have to install and configure it, have a changed end-user workflow, and perhaps changes in the skills required to do this. You'll have changes in IT operations, and there may be application program interfaces that need configuration, so they talk to the normal systems."

You assess, plan and implement, Foster says. The assessment breaks across two scopes of responsibility. "From our best practices we know you have to establish two baselines," Foster says. "One's on the technical side, and the other is on the business side. When people establish a technical baseline, they sometimes fail to go through and check with the business side folks. You must ask them if they had a magic wand, what they want the application to do differently than the way it behaves today."

You measure your total cost of ownership over five years to get a true budget for the budget on a migration. Objectives are to mitigate risks, but do not assume you'll migrate your existing applications. 80 percent of the customers following best practices buy a replacement application off the shelf, rather than pour money into re-engineering existing code. Software selection practices use the assessment framework as for the entire migration process. Look at 3-7 packages. Some surround code -- the sorts of programs that aid an MPE app -- might be taken along or re-integrated.

Cleaning data is key to a successful implementation of any migration. That can mean partnering with data experts, especially some who know your current as well as future database environments. Your data migration solution should decide how much data to keep, whether the 3000 data will be a part of your main application, and determine requirements for cleaning enough to go live.

The best practices mirror the weeks and months that you'd spend before taking a trip. With travel, this can be a way of experiencing the journey before ever leaving home. With migrations, it's a way of visualizing and budgeting for the waypoints that will get a shop onto a new application while not interrupting business flow.

"Like when you say you'll go on a trip, at first it's just a concept," Foster said. "You figure out if you're driving, or going by plane. You figure where you're staying, who am I meeting. Those all have more detail, but at the high level it's assess, plan and implement."