First, you can opt not to switch manufacturers at all. Many suppliers have the ability to do "data in place" upgrades between platforms. You simply connect the old storage shelves to the new storage controllers and start accessing data. Be careful, though. All is not as it would seem. Sometimes this transfer requires a maintenance window where applications need to be down. Also in some cases the older storage cannot benefit from the performance and enhancements the newer controllers may offer.
The big challenge, however, is that the shelf may not go all the way up the manufacturers product family. So, for example, if you purchase a midrange system and at some point need an enterprise system you may not be able to take your data with you … not by merely plugging it in, anyway.
If you do want to switch suppliers to get better performance, storage management capabilities, or price point, then you need to look at some sort of migration tool. A few manufacturers have the ability to support other manufacturer's storage and can absorb them into their environment. You need to be watchful here, too. First, you need to make sure how that absorption will work. In some cases, it may mean that the storage will be supported but the data needs to be reloaded. In others, it may mean that it can be supported and managed but none of the new software capabilities can be taken advantage of.
In many cases, if you are switching platforms you need to get a separate tool just to do the migration. Most of the storage manufacturers have either a specific tool or a professional service offering to help you with the migration. Negotiate this up front, these can be expensive "oopses" to miss. Other manufacturers like Incipient have optimized their storage management application to offer a subset of it that just does migration.
Part of the solution is to keep primary storage as small as possible -- yes, here I go on about archiving again. In the next entry, we will look at how archive can help with migration and how archives themselves need to handle migrations.
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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.