A Conversation with Qualified Services Partner HelioStor’s Steve Maher

Recently we sat down with Steve Maher, Managing Director of HelioStor, to discuss how “free” data migration tools, specifically VMware Storage vMotion, are not necessarily free, but come with a hefty cost. We also discuss how purchasing a solution, specifically Cirrus DMS, will cut costs and risk in innovative ways you may not have thought to consider.

Could you tell us a little about HelioStor and your experience with data migration?
HelioStor is a leading technology services company specializing in the data center area. Our 20-year company history is in delivering IT services to risk adverse enterprise customers with business-critical systems and low tolerance to service disruption. We help organizations get the most from their IT systems by offering expert technical and consultative services to minimize risk, reduce cost, and meet their business needs.

What do you suggest your customers do at the start of a data migration project when they are choosing a data migration solution?
Any data migration project will go more smoothly if you take some time to plan on the front end. We ask our customers to think about what really happened during their last migration and try to remember what went well and what problems and obstacles they ran into. Questions we ask include: Was the data migration completed on time? On budget? Was the live production environment impacted? Were there impacts to other IT projects because of the time spent on manual migration tasks? Did production requirements impact your migration schedules? We try to get our customers to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, so they can fully appreciate the benefits of the tools that are available to them for this migration project.

Many consider Storage vMotion as the obvious choice for data migration of VMware virtualized environments, it’s free and it seems everyone is using it. Steve, why do you think Storage vMotion is often not the least expensive solution?
Storage vMotion becomes unwieldy as the data volume increases, particularly for migrations over 50TB. Anything larger than this and the system constraints imposed by vCenter increase risk, effort, and extend project timescales. Using built-in tools like Storage vMotion requires high levels of manual activity and increased man hours for a successful migration due to the monitoring and troubleshooting involved. Also, and rather importantly, the fact that you can’t gauge the impact of Storage vMotion to a system in advance, or use previous activities as a benchmark, means that this risk is usually mitigated by scheduling migrations in the evenings and weekends. The impact of Storage vMotion on the I/O subsystem is often glossed over and heavily underestimated. The illustrative example in our soon to be released white paper shows how quickly the impact becomes significant, in this case to 48 times the production throughput for the migrating VM. In practice, Storage vMotion rates are influenced by many factors and the impact on systems is directly linked to the elapsed time to migrate the data. All of these requirements add up to higher costs for your data migration and many organizations don’t recognize this when they cost a project, often leaving operations budgets to carry additional workload.

How does purchasing a solution like Cirrus DMS save your customers money?
DMS simplifies data migration with automation, intelligent QoS (iQoS), and moving the workload away from the production hosts. DMS features, such as automated environment discovery, automated target configuration, and iQoS save time performing the migration and money spent not only on migration tools but staff overtime and maintenance fees. Cost is only part of the equation; these same features massively reduce impact and risk for your critical business systems.

How much faster is DMS compared to Storage vMotion?
Typically, we see project timescales in the order of 2.5 times faster with DMS compared to Storage vMotion. DMS iQoS enables you to schedule and throttle your data transfers, it also automatically monitors and adjusts to the current workload efficiently utilizing all 24 hours of the day without impact. This translates to a 16-week Storage vMotion migration turning into a 6-week DMS migration.

What advice do you give your customers coming to you for data migration who are considering using Storage vMotion?
Look hard at the real cost of migration. Budget for the migration activity as a project in its own right and avoid expecting operational staff to fit activities into their business as usual timetable. This will provide an apple to apples comparison with the cost of using the right tool for the job. Where possible quantify risk. Long and overrun timescales, business outages, postponed and rerun activities are just a few areas that can drive costs in the wrong direction.

Utilizing the right tool will reduce the effort, resources, and cost required to migrate your data. Your OPEX savings from reduced timelines and early decommissioning of end of support storage hardware will be significant. We have seen time and time again that a “free” tool, like Storage vMotion, costs customers far more than expected with overrunning budgets and timescales; the savings in using a migration tool, such as Cirrus Data Solutions’ DMS would pay for itself several times over. HelioStor is a Cirrus Data Qualified Services Partner and we offer efficient and low cost fixed price migration project delivery with DMS. Cirrus Data DMS migrations are proven to reduce cost, timescales, risk, and impact to production environments.