Achieving Zero Downtime Data Migration

By: Bernd Pruessing

Data migration—the process of preparing, extracting, and transforming data and transferring it from one system platform to another—is difficult. Research shows that 40 percent of data migration projects are over time, over budget, or fail entirely. Data migrations have become even more complex in recent years because of new technologies, such as virtualized functions in the data center, and new use cases like automation. These make it even more challenging to extract data from the source, transform it, and load it into the new target system.

For service providers and telecom operators, management systems are especially complicated and susceptible to the common challenges of data migration. After all, their networks have complex data models that encompass many different technologies from various suppliers. However, if the right framework is followed, a zero-downtime system replacement is achievable.

Reasons for data migration

First, let’s discuss why it is necessary to migrate data in the first place.

Network inventory management systems are vital for keeping track of IT and network assets. They make it possible to know what devices are on the network, what their configurations are and how they are interconnected, when software licenses will expire, and whether any assets are reaching end of life. They also enable the planning of new equipment for new customers, planning of changes for network optimization, and the dismantling of equipment when customers leave.

Every telecommunications company will, at some time, need to consolidate inventory systems or replace a legacy inventory management solution. One common reason is to address new technology challenges such as 5G rollouts or hybrid, VNF-based networks. These technologies have requirements that many current management systems are not able to handle. Virtual network functions, 5G, FTTx, and flex-grid optical networks all require more advanced methods than most older systems can provide.

A strategic goal of many operators is to accommodate new, comprehensive planning and network automation use cases, which may not be possible with existing tools. Manual documentation, which includes Excel, AutoCAD, and cable plans, are still in use but not compatible with the increasing dynamics in modern networks and the final goal of network automation. Eliminating fragmented system landscapes that have accumulated over time is another frequently cited reason. Often such fragmented solutions work in silos, with some combination of proprietary databases and specific inventory managements for data center IP network and DWDM network employed. Having multiple parallel systems like this is a drag on efficiency.

Whatever the trigger, the data within the inventory management system is an asset that must be properly documented. This data is the single source of truth for the network and supports critical business functions such as asset management, capacity management, equipment and service planning and rollouts, impact analysis, alarm enrichment and many others. Important decisions are made based on this data, so the system’s availability and its accuracy are of the utmost importance. A smooth, zero-downtime data migration and efficient go-live of the new system is essential to prevent operational damage and business impacts.

Adopting the delta migration methodology

Traditional data migration processes have inherent flaws that jeopardize migration success. These frameworks are based on sequential data dumps and multiple migration iterations and adaptation of migration rules. Each time a migration sequence is performed, the risk of content changes corrupting the final migration run is a real threat. This type of migration process also requires system downtime between shutting


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