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Server migration 2015

With support from the University’s Division of Finance and Administration and through major orchestration, precision and collaboration, Information Technology Services moved 155 F&A servers from across campus into ITS data centers, enabling the closure of seven F&A data centers.

The huge project with F&A—a new customer for ITS—was so successful that it was achieved seamlessly with minor interruption to University business. ITS moved most of the servers on Saturday, May 9, while tackling the other servers over a few weekday evenings and several weekend days in April.

This consolidation of F&A servers into ITS space “helps the University meet its goals of operating more efficiently, saving energy and reducing our carbon footprint,” said Craig Hyatt, project lead and an IT Director with ITS.

The project also demonstrated the importance of collaboration, coordination and checklists and the ability of ITS “to take on large projects and new customers

Craig Hyatt, UNC-Chapel Hill ITS
Craig Hyatt

with excellence,” said Tim McGuire, Director of ITS Campus Infrastructure Services.

Repeated practice, inventories and checklists were key

Over seven weeks, ITS held 20 customer meetings with six major business units within F&A to hear from the people directly affected. ITS asked them about system dependencies and the least disruptive times for brief outages. Then ITS conducted practice run after run, inventory after inventory and checklist after checklist. By the time it came to make the move, “it was like second nature,” Hyatt said.

“Moving all these servers with minimal disruption did not happen by luck,” said Ray Reitz, F&A’s IT Director. “It resulted from many weeks of planning and communication. I was extremely impressed with the precision that the ITS Infrastructure & Operations team displayed during the event.”

Project “went off better than we expected”

Ray DeCristofaro, ITS Director for Enterprise Operations, and his Data Center Operations staff performed the actual physical moves from rack to rack. “It went off better than we expected,” DeCristofaro said. “All the pre-planning, the planning and going over the planning just worked. Even the machines cooperated. They all came back.”

During the move, some servers were down as briefly as two-and-a-half hours. Also, some outages took four hours less than anticipated, Hyatt said.

Stellar interdepartmental cooperation

Tim McGuire, UNC-Chapel Hill ITS
Tim McGuire

This, DeCristofaro added, was “some of the better interdepartmental cooperation I’ve seen in my 21-year-career within ITS and outside ITS.”

Through this project, McGuire said, ITS “built bridges that will be used to provide even more value to the University.”

The relocated servers are used by some significant University operations—Student Stores’ point-of-sale and inventory system, F&A’s Web Services, and the work management systems for Energy Services and Facilities. Also affected were Environment Health and Safety’s Hazardous Materials Management System (HASMIS), the One Card system, CCI Printing’s Pharos system and MICROS, the POS system for all the Dining Services locations.

“We’re talking major pieces of the campus,” DeCristofaro said. The “scope of the services and the people we would affect” made this project “extremely tenuous.”

Now servers housed in ITS’ sophisticated data centers

While most of the spaces that previously housed the F&A servers had dedicated cooling and power, the ITS Franklin and ITS Manning data centers are sophisticated facilities that provide around-the-clock management and back-up redundancies. Also, the migration frees up space for the various F&A operations where the servers were stored. Among others, locations included the Student Stores’ Daniels Building, Giles Horney and Rams Head Building. In addition, now that the equipment is at Franklin and Manning, some of the servers will be converted to virtual machines, saving additional space.

Ray Reitz, Director of Information Technology for Finance and Administration, UNC-Chapel Hill
Ray Reitz

While the Data Center Operations staff members handled the physical moves, Campus Infrastructure Support staff conducted the inventory as well as technical communications, application support, labeling and post-move testing. Networking and Telecommunications staff members, meanwhile, also invested a large amount of effort in all the network setups.

“We are very fortunate to have such a talented and committed team supporting us,” Reitz said.

McGuire, meanwhile, lauded Reitz for his strong support. “Ray along with Jim Gabris and the F&A Desktop support team,” McGuire said, “were instrumental in providing communications, end user coordination and testing.”

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