General rule of thumb: if your hardware is older than 3 to 4 years, it's probably time for an upgrade. Manufacturers are improving their offerings quite literally on a yearly basis and if you're not keeping up, your service capabilities will eventually suffer.
Of course, you do not need to perform a system upgrade yearly…but chances are there are components living in your data center that have reached end of life and could be compromising your service levels. Good news is that upgrading your data center doesn't have to be so disruptive that your executive team will not give the project their blessing.
Step 1: Catalog all Components in the Data Center
If you've got management software, you're in good shape for this step. A good management software will help you keep track of all the components in your data center so you won't have to go digging around doing it the hard way.
But, what you're mainly looking for are those pieces of hardware that are either 3-4 years old or are almost at end of service. It's important to know that even if your hardware isn't quite at the "too old to function" phase, you could potentially be confronted with a huge issue down the road if they no longer will be covered under their warranty or if the manufacturer will no longer provide support for that particular generation of product. If you find hardware in your data center that falls under these categories, it may be time to upgrade.
Step 2: Map Your Plan of Attack
This may go without saying, but once you've discovered all components which need to be swapped for newer, fancier versions, you've got to map out how you plan to navigate this upgrade. This includes:
- Choosing the hardware you'll be installing in the data center (is it the best choice for the daily applications you run? Do you have room in the data center for the new components? Etc.)
- Determining which applications need to be up and when (according to the business)
- Advising all affected parties of the ensuing upgrade
- Devising a provisioning schedule (for example only upgrade 3 servers at a time while the others are still running applications)
- Testing, testing, testing
Step 3: Execute Migration
The third step here is to go ahead and go for it. Be sure that you have "in case of" plans so that you aren't causing any major disruptions to the everyday workflow and keep in mind – data center upgrades never go perfectly. Expect for something to go awry. Just be sure that you've allowed yourself extra time to deal with it.