Tips for Data Centers Looking to Switch Operating Systems
Data centers change their primary operating system for a variety of reasons, including improving scalability and elasticity or modernizing legacy infrastructure. However, leading the migration of a data center operating system can present a complex challenge for data center administrators, with many complex processes and strategies.
Plan a data center migration to a new operating system with strong direction. Be proactive, recognize any obstacles you may face, and plan ahead for a way around them.
The operating system in the data center
The operating system used by a data center can vary, but the majority of platforms are based on or are compatible with Linux. Linux is well known for its incredible flexibility and versatility, thanks in large part to its open source nature and very active global community. Because anyone can use Linux freely, developers around the world have created custom setups suitable for almost any purpose.
The modular nature of Linux also makes it a natural fit for the cloud – easy to scale and keep pace with potentially rapid data center growth. Some of the world’s largest cloud platforms are based on hardened versions of Linux, including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
Many existing data center operating systems are compatible with Linux, but each operating system often serves a specific purpose. For example, Kubernetes allows Docker containers to be configured into clusters of interacting services. It automatically takes resource density replication and service clustering into account and intelligently schedules these factors. Photon, on the other hand, works as a minimal Linux container host with a focus on fast booting on VMware platforms.
When considering changing a data center’s primary operating system, research open source operating system options first. This can give an idea of which platforms exist, which ones are popular, and what specific functions they perform.
Operating system migration
Some operating systems handle scaling better than others. So, over time, a data center may require a system better suited for performance, agility, or flexibility. As complexity increases, consider an operating system that can consolidate controls for easier management.
When migrating to a new primary operating system, design a thoughtful operating system migration plan, including the following steps:
- Take a detailed inventory. A comprehensive and newly updated data center audit helps an organization understand everything connected and dependent on the operating system. Since data centers must remain operational 24/7, the goal of an audit and plan should be to minimize disruption as much as possible. Be sure to list all hardware mappings, software applications, storage layers, and network configurations. This can help prioritize enabling workflows after migration.
- Develop a project management plan. Have a plan in place that explicitly outlines what actions you need to take and when. This helps avoid disruptions and provides clear next steps at each stage of the migration. Address the simplest aspects of migration upfront and break down the complexity into easy-to-follow processes.
- Begin the execution phase. As you move from planning to execution, confirm that you have the correct version of the new operating system, with the latest upgrades and patches to maintain security. Even a single mistake during this phase can open vulnerabilities for hackers looking for an easy way out, so take the time to configure everything appropriately. Test your applications repeatedly, checking access to servers and databases. Run in bulk phases to minimize disruption, which you should designate in your planning phase.
- Adjust and optimize. Once everything has been tested and the new operating system is live, always plan to do periodic reviews of the operating system and how it supports the applications running on it. Optimize management controls through fine-tuning and regularly assess performance and configuration.