Rackspace Uses Lean Six Sigma for Data Center Physical Migrations 

In the data center industry, physical migrations and consolidations are a necessary evil.  

While the electrical and mechanical infrastructure of a data center may last up to 20 years, the network requirements are advancing so fast that an expensive network backbone can become obsolete in less than half that time. Add increased operational complexity and data center sprawl through acquisitions, mergers and technology shifts, and a migration or data center consolidation becomes necessary.   

For too many companies that have executed physical migrations as part of a consolidation effort, the planning likely took months, yet still created days of downtime and countless man-hours for recovery, causing a considerable drain and disruption to the enterprise.  

This is where Lean Six Sigma comes in. At Rackspace, we’ve physically migrated more than 48,000 devices and have developed an impressive migration methodology built on Lean Six Sigma principles, purpose-built tools and a dedicated team to minimize the downtime associated with migrations. There may not be another company with this level of experience in the industry; not only does Rackspace have extensive experience, our migrations are executed in a way unparalleled in the industry. 

Migration preparation 

Rackspace goes to great lengths to prepare for physical data center migrations. Multiple test migrations are executed, testing all aspects of the migration, including the automation controlling device shutdown and configuration, network connectivity and all aspects of the operational logistics, including carts, trucks, containers, signs, etc. Hardware sparing levels are evaluated for all migrating devices to ensure availability in the case of a component failure. 

Check out a Rackspace data center migration in action:

Physical migration preparation occurs at both the source and destination locations. All devices being moved are labeled with move group details. Cabinet audits are performed and network ports are color coded to mistake-proof (poka-yoke) connectivity at the destination location. 

Using the Lean Six Sigma principles of 5S and Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), each cabinet at the destination location is prepared with the required cables cut to length to match the port location of the device being moved to that particular U-space. Templates have been created such that preparation is made to exactly match the migrating device enabling meticulous cabling upon migration. Power strips, power cords, fiber, cage nuts, server rails, etc. are all staged in the cabinet in preparation to receive the migrating devices and minimize downtime (shifting “internal” activities to “external”). 

Conducting the migration 

On the scheduled migration night, the dedicated team performs final validations. Automation then runs to suppress monitoring/alerts, perform any required pre-shut down commands and begin powering devices down gracefully with configuration changes made to match their destination location. Devices are then removed from cabinets and transported to the destination location. 

As devices arrive in the destination location, they are racked in the appropriate cabinets and powered on. Due to the pre-cabling and the network port color coding, the process moves quickly. The dedicated team begins confirming IPs, backups, connectivity, etc. Our proprietary automation provides connectivity validation as devices on the screen turn green as each host becomes available via each network service. When complete, mass tickets are sent to customers notifying them of the end of the migration.  

At Rackspace, we can’t eliminate the need to perform migrations, but by leveraging continuous improvements through Lean Six Sigma principles, we ensure they’re executed in a world class manner. 

Learn more about Rackspace data center consolidation and migration services.

Jim Hawkins is the vice president of global data center operations and engineering at Rackspace, where he oversees the company’s worldwide network of data centers and other critical infrastructure and operations. Jim joined Rackspace in 2008, initially serving as director of operational excellence. Since then, he has held several positions, including director of U.S. data centers and senior director of global data center operations. Jim has brought a number of strengths to these roles, including a specialized knowledge of Lean Six Sigma methodology and operational discipline. While serving in each of his roles at Rackspace, he incorporated his knowledge of these principles into the design and daily operation of Rackspace’s critical infrastructure and teams transforming their performance. As Jim approaches his 10th year at Rackspace, he continues to make a significant impact on the performance of the company. Recently, he enhanced the operational rigor of Rackspace network operations through fleet management principles. When he’s not busy working towards his professional goals, he enjoys daily exercise, working on his landscaping projects, spending time with his wife and coaching his three sons on the soccer field. Before he joined Rackspace, Jim was a plant manager and North American fiberglass fabrics manager at Owens Corning, where he turned a struggling $40 million division into a very profitable business by leveraging his knowledge of Lean Six Sigma methodology. He earned his BS in marketing at Westminster College, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and received his MBA, with high honors, at Purdue University.


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