Don't bring a knife to a gun fight...choose the right tools for your discovery needs
Quality discovery is the foundation of a successful Transformation or Migration.
Every decision you make, and action your team takes throughout your project will be based on the data you collect about your IT and Business environment. As you start your journey to new technology and/or a new target state, taking the right time and approach to your discovery is critical.
Today the market is flooded with tools that claim to be an easy button to this process, and although I advocate the use of tools to aid in your discovery, determining what your goals are and being honest with yourself about the quality of your existing data will only help you be successful in the end.
Your first step should be to set clear goals focused on what you hope to achieve, not everyone needs or wants to whisk their workloads away to the cloud, some may be undergoing a more traditional Data Center Migration, or may only need to gain a better understanding of their IT footprint. Do you simply want to find the hosts in your data center? The capacity and flow of your network? Or do you need to dive into the depths of your technology and understand dependencies between applications and servers that exist well inside the virtual and physical infrastructure? Do you need to prepare for a significant transformation of your environment? How soon do you need the information? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you begin the tool evaluation process. In short, know why are you doing this discovery, understand the time and effort you can invest into it (be aware of the risks if you get it wrong), and what data elements do you need. As you ask yourself these key questions you also need to determine, how intrusive can you be with your discovery? Eventually you will need to make the decision whether deploying an agent is an acceptable method for your organization.
The start of a complex transformation or migration project is a good time to be honest with yourself about the quality of data you already have. Almost all organizations I have engaged with have had data that is far below the accuracy and depth necessary to be successful. A tool will be helpful in extracting electronic information from your environment such as technology configuration, software installs, and communication flows. A full and effective discovery will require more than a tool can offer. You will need to understand how your business uses the technology in your environment, it is critical to establishing migration groups, methods, and timing that will limit or remove impact to critical business function. Context is key and cannot be delivered by a tool.
As you develop your checklist of required outcomes, and assess your needs, evaluate the market and question the “easy button”, encourage vendors to take you through details of how their tool accomplishes discovery and review samples of the output. Understand how tools will render the outcomes you need and measure those capabilities against the risk of deployment in your environment. Will you receive the results you require? Is the data provided more in depth than you can find using a native tool such as RV Tools? Be certain the tools you bring to the table are up to the challenge.
This article will be the first in a series of articles where we will provide evaluation and classification of tools popular in the market today (and maybe a few you have never heard of), the types of discovery capabilities available to you, and the right tools for different outcomes.