Life’s Like a Jigsaw, You Get the Straight Bits But There’s Something Missing in the Middle

In 1085 CE, King William I of England decided to survey his domain. Having taken over the place a dozen years earlier (hence his byname, William the Conqueror*), William decided that he needed to know what exactly he possessed. Commissioners trooped over William’s realm to see what was out there, write it down, and bring back the data. The research was compiled and written in Domesday Book–a monumental survey of all the places and property in England, along with the owners thereof.

In like manner, the indefatigable Dana Doten has been charged with surveying the realm of Vance 212, Wharton’s datacenter. Dana works for Enquizit, one of our partners on this migration engagement. Like William’s commissioners, Dana has been working for the past month identifying what we have and who it belongs to. As of March 1, 2019 that’s nineteen physical servers and 211 virtual servers.

Dana is now identifying the owners, the people who will say what happens with these 230 servers. For some systems this will be straightforward. A server may have one application running on it, with no dependencies. In such a simple case, we identify who owns the application, the person or group who uses the application or who manages it on behalf of students, faculty or staff at Wharton. That owner tells us which of six fates will befall the application and its server: 1) It could be lifted and shifted to the cloud; 2) It could be lifted, tweaked and shifted; 3) It could be migrated to a new platform, like Salesforce; 4) It could be rewritten to run in the cloud (the fate of ColdFusion applications); 5) It could be retired; or 6) it could be relocated to some other data center.

That makes the project sound like a jigsaw puzzle. All Dana need do is identify all the pieces that make up the puzzle. Then, we take the pieces apart, one by one, and reassemble (most of) them in the cloud.

For most of these servers and applications, though, there are dependencies. Does the application use a database? That’s a dependency. Does the application require a Pennkey and password? That’s a dependency. It’s less like a jigsaw puzzle and more like a living being, with connections all over the place. A finger, for example, is connected to a hand, and the muscles of the finger attach to the forearm. But the finger’s nerves connect to the brain, and it’s blood vessels rely on the heart. So Dana cannot simply trace out a two-dimensional puzzle. Instead, he’s drawing an écorché. Connections from one system may be made all over, and there’s no limit to the complexity.

Once that finely detailed rendering is completed, it will be transferred to Skymap**, an application developed by Enquizit. Skymap will allow us to determine candidates for the migration pilot, and will also be used to order the migration of all the systems we are lifting and shifting this summer.

* It’s a pity we don’t have bynames anymore. Who wouldn’t want to work for Dean Geoffrey the Wise, conferred the fief of Wharton by President Amy the Bold? (On the other hand, it would be no fun to work for Manfred the Unready, Megan the Terrible, or Thad the Impaler.)

** Not Skynet