Yes you can: a SharePoint migration story

SharePoint 2013 is exciting. It's new, full of great features, and is the platform of the future. Unfortunately, as many of us know, moving a large enterprise to a new platform is a large and sometimes daunting task. That's why I was so excited when a customer recently approached us asking about the feasibility of moving to SharePoint 2013 in stages.

A hybrid environment. A Cyborg perhaps? Making SharePoint 2010 better, faster, stronger! Oh my...

The premise was quite simple: Can we take the services that power SharePoint 2010 - the brains of the operation - and move them to SharePoint 2013, while leaving the content where it is? We knew in theory that native SharePoint would support this model. We knew that Social Sites 3.5 shared a common code-base that ran on both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. The challenge came in proving that we could migrate the services, retain functionality in a hybrid multi-farm environment, and do it without compromising or losing any data.

I'm sure I'm not providing any spoilers as I tell you that it was an unmitigated success. From a high-level the process is quite simple. Practically, there are a quite a number of small but important steps involved. Somewhere in the middle I'm hoping there is a coherent explanation that will provide the essence of how we managed it.

Even though we were moving from a single SharePoint 2010 farm to a parent-child multi-farm model, we were able to model off the TechNet article, "Upgrade farms that share services (parent and child farms) to SharePoint 2013."

Steps 2 through 5 give us the following:

2. Create the SharePoint 2013 Farm
3. Upgrade the Search Service Application and index the 2010 Farm
4. Upgrade the other SharePoint Services
5. Switch the services connection to SharePoint 2013 services farm

At that point we’re done!

Well not quite. Since Social Sites is dependent on certain SharePoint services, namely the User Profile Service Application, we have to insert a couple of extra steps. Once we do that, the process looks like this:

2. Create the SharePoint 2013 Farm
2a. Upgrade Social Sites 2010 to version 3.5 (The first version to work on both SharePoint 2010 and 2013)
3. Upgrade the Search Service Application and index the 2010 Farm
4. Upgrade the other SharePoint Services
4a. Install Social Sites 3.5 on SharePoint 2013
4b. Upgrade the Social Sites services
5. Switch the services connection to SharePoint 2013 services farm

For those of you who like a visual representation, we move from this:
Through this:

And arrive at this:

From this point, the existing web applications in the SharePoint 2010 farm continued to work. All the Social data was retained, and to the end user it appeared as if nothing had happened.

But now comes the good part. New web applications on the 2013 farm were able to connect to the same services and take advantages of the new features of SharePoint 2013. Communities were available in both 2010 and 2013. Activities performed in 2013 were available in the 2010 Activity stream, and activities performed in legacy communities were available in the 2013 activity stream. Seamless integration.

Of course the customer was thrilled that we were able to help them out, but the bigger picture is that this enables a huge number of possibilities to our other clients. It eases the burden of transition, and allows new features and functionality to be gradually introduced rather than requiring the entire platform to be transitioned.

If any of the above sounds like it would be a good fit, please let us know. NewsGator Services would be happy to work with you on a plan that merges the human-centric benefits of new technology, with the technical realities of IT infrastructure.


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