When is a ‘Lift & Shift’ approach appropriate, and when is it not?
The lift and shift approach is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to migrate existing workloads to the cloud. It takes the application and its associated data as-in and runs it on cloud-native resources without having to redesign the app.
While business leaders may think of it as an outdated approach, there are instances where it works the best. But first, let’s understand what is ‘Lift and Shift’ approach is, the situations where the approach is the best way forward, and when it’s better to look for alternatives.
What is the ‘Lift and Shift’ approach?
The ‘lift-and-shift approach’, also known as re-hosting, means moving a copy of an existing application into your chosen cloud platform, with minimal redesigning or modification made to the workload.
It opens paths to IT modernization by effectively “lifting” a more extensible architecture from the existing environment and “shifting” it as-is to a new hosting premises i.e the cloud. One of the main reasons for considering this approach is that it saves significant costs during a migration.
It allows businesses to:
- Clone their on-premise apps in the cloud without having to spend time redesigning them.
- Migrate existing workloads to the cloud while running them on cloud-native resources without the expense of code or configuration changes.
- Move to the cloud faster with reduced costs, improved performance, and better resilience.
When is the ‘Lift and Shift’ approach appropriate to use?
Here are some of the situations where the approach is best to adopt:
- When facing a hard deadline or having the pressure to leave a data center or on-premise environment.
Lift and Shift is a feasible option if you are facing a hard deadline for closing the data center, or you need to vacate it, or terminate your lease. It’s also a viable option when you need a hardware refresh since the approach takes a copy of your application and moves it to the cloud with minimal modification.
Though you may still have to reconfigure the host while moving to a new cloud environment, the approach will take less time and investment compared to other migration strategies. Just like what Netflix did back in 2008 when corruption in the data centers made it impossible for customers to purchase DVDs.
To expand further and avoid downtime in the future, Netflix decided to break its monolith architecture and digitalize the workflows. Using the Lift and Shift approach it migrated to a more flexible and resilient platform and mitigated future risks.
- When your on-premise infrastructure costs are skyrocketing and you’re not quite ready to rearchitect your applications.
In such a case, the lift and shift approach helps you to briefly park your application on the cloud, until you are ready to rearchitect. Only resource-intensive legacy applications such as medical or engineering imaging, digital animation, and big-data analytics are restricted as they tend to accelerate pay-by-use cloud fees more quickly than you can predict.
- When you want to modernize an application but don’t have the information on refactoring it.
Refactoring an application means rewriting one or more components of the application to take advantage of the cloud service. To foster agility while migration, cloud engineers often dissect the application or processes into smaller elements.
But what if there isn’t much information available to understand how the application was built and how it works? In such circumstances, the lift and shift approach is the most appropriate strategy. Once the application is migrated to the cloud, it can be optimized or even replace later.
- When you need less-costly, more scalable backup and recovery
Lift and Shift is a great option if you need to opt for an inexpensive and scalable backup and recovery. Moving backups from on-premises hardware to the cloud give an organization a second highly available site.
- When you don’t have a team experienced in cloud-native technologies.
Suppose there’s a need for increased storage or a new compute platform but your current data center is not fit for the purpose. In such a case, lift and shift can be an effective solution as it is the most straightforward way to cloud. Though the immediate business needs will be addressed, the costs can go a little high. This is why it is only acceptable if businesses have a plan to grow and modernize their applications in near future.
Though, Lift and Shift is an effective strategy, here are a few instances where it is not an optimal move.
- When you are looking for a long-term solution.
Lift and shift can be used as a quick-fix solution when you are bound to tight deadlines. However, it’s not a good option for long-term benefits, as you will eventually have to modernize your applications and code to take full advantage of the cloud. In short, you can’t escape modernization if you are looking to reap long-term benefits from your cloud migration.
- When you have in-house applications.
As in-house applications or custom applications are specifically built for legacy software they are harder to lift and shift to the cloud. They may either not function fully in the new environment or be completely incompatible with the cloud. In such a case, it is better to recode the applications before migrating them to the cloud for higher efficiency down the line.
- When the goal is to reduce costs and improve agility.
Following a Lift and Shift approach will certainly cost more than keeping the applications in the previous environment. Though other migration strategies might cost more than the lift and shift approach, they will offer better cloud management and agility. Lift and shift is not a good option if you are looking to reduce cost and improve agility as it requires changes to the infrastructure of applications which does not align with the approach.
Is the ‘Lift and Shift’ approach right for your organization?
You might have heard that it’s not the decision to migrate to the cloud that helps you save cost and improve speed but how you do it. Yet, there’s no one size fits all. Lift and shift migration may promise less effort compared to other migration strategies but it’s not always the best migration model. Much depends on the size of your company, workload, and use case.
The best way to decide what works for your organization is by gauging parameters like the time you have to migrate, the budget of migration, on-premise applications and data, and your current IT environment. Make sure your chosen cloud strategy does not compromise on performance and long-term possibilities.
Past server metrics and insight into data can help you understand your current infrastructure and make better decisions avoiding risks and wrong strategies. If you need any further guidance on selecting a cloud strategy, reach out to us.