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Organizations are increasingly making the decision to migrate their IT operations to a cloud environment. Whether the move is driven by cost considerations, flexibility, or security reasons, transferring from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud-based one can be a considerable undertaking. Not only must data be transferred, but any applications and operations currently deployed in physical servers will also need to make the move.
That’s where “lift and shift” comes in.
Lift and shift is a term used to describe the strategy of removing workloads and tasks from one storage location and placing them in another, usually cloud-based, location. The advantage of lift and shift is that it allows organizations to move their applications quickly and easily without having to re-architect them. While the process is sometimes characterized as “cutting and pasting,” it requires a great deal more forethought, documentation, and planning to ensure that data sets will be matched with handling systems in the new environment and that the applications will have all the resources they need to operate effectively.
As one might expect, lift and shift isn’t a perfect solution for every situation. Here are a few considerations you should take into account as you develop your cloud migration strategy.
Lift and shift is generally a quick and easy way to eliminate the expensive overhead costs of maintaining on-premises servers. By simply rehosting applications in a cloud environment, organizations can continue to operate with minimal service interruption and avoid the high potential costs of rebuilding or redesigning their systems. In many cases, however, this also means that applications may not be optimized to take advantage of the new environment, which can result in companies negating some of those cost savings due to inefficiency.
Sooner or later, assets that have been lifted and shifted into a new environment are going to have to be redesigned to take full advantage of the available cost-efficiencies. While shifted applications don’t usually need to be rebuilt from the ground up, they may not perform as effectively as possible without a bit of tweaking. Fortunately, lift and shift makes it possible to make necessary changes over time without compromising crucial business operations. Once everything is in the public cloud, it’s a simple matter of making minor adjustments as needed, avoiding the problem of maintaining two separate infrastructures and putting off migration until everything is “just right.”
While it’s usually a simple matter to lift and shift commercial applications to the cloud, moving more complex programs that are especially resource intensive presents much greater challenges. Since most of these programs are custom-built to address a company’s specific needs, they’re often not able to operate effectively in a typical cloud environment without modification. They may even require the implementation of a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud deployment.
For programs that perform processing-heavy big data analysis or image rendering, a complete re-architecting is often the best solution to take advantage of cloud computing’s potential. This redesign can usually be carried out after lifting and shifting the application, but it needs to be done before the program is rolled out for use to avoid potential performance and latency issues. In addition to requiring additional time and up-front expense, redesigning applications can also potentially result in lost capabilities or vendor lock-in.
Many organizations are still operating on the same IT infrastructure they initially invested in a generation ago. Years of ad hoc updates and workaround solutions can leave data environments looking like something out of a developer’s nightmares. In many cases, companies would probably be better served by discarding their existing infrastructure and adopting cloud-based applications. They will still need to migrate their valuable data, of course, but that will be less daunting than moving outdated applications.
Sometimes, however, businesses need those legacy systems. As with custom-built systems, legacy infrastructure requires special attention and is often not well-suited to a pure lift and shift approach. Moving the application to the cloud is a simple matter of storage, but reconfiguring it to ensure that it runs effectively and aligns with cloud-driven datasets will take more work than a typical lift and shift project. Data centers can often set up hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environments that can help preserve these applications.
As more organizations make the move to the cloud, lift and shift strategies will help them to keep their operations running as smoothly as possible throughout the transition process. While not all applications are well-suited for lift and shift, it presents tremendous advantages for companies considering their cloud migration options.
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