Lift and shift strategies offer some organizations an ideal solution for transitioning their IT infrastructure to a public cloud environment. The process involves removing workloads and tasks, usually application based, from one location and placing them in another location. Ideally, this transition can be done with minimal re-architecting, making it a fast and easy solution for companies looking to migrate operations away from outdated hardware and capitalize on the benefits of cloud computing.
However, lift and shift isn’t a perfect solution for everyone. Some organizations will find that it may not be right for their existing infrastructure or the immediate future of their IT plans. Given the amount of work that goes into the process, it’s a good idea for companies to understand when lift and shift doesn’t make sense.
One of the difficulties of shifting legacy applications from an on-premise solution to the cloud is that cloud architecture is much different from traditional software architecture. Traditional applications tend to consist of a single, monolithic program that contains everything needed to run the application. Cloud architecture, however, is less centralized. It breaks programs into multiple components all running on different virtual machines or containers, each one instanced from a pool of processing resources as needed. This is partly what gives the cloud its scalability and makes it so adaptable.
Lifting and shifting a traditional application into a cloud environment without any effort to re-architect the program is bound to result in an array of problems. The program may not be able to allocate processing power effectively, for instance, rendering it slow and unresponsive. Since the program was coded for a more centralized computing architecture, it will almost certainly feature numerous inefficiencies that cause the application to draw more resources than it should. If the application is using more processing and memory in the cloud, then any cost benefits of shifting to the cloud could quickly be negated by the increased demands.
The move to the cloud should make applications easier to manage and adjust, but if most of the IT efforts go into getting the program running the way it used to, the shift may not be worth the trouble. Adding additional virtual servers to prop-up the inherent inefficiencies of a legacy application will only end up raising costs and pushing aside the potential benefits of the cloud.
While moving an “off-the-shelf” application is relatively simple (if inefficient), transitioning an application that’s designed specifically for a company’s needs is much more difficult. Legacy commercial applications have the benefit of drawing upon a body of knowledge. No matter which programs a company is running, chances are good that other companies have made a similar transition. Often with guidance provided by third parties familiar with the software, such as data centers or the software providers themselves, the move can be made seamlessly.
But in the case of custom-built applications, implementing a lift and shift solution is much more challenging. The program may not be able to run outside of its current infrastructure, forcing IT personnel to develop extensive workarounds just to get the application online, much less working effectively. Without rebuilding the program from the ground up, it may not run as effectively in a cloud environment as it does using its original, on-premise hardware. Worse, it may create an array of new problems and errors that IT experts will spend months cataloging, diagnosing, and resolving.
While this doesn’t mean custom-designed applications should never be moved to the cloud, a true lift and shift solution may not be possible without significant effort. Given that lift and shift is supposed to provide an easy answer to cloud migration, companies may find that it’s better to simply build an entirely new, cloud-based solution from the ground-up or consider colocation services rather than expend the resources required to patch together fixes for a customized legacy program.
Transitioning IT infrastructure into a cloud environment is the perfect opportunity to rethink the role of IT personnel in an organization. With the enhanced reliability of cloud-based services, IT professionals can spend less time troubleshooting infrastructure and more time innovating new solutions that help drive business growth. Traditional IT teams are often very siloed, with some handling a development role and others focusing on day-to-day operations. A shift to the cloud can break down these barriers and unleash the creative potential of IT specialists.
But all of those changes will be for nothing if a lift and shift solution doesn’t embrace the potential of cloud architecture. While IT personnel may spend time learning about how to implement new cloud-based solutions, such as hybrid cloud or multi-cloud architecture, they’ll likely be disappointed and frustrated if they end up spending all of their time propping up a legacy application in a cloud environment. The shift to the cloud should create the opportunity to do things differently, not simply provide a reason to discard outdated IT equipment.
If an organization isn’t ready to radically rethink its approach to IT practices, then moving to the cloud makes little sense. While lifting and shifting an application to the cloud may provide some savings in terms of overhead, the majority of that investment will be wasted unless IT personnel are allowed to rethink how the company’s network can be deployed to promote business success. This, of course, means making some tough choices and taking a few risks. If a company isn’t prepared to take that step with its legacy architecture, it probably isn’t ready to make the transition to the public cloud or implement a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud architecture.
While lift and shift strategies can help an organization keep their IT operations running smoothly as they transition to the cloud, the process doesn’t make sense for everyone. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks of lift and shift solutions, companies can determine whether or not they should dedicate the time, effort, and expense into relocating their workloads directly into a cloud environment.