Cloud Technology Insights

3 Rules to Follow When Considering “Lift-and-Shift” Migration to the Cloud

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 20, 2017 8:17:00 AM / by Walter Corcoran

Walter Corcoran

One of the most alluring approaches to cloud migration these days is something known as “lift-and-shift.” What makes it so attractive for many enterprises is the deceptive simplicity of it – replicating in-house apps in the cloud without redesign. You “lift” your on-premise apps from the server they reside on and “shift” them to the cloud, essentially as-is. Done! Right?


There are a number of potential issues bubbling beneath the surface that could come back to bite you if you implement a wholesale lift-and-shift migration strategy without some careful consideration first. A major one is the possibility of less-than-optimal software performance caused by simply shifting a legacy, premise-based app to the cloud with all its limitations instead of refactoring the application and taking full advantage of all the benefits associated with the cloud. Cloud-native platforms typically provide much more agility and flexibility than lifted premise ones. But refactoring apps can be costly and time consuming, so some organizations prefer the lift-and-shift approach.

lift and shift migration to the cloud

The lift-and-shift model has its time and place. Its primary advantage is that it significantly reduces costs by moving apps directly from an expensive, proprietary server environment to a commodity-based processing environment.  However, it brings little value to the application itself because you’re still operating within a legacy context, maintaining brittle application code and relying on legacy skill sets and experience. However, this may be the best modernization strategy if your primary goal is to reduce capital expenditures and short-term total-cost-of-ownership (TCO).

Here are several rules to follow when employing lift-and-shift migration:

  1. Evaluate every application

When deciding which applications to lift-and-shift or re-architect for the cloud, there are a few criteria to consider. For example, resource-intensive applications, such as those used for big data analysis and image rendering, are better candidates for refactoring than lift-and-shift. Resource-intensive apps can also suffer from performance and latency issues if they aren't refactored first.

Other problematic applications have data tightly coupled with application logic making it difficult to leverage modern containerization techniques and tools. 

Applications security vulnerabilities must be addressed before or as part of any migration. 

Keep in mind that a lift-and-shift approach will be required for commercial or off-the-shelf applications, unless the vendor offers a cloud optimized alternative.

  1. Know your need for speed

It’s one thing to envision 100-percent cloud-native applications powering your IT infrastructure, and it’s quite another to do the tedious, step-by-step planning of such a massive transition. When speed is of the essence, lift-and-shift can minimize your downtime, though that can come at a cost of lower performance, less agility, and inherited weaknesses. Situations best suited for transferring as-is from the datacenter to the cloud include consolidating or shutting down data centers, preparing for or reacting to a merger or acquisition, and relocating your disaster-recovery or high-availability operations. 

  1. Consider your tolerance for risk

A simple lift and shift can carry an application’s existing liabilities to the cloud, or even introduce new issues. Fortunately, in many cases relatively minimal application-refactoring can create an improved, cloud-leveraged app as compared to a lift-and-shift model. Often, a new deployment architecture will be sufficient to address the challenges. Risk mitigation should drive all your migration strategies and decisions. 

An important special case concerns any application at risk for failure with little contingency for recovery.  Lift and shift can quickly set up the application in a cloud environment where backup redundancy and disaster recovery are more efficient and cost-effective in the short-term, should you experience a problem.  

Lift-and-shift – is it right for you?

If this discussion has left you with more questions than answers, good. It’s done its job. That means you now have a better idea of what’s involved with a lift-and-shift migration and are better equipped to see the stumbling blocks as well as the benefits.

Yes, lift-and-shift requires minimal work to move premise-based applications to the cloud, resulting in faster migration and deployment. BUT, it typically does not provide all the benefits of a true cloud platform and it may cost more to operate.

The best course of action is to carefully consider the three “rules” provided above and consult with outside cloud migration experts who can help you determine which apps can be lifted-and-shifted and which would benefit from refactoring for the cloud so that your cloud migration will be both efficient and cost-effective.  If you have questions about adopting cloud computing, please download our eBook on the topic

Enterprise IT - A guide to adopting cloud computing for IT leaders

Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Cloud Migration

Subscribe to Email Updates

Enterprise IT - A guide to adopting cloud computing for IT leaders
Get Started

Recent Posts