Lift & Shifts to the Cloud Are Not All the Same

Stewart Smith

Archive article - published on March 11 2021

Your IT infrastructure needs an upgrade. System reliability is a chief concern, but so are cost savings and security. A cloud migration seems like a viable approach for enhancing infrastructure and agility, but where do you begin? Moving a company's digital assets, services, and applications to the Cloud is no small feat. However, if executed properly, the benefits are extensive.

With so many vendors out there promising to move your applications safely to the cloud, it's hard to tell which is the best solution for your business. However, there are differences, and this blog will attempt to highlight one approach that's already worked for thousands.

The Lift and Shift

Like it sounds, lift and shift is a strategy that moves workloads from one IT environment to another without redesigning applications or operations. Think of it like moving objects in a warehouse. A forklift retrieves the skid or palette from one location and redeposits it another that's perhaps closer to the production line. Along the way, none of the contents of the load changed. It was simply redeposited in another environment.

In modern IT dealings, lift and shift involves moving an application and its associated data to the Cloud. Usually, this requires moving the application from an on-premise installation to the new environment. Again this is done with little or no changes to the application or data.

A lift and shift to the cloud taps into all of the Cloud's benefits. These include things like speed, security, and a lower cost of operations. A company that moves its applications to Google Cloud Platform, for instance, may find savings of 30% or more. Lift and shift provides other benefits as well:

  • A quick path to the cloud
  • Simple and straightforward operation requiring minimal planning
  • Less resource-intensive
  • Reduced risk
  • Simple security and compliance management

Moving Beyond the Simple Lift and Shift

Arguably, the most straightforward means of doing a cloud migration is with a simple lift and shift. In that scenario, virtual machines and data are copied, and the infrastructure is copied as closely as possible. While this approach has benefits, it may not allow the business to take advantage of all that the Cloud offers. Providers like Google Cloud Platform have a host of managed services and infrastructure approaches that provide even more flexibility and benefits.

For instance, tools like Terraform, an open-source infrastructure as code (IAC) software, enables businesses to make changes to their environment in a way that can be tested, automatically applied, and be audited, according to established change management processes. On Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Terraform is already integrated. Using IaC prepares the business to scale to meet application demand as needed.

Infrastructure as code enables infrastructure provisioning and configuration to be handled like the way applications are handled. Meaning, that provisioning and configuration logic are stored in source control and take advantage of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. The advantage here is the rapid change to production (and test) environments. Additionally, I can accommodate all kinds of infrastructure, including virtual machines (VMs) with configuration automation and Kubernetes clusters.

A lift and shift that makes a change to the environment's components and enables businesses to take deeper advantage of the Cloud, the platform and tools like Terraform might best be described as "enhanced". The benefits of the enhanced lift and shift include:

  • Long run cost-effectiveness
  • An ability to leverage managed services
  • Engineers can utilize ready-made templates for best practices in the Cloud
  • Facilitation of a stepped approach so teams aren't overwhelmed

A Practical Example

The fictitious company MegaMedia uses a WordPress-backed high-traffic website. In the past, the website was hosted on infrastructure spanning three geographically dispersed data centers. While this architecture served its purpose when created, it had issues—lack of scalability and maintenance, for instance.

To take advantage of the cloud's benefits, the company, working with its vendor, decided on an enhanced lift and shift approach. First off, database issues were addressed with a managed database solution that offered high availability, auto-scaling, and automated backups. Next, the web servers were placed into auto-scaling groups, which dynamically scale based on demand.

Finally, a caching system was implemented to handle website requests better. Because responses are stored in memory, the web server doesn't need to generate the response. Despite some significant changes to the architecture, the enhanced lift and shift delivered scalability and super-high availability.

OK, There Are Some Challenges

This wouldn't be an unbiased article if some of the challenges inherent to the lift and shift weren't discussed. Chief among those challenges is that some applications that are done on-premises simply aren't available in the Cloud. Monolithic legacy applications are among these. Other challenges include deciding just which applications, databases, and services get moved to the Cloud. There's also the challenge of learning new tools and methodologies concurrent with a migration—it's like deciding to learn to juggle and starting with chainsaws.

These challenges, however, are all surmountable. The costs do outweigh the benefits.

Ready to Make the Move?

WALT Labs has been a pioneer in helping organizations of all sizes move to the Cloud. Its proprietary approach emphasizes meeting the needs of the business by using the best in Google Cloud practices. Daily our teams focus on the traditional lift and shift and our preferred enhanced lift and shift from legacy environments and from one cloud to another. Contact one of our experts today for a no-charge, no-obligation consultation.

Stewart Smith
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