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Tips for a Successful Lift and Shift Migration

As organizations continue making investments in their IT there is a proliferation of hardware and services that is impacting their ability to be lean and manage cost. 

There are many different considerations that factor into optimization; streamlining cloud services, managing license procurement, and making sure that you only use what you need, providing just the right physical end user devices – but not too many. And finally, those servers, many of which are antiquated and end of life.    

These are just a few of the many reasons your organization might want or need to migrate applications to the cloud. Today’s business leaders are familiar with the predictability of pay-as-you-go pricing that modern public cloud providers offer, as well as the strategic advantages that come with the cloud’s inherent flexibility and agility. 

As Gartner has been highlighting for more than a decade, there are a number of different paths that you can take to transform your IT systems and get to the cloud. In some cases, it makes sense to make major changes to an application’s architecture and code so that it can run more efficiently in cloud environments. In other cases, it might be worthwhile to replace the application entirely. 

For many of our clients it is simpler, easier, and more efficient to begin their cloud journey by moving their applications as-is to new cloud environments. In this strategy, called “lift and shift” or — sometimes — “forklift migration,” you’ll replace physical servers with virtual machine (VMs), or even in some cases, migrate from one VM to another.   

Lift-and-shift migrations don’t offer all the benefits of cloud-native application design since applications that were built for the cloud can automatically take advantage of features and efficiencies that aren’t available on-premises.  Virtualizing your servers still provides advantages over maintaining physical servers in your server closet.  

Even a lift-and-shift model comes with significant benefits. Hosting your applications in a cloud environment helps transition IT expenditures from a CapEx model to a budget friendlier OpEx cost structure. It ensures that you’ll no longer need to replace aging hardware on a regular basis and removes the burden of server maintenance from your IT team’s shoulders. And it offers superior security than an on-premises server closet, which — no matter how carefully designed it may be — won’t have the world-class power supply, backup or failover capabilities that are the norm in public cloud providers’ data centers.

When does lift-and-shift make sense?

In a lift-and-shift cloud migration, there’s 1:1 relationship between the source (your on-prem server) and the target (your application’s new home in the cloud). This makes it the simplest type of cloud migration to understand and manage.  

If time is of the essence (perhaps your on-premises hardware is rapidly approaching end-of-service and you can no longer obtain vendor support or vendor coverage, or perhaps you’re being evicted from a co-located data center), lift-and-shift can be the fastest way to get your applications to the cloud. It is also the way to go if your legacy applications cannot be modernized, as it requires minimum changes to code. 

If you’re running a business-critical legacy application that can’t be modernized, lift-and-shift is the way to go, since it requires the least-possible amount of change to the code. 

When stakeholders aren’t ready for sweeping changes to application architectures, lift-and-shift can be a way of keeping things more-or-less the same while reducing your team’s infrastructure management burden. It can also be a small first step on a path that will eventually lead to more sweeping IT modernization. 

Although lift-and-shift migrations are the simplest type of cloud migration project, they do require planning and forethought. It’s an old adage, but still rings true: Prior planning prevents poor performance.  

  Here are our top three tips for successful forklift migrations: 

1) Ensure you’re sizing everything properly

Once you’ve purchased hardware for on-premise use, it’s a sunk cost, regardless of whether you’re using every core and gigabyte of RAM or not. This isn’t true in the cloud. Instead, you pay for what you provision: nothing more and nothing less. This makes it critical to size your workloads properly; otherwise, you risk paying for things you don’t need or use. 

Before your migration is underway, review application performance and historical usage statistics. These will tell you how to make intelligent decisions about what you need. Most public cloud providers offer native tools that can automate this analysis, pulling the right information from your on-premises environment to inform your decision-making. Some resource-hungry applications will need more in-depth individual analysis. Through a cloud readiness assessment, you can determine the best process for you as well as the estimated costs. 

2) Use a landing zone

Deploying to a landing zone means that you’ll preconfigure the security configurations, geographical region, and IP address allocations that you want to assign to all your cloud workloads. This makes it easier to manage and administer your cloud workloads, and ensures that you’ll adhering to corporate standards, security, and compliance at all times.  

With a landing zone, you’ll have simplified the configuration process for your new cloud workloads. By removing choices, you’ll increase standardization and make it virtually impossible to make mistakes that create security vulnerabilities. In the AWS cloud, Control Tower will help you monitor resources and governance for optimal use.  

3) Lean on the right expert partner

Although lift-and-shift migrations are simpler than other cloud migrations, the cloud is still dynamic and complex, especially for IT teams that aren’t familiar with its nuances. A partner with many years’ experience under their belt can help you avoid the most common errors.  They can also ensure that your project proceeds smoothly, efficiently and without unexpected disruptions to your business operations. 

Are you ready to get your servers out of the closet? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to learn more about next steps. 


Tom Lilly

Manager, Cloud Infrastructure & Applications
Tom brings a wide breadth of Microsoft experience over more than a decade of experience as a consultant. Currently, Tom is the manager of Netrix Global’s Cloud Infrastructure & Applications team, focusing on securely migrating clients to Azure and developing foundational Landing Zones to ensure successful and standardized implementations of Microsoft cloud solutions.