“Lift and shift,” also known as “rehosting,” is the process of migrating an exact copy of an application or workload, together with its data store and operating system (OS), from IT one environment to another—usually from on-premises to public or private cloud.
Because it involves no change to application architecture and little or no change to application code, the lift and shift strategy enables a faster, less labor-intensive and (initially) less-costly migration compared to other processes. It’s also the fastest and least-expensive way for an organization to begin shifting IT dollars from capital expense (CapEx) to operational expense (OpEx) in order to initiate a hybrid cloud strategy and begin leveraging the more economical and extensible computing power, storage, and networking infrastructure of the cloud.
In the earlier days of cloud computing, lift and shift migration was worth considering for all but the oldest, most complex and most tightly coupled on-premises applications. But as cloud architectures have evolved—and enabled improved developer productivity and ever more favorable cloud pricing models—the long-term value of migrating an application ‘as-is’ that cannot leverage the cloud environment has diminished dramatically.
Today, lift and shift is considered primarily as an option for migrating workloads that are cloud-ready to some degree (e.g., VMware workloads, containerized applications, apps built on microservices architecture) or as a first step in the process of rearchitecting a monolithic application for the cloud, on the cloud.
Compared to continuing to run an application on-premises, lift and shift migration can offer several compelling benefits:
Again, lift and shift will not produce these benefits for all applications. An application that’s only partially optimized for the cloud environment may never realize the potential savings of cloud and may actually cost more to run on the cloud in the long run. If an application runs slowly or inefficiently on-premises, it is unlikely to run any better on the cloud without modification. Licensing costs and restrictions may make lift and shift migration prohibitively expensive or even legally impossible.
VMware virtualization technology is ubiquitous in the enterprise. VMware represents 80% of the virtualization market, and 100% of the Fortune 100 use VMware to virtualize their on-premises data centers. Not surprisingly, most cloud providers offer VMware infrastructure for hosting applications, and some offer specialized tools and services for lift and shift VMware migrations to their clouds.
To lift and shift an existing VMware workload, the on-premises data center and the target cloud data center should share the same underlying VMware ESXi hypervisor and a common set of VMware- and vSphere API-compatible management tools and scripts. The cloud provider should have an operations team with the skills and experience to manage the VMware software stack.
The key technology that simplifies a lift and shift VMware migration is VMware HCX (Hybrid Cloud Extension), a tool that essentially extends the on-premises network to a VMware environment on the cloud in order to rapidly implement a hybrid cloud infrastructure. HCX enables secure, large-scale migration of thousands of virtual machines (VMs) as-is from on-premises to the cloud; lets you manage and operate on-premises and cloud workloads using the same tools, scripts, and skills; and lets you implement replication and recovery of your on-premises workloads in the cloud.
Lift and shift is an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) migration—you’re moving applications as-is from your on-premises infrastructure to cloud infrastructure that you pay for on a subscription or metered-by-use basis.
Broadly speaking, there are two other types of cloud migration to consider:
A PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) migration involves revising your application to take greater advantage of the cloud provider’s PaaS stack. You might refactor or replatform the application, making small changes to optimize its performance for cloud or to leverage specific cloud capabilities, without changing the user experience. You also might rearchitect the application to get the benefits of microservices, containers, or serverless computing. Or, you might completely redesign the application using the cloud provider’s development tools and platform capabilities that improve developer productivity.
Compared to lift and shift, PaaS migration is more costly, labor-intensive, and time-consuming up front. But it enables your application to take greater advantage of cloud-native operations automation, developer productivity, security, resiliency, and pay-per-use cost models, which together can quickly recover your initial investment.
SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) migration means replacing your on-premises app with a ready-made, cloud-based alternative that provides the similar functionality and leverages more of the benefits of your cloud provider’s infrastructure.
The right SaaS migration can deliver the low migration cost of lift and shift with the cloud advantages of PaaS migration. However, it might also require you to forego or wait for certain features or customizations, and you’ll most likely need to adopt the SaaS application’s facilities for data management, access control, security, and more.
To repeat, as cloud technologies continue to boost developer productivity and improve cloud pricing models, it makes less and less sense (and costs more and more in the long run) to migrate a cloud that doesn’t leverage the cloud environment. But, there are a still a few instances in which lift and shift can make more sense than a PaaS migration:
Before undertaking any lift and shift migration, carefully assess and prepare for factors that can impact the difficulty, cost, and ultimate value of the undertaking. These can include, but are not limited to the following:
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IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions is designed to help you move VMware workloads from on premises to the IBM Cloud.
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A virtual machine is a virtual representation of a physical computer, and the compute units for the first generation of cloud computing.
In a microservices architecture, each application is composed of many smaller, loosely coupled and independently deployable services.
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