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Why Cloud Migration is not just “Lift and Shift”


Moving a file from one computer folder to another is simply a matter of tapping, dragging, and dropping it into its new location. Even if it is no longer in the same location on your computer as the other files it needs in order to run, it will have no problem linking back to these so that it continues working as it should. After all, nothing has actually been “moved.” It’s just a graphical representation.

As much as some people would love application migration to cloud to be this straightforward, much of the time it simply isn’t. With the cloud, data and applications are literally being transferred from on-premises storage (or, potentially, another cloud environment) to a new cloud location. That can come with challenges. While “lift and shift,” also known as rehosting, refers to simply moving data, applications, and assets to a new cloud environment without having to make any changes, this is not always possible. Cloud environments are fundamentally different from on-premises environments.

With on-prem, a business or organization is hosting everything in-house, typically requiring them to own and manage the technological infrastructure themselves. With the cloud, software solutions are provided by a third party, frequently on a pay-as-required basis that can scale according to user and usage requirements. Technology is hosted off-site, potentially in a data center thousands of miles away.

Legacy apps may, for example, not be compatible with the cloud if they were written in a pre-cloud world. Even if they are, and can therefore be lifted and shifted across quickly and cheaply, the results may not be as scalable (to name just one benefit) as applications that are developed with native cloud in mind. Much of the time, to use applications effectively in a cloud environment, they could have to be modified or even rewritten from scratch. Certain aspects of cloud environments or applications may also be proprietarily vendor-specific, making it hard to switch to a new environment on demand.

The Multi-Cloud Environment

To try and get around some of the challenges with cloud environments, many businesses or organizations will opt for multi-cloud deployments. As its name suggests, this refers to cloud scenarios in which more than one cloud — either public or private, sourced from multiple vendors — is involved. This is becoming more commonplace since it allows organizations to improve both their cloud performance and security by selecting elements that best suit them from a wider portfolio of cloud environments.

It means being able to forget about the idea of a one-cloud-to-fit-all setup in favor of being able to choose what works from multiple vendors: a sprinkling of machine learning capabilities from Google Cloud here, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) abilities of Oracle Cloud there. Multi-cloud deployments can help avoid enterprises getting locked into just one cloud provider and provide a backup in the event of a provider suffering an outage.

But it can also cause challenges in its own right. Environmental differences can add extra complexity to application deployments. Data management is a particularly common struggle, with data winding up scattered across a number of different clouds, which potentially don’t interact easily with one another. This can raise issues with secure, governing, and integrating data sets which may risk becoming fragments as a result. This might lead to performance issues and high price tags.

Understand the Cloud

The cloud makes computing faster, more agile, and easier in a plethora of ways. But don’t confuse those end benefits with a belief that you can, or willingness to try to, rush into cloud migration without laying the proper groundwork. In some cases, it might be possible to “lift” existing applications from their on-prem locations and “shift” them into the cloud environment with no discernible negative impact. In many cases, this can’t be done.

The move to the cloud requires you to optimize apps so that they run most effectively in their new home in a cloud-ready manner, perhaps lacking some of the previous hardware or software dependencies they might have had. In some instances, re-architecting apps to fit the cloud or using containers (small, executable software units that can bring with them dependencies and libraries) to support them is important. In others, a hybrid or multi-cloud approach might work best in providing what you want.

The cloud is a game-changer, and its importance can be seen by the number of enterprises that consider it to be a business priority. Appreciate the differences with on-prem infrastructure and you’ll set yourself up not just for an easier cloud migration experience, but the ability to make better use of the cloud going forward.

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