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Cloud Migration

What Is a Lift and Shift Cloud Migration?

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Workload migration to cloud-based services can change an enterprise’s IT landscape, tapping into the scale and agility of cloud while converting CAPEX to OPEX. But how does one migrate to the cloud? It turns out there is more than one kind of cloud migration strategy.

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to migrate an existing workload to the cloud is to take the workload as-is and run it on cloud-native resources: this is known as the “Lift & Shift” approach.

This blog will take a closer look at the lift and shift cloud migration approach, and explore the business benefits, planning, execution, security and other operations aspects of the process, along with how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help.

Cloud Migration: Business Drivers and Methods

Organizations undergoing digital transformations are looking for avenues to modernize, innovate, and adapt their application landscapes to the latest technology available on the big public cloud platforms, such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. The key business drivers that trigger discussions on migrating workloads to cloud are:

  • Shifting focus from underlying infrastructure and platforms to application innovation.
  • Unmatched availability, scalability, and agility of cloud resources when compared to on-premises deployments.
  • On-demand usage pattern and pay-as-you-go cost management offered by cloud, which helps to convert huge CAPEX to smaller chunks of OPEX.
  • Alternative solutions to replace end-of-life hardware/software.
  • Need for hybrid architecture to leverage services that are not available on-premises.
  • Effective compliance and security management.

The process, approach, and tools for migrating workloads to cloud are greatly dependent on the targeted cloud migration models: IaaS, PaaS or SaaS. Let’s take a closer look at each of these migration methods.

IaaS (rehost, replatform): Moving applications to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service model means moving an existing application or workload from on-prem deployment to a cloud-provider’s infrastructure. With this method there are no significant architecture changes to make. The easiest way to migrate applications to IaaS is rehosting using “lift and shift” or as-is migration approach. We’ll discuss this option further below.

PaaS (refactor, rebuild): The Platform-as-a-Service approach uses cloud-provider configured platform to run your application’s code. As such, this method requires applications to be significantly refactored or modernized to fit into the target cloud platform. This migration method will include code rewrites, library updates, deployment pipeline modifications, and more for the workload to fit into the PaaS application framework. In some situations, the application may have to be totally rebuilt from scratch. In either case, the modifications mean spending considerable amounts of time and money before you can be cloud ready.

SaaS (replace): Adopting a Software-as-a-Service offering means replacing functionalities or components of your existing workload with a SaaS service provided by another company. It’s faster than a PaaS migration, but it involves all the challenges of adopting a new technology, such as, restructuring parts of the architecture, create new interfaces, educating your teams on its use, and more. Other concerns include the complications of data migration, access management, vendor lock-in, etc.

Of all these options, the easiest and fastest way to get an existing app to the cloud is with a lift and shift, IaaS migration. Let’s take a closer look at what this method offers and why you should consider it for your application.

Lift and Shift Meaning

Sentence The lift and shift migration approach is about migrating your application and associated data to the cloud with minimal or no changes. Applications are effectively “lifted” from the existing environments and “shifted” as-is to a new hosting premises; i.e. in the cloud. As such, there are often no significant changes to make in the application architecture, data flow, or authentication mechanisms.

The major considerations in a lift and shift migration are the compute, storage, and network requirements of the application. They should be mapped from what is currently available in source infrastructure to the matching resources in the cloud provider. There is scope for significant cost savings during the migration, where over-provisioned on-prem resources can be analyzed and mapped to optimal resource SKUs in the cloud. As most of the cloud service providers offer on-the-fly upgrades, you can start with a smaller product and then move to a bigger one. This is a minimal-risk approach to get maximum ROI.

Advantages of the Lift and Shift Approach

Let us examine some of the key benefits of using Lift & Shift approach for workload migration to the cloud:

  • The lift and shift cloud migration approach does not demand any application-level changes as it is merely being rehosted on the cloud.
  • Workloads that demand specialized hardware, say for example, graphical cards or HPC, can be directly moved to specialized VMs in cloud, which will provide similar capabilities.
  • A lift and shift allows you to migrate your on-premises identity services components such as Active Directory to the cloud along with the application.
  • Security and compliance management in a lift and shift cloud migration is relatively simple as you can translate the requirements to controls that should be implemented against compute, storage, and network resources.
  • The lift and shift approach uses the same architecture constructs even after the migration to the cloud takes place. That means there are no significant changes required in terms of the business processes associated with the application as well as monitoring and management interfaces.
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Lift and Shift vs. Other Migration Methods

The drivers for choosing the cloud migration approach could be anything from using the least-disruptive approach, application compatibility, risk management, ROI, performance and HA requirements etc. The different components in the application architecture and how they interact with each other over different interfaces should be considered while deciding the approach.

Lift and Shift vs. PaaS migrations: PaaS migrations involve significant effort in refactoring the application to fit into the platform offered by service provider. Architecture changes might be required to place new components or replace old components. Lift and shift data center migration on the other hand is straightforward and can be done after an analysis of the infrastructure support matrix in cloud.

Lift and Shift vs. SaaS migrations: Migrating to a SaaS is even more challenging, as it is more about migrating from one application experience to another than it is about migrating to the cloud. All aspects, including access control, data management, security, etc., must be reconsidered and adapted to the constructs of the SaaS. A lift and shift provides the original application experience and most often can use the same authentication and security mechanisms that were used on-premises.

Choosing the Right Tools for Lift and Shift Migration

Tools, technologies, and processes used for the migration impact the effectiveness of a lift and shift migration to a great extent. Minimal downtime, backup replication, or snapshot technologies are recommended for hassle-free lift and shift migration of applications. For data migration, all major cloud service providers offer cloud-native tools, such as AWS Database Migration Service or Azure Database Migration.

NetApp’s Cloud Volumes ONTAP is another proven method for hassle free migration of enterprise workloads to cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP runs on AWS storage or Azure storage, and can take full advantage of the AWS and Azure cloud platforms. This helps you to extend your data center to cloud as well as migrate your workloads seamlessly using the same tools and processes.

Depending on where your data is now will make a difference in which tools to use for a lift and shift migration with Cloud Volumes ONTAP. NetApp Cloud Sync is a file transfer solution offered by NetApp that can transfer files from any on-premises NFS/CIFS file shares to cloud storage. NetApp SnapMirror® can be used to replicate data stored in on-premises NetApp storage environments to Cloud Volumes ONTAP with AWS or Azure storage. To carry out this data replication with SnapMirror, existing NetApp ONTAP users can use the Cloud Manager interface and lift and shift their workloads data.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP can do more than help lift and shift to the cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP offers advanced data management capabilities such as automated sync, data protection that leverages NetApp’s efficient snapshots, and rapid clone creation via FlexClone®. The built-in cloud backup and replication capabilities address application DR requirements. With storage efficiency features such as deduplication, compression and automated storage tiering, the costs for deploying in the cloud can be lowered even more. And the high availability options make sure that in a failure your application will always stays accessible to users with non-disruptive failover, failback, and update processes.

Lift and Shift Success Stories with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

The following customer stories are two of many examples of enterprises successfully lifting and shifting to the public cloud with the Cloud Volumes ONTAP data storage management platform. Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s powerful data replication features and intuitive management interface make it easy to lift and shift data or entire production environments to AWS or Azure.

The Cordant Group

The Cordant Group is not only one of the leading security and facilities management businesses in the UK, it is also a major recruitment organization that serves 30+ industry sectors. Its extensive IT operations support multiple websites for internal and external users, thin-client desktop services, and several SQL databases for business-critical data.

Realizing that it could save 40-50% by shifting its infrastructure from an on-premises CAPEX to a cloud-based OPEX model, the Cordant Group moved most of its services to a virtual private cloud hosted on AWS. However, the company soon realized that managing its file server resources via Windows DFS was not providing the security, performance, and flexibility that they needed for their geographically-distributed operations.

Already a NetApp storage customer, the Cordant Group saw that Cloud Volumes ONTAP for AWS would allow them to easily lift and shift their file share workloads to the cloud while continuing to benefit from NetApp on-premises storage capabilities such as SnapManager® for SQL for robust backup and DR replicas. They also found Cloud Manager to be an intuitive web-based interface that simplifies the provisioning and management of data storage resources while monitoring and providing detailed reports on their cloud costs.

You can read the full Cordant Group migration case study here.

Multinational Human Capital Management SaaS Company

This San Francisco-based corporation provides enterprise-grade human capital management SaaS solutions to companies around the globe. They made a strategic decision to lift and shift their production workloads to the Azure cloud with minimal disruption of existing processes and procedures and continued leveraging of their on-premises systems for archiving.

After using Cloud Volumes ONTAP for Azure in a successful three-month proof of concept, the company licensed Cloud Volumes ONTAP with Azure for their production environment as well as for Disaster Recovery (DR) copies. The benefits they have reaped from Cloud Volumes ONTAP and Cloud Manager include:

  • Significant reduction of their on-premises data center footprint.
  • Easy setup and management of a hybrid cloud architecture.
  • Cross-region DR in the Azure cloud.


Choosing your migration method is an integral part of making a migration plan. Of all the methods for migrating to the cloud, the lift and shift approach remains the fastest, easiest, lowest-risk, and least expensive way to get operating in the cloud. However, making the most of a lift and shift migration strategy requires using the right tools.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager