Lift and Shift vs. Modernization

Migrating Data to the Cloud: Lift and Shift vs Modernization

Cloud computing has become a megatrend over the last decade and the cloud has become the primary location for businesses to store data. According to a Deloitte report, 68 percent of CIOs ranked moving to the cloud as the top IT spending driver for 2020. Supporting this trend, the three largest semiconductor companies that disclose data center sales saw their combined revenues grow in Q2 2020 by 51% compared to the previous year. However, companies are finding that data migration presents a challenge as there are a multitude of options for migration.

Why Are Businesses Using the Cloud?  

Many businesses are moving their on-premise data to the cloud to benefit from new application opportunities, to take advantage of new data platforms, and to support digital transformation initiatives. In addition, IDC reports that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the value of the cloud in allowing businesses to be agile to scale up or down with fluctuations in demand.

There are two main approaches to migrating applications and data to the cloud - lift and shift, and modernization.

Lift and Shift

Lift and shift means moving an application and its associated data to a cloud platform, without redesigning the app. It is simply migrating an exact copy of an application from an on-premises environment to a cloud platform.  

It is a popular approach for organizations who want to start their cloud journey by moving part of their IT systems to the cloud quickly. It is fast and simple because there is little to no change. It does not require much in terms of developer effort and resources. Because there is no change involved it is easy to plan, easy to estimate, and easy to know when the migration is done. In addition, it enables a company to reap the benefits of running an application in the cloud in a short time.

Choosing lift and shift comes with a downside - limited use of the full efficiencies of the cloud. Simply rehosting a system to the cloud does not use features available to cloud-native applications, such as auto-provisioning, software containers, and using continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) to make changes to applications more quickly and frequently.  

While lift and shift is less complex, it may not be the best option for long-term cloud plans. All lift and shift does is put old applications in a new environment, effectively adding to technical debt. This is because the application is not designed to run in the cloud and so may require ongoing maintenance to stay compatible in the cloud. There may also be unexpected compute or storage issues and dependencies, leading to bottlenecks and latency problems that impact service levels. This will lead to higher costs in the long term.  

Another issue with lift and shift, especially of legacy applications, is that data quality, master data management and data governance may not be fully addressed.  

Over time it is likely that lift and shift projects become even more out-dated and that companies realize they need to modernize their architecture to support business strategy. It could be argued that the lift and shift approach is penny-wise pound-foolish, focusing on saving small amounts now but ignoring larger costs in the future.


Modernization involves companies architecting their technology stack to reap all the benefits of the cloud. When the architecture is designed to run in the cloud, unnecessary maintenance of applications that are not cloud-compatible is reduced. The long-term goal of modernization is driven by business strategy and transformation programs, not just cost savings.  

Taking the modernization option will mean application re-engineering and require more resources due to the complexity involved. It will be time-consuming and benefits will be slower to realize. However, doing this allows the full use of cloud-native benefits, and can be more cost-efficient in the longer term.

The primary difference between lift and shift and modernization is how they approach the issue of change. Lift and shift focuses on migrating an application but not changing anything else - it's the quick and lateral option. Modernization uses migration as an opportunity to improve processes and efficiencies, re-skill staff and even change the organization - it's the thorough and complete option.

How Synatic Helps Modernization

Moving applications and data to the cloud offers an opportunity for digital transformation. The mindset should be that of "If we're going to port it, why not do it right?" To streamline and shorten the modernization process, a Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP) can help to migrate the data, provide the data access, data manipulation, transfer and storage capabilities, and the ability to connect to cloud and on-premises systems simultaneously.

Synatic's HIP automates the data migration process and has out-of-box components that allow you to easily integrate with applications, APIs and data sources. When migrating data for legacy applications, the older the legacy software the more likely it is that documentation will be incomplete and business rules unclear. Unlike manual integration, where each new rule discovery would require a major re-think of the integration, with a HIP the re-engineering changes can be done iteratively and more quickly.

With the Synatic HIP, managing your data modernization process is quicker and less costly. Data can be extracted using different connection options, such as a database-specific connector or generic ODBC. The data can be validated and manipulated and pushed into Synatic’s data warehouse that accommodates structured and unstructured data. Finally, the clean data can be loaded into the required destination application.

Using Synatic's HIP for integration, an agile integration methodology can be used because its low-code capability enables fast delivery. Unanticipated issues and scope creep can be addressed quickly and everyone made aware early on in the project. Therefore, scope decisions and change requests can be implemented frequently using a CI/CD process.  

The path to modernization does not have to be a daunting one. With Synatic, you can gain the benefits of modernization faster and stay ahead of your competition.

Jamie Peers
July 20, 2021
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