Modernization or Lift and Shift: What Makes the Most Sense?

February 1, 2021

In a recent article, Deloitte shares that security, data modernization, and costs are the top three reasons why companies move to the cloud. Deloitte also explains that cloud and data modernization are highly interrelated, where moving to the cloud will help companies achieve data modernization.

While security, data modernization, and costs directly impact the IT organization, a ‘moving to the cloud’ or ‘cloud-first’ initiative has a much wider impact on a company from a business perspective. To stay ahead of the competition, for example, companies demand faster business outcomes. And to obtain faster business outcomes, they require quick access to data to make informed decisions, and end-to-end business processes that run seamlessly, without disruption. 

To make their ‘cloud-first’ strategy a reality, IT leaders need to review their current technology landscape and how each technology supports their ‘cloud-first’ initiative. Not only do they have to consider security, data modernization, and costs, IT leaders also need to consider business objectives and use cases when reviewing and updating their architecture. 

IT leaders often ask whether lift and shift or modernization is the best approach for them when moving to the cloud. The simple answer is: it depends. 

Lift and Shift Benefits

Lift and shift is a popular approach for IT organizations who want to kick-start their cloud journey by moving an aspect of their architecture to the cloud quickly. In its simplest form, lift and shift is migrating an exact copy of an application from an on-premises environment to a public or private cloud. 

This migration approach can be fast and simple because the application architecture and code has little-to-no changes. It doesn’t take away much developer time and resources. Additionally, a company can start reaping benefits by optimizing the application in the cloud while reducing high on-premises costs from the get-go. 

Limitations of Lift and Shift

While lift and shift is a reasonable alternative to more complex and involved approaches, it is not always the best approach. IT leaders must determine whether the lift and shift approach fits into their long-term cloud-first plan. 

While companies can enjoy benefits of a lift and shift approach early on, they will amass technical debt in the future and do not completely gain the many benefits from the cloud. Because the application wasn’t meant to run in the cloud and/or the application architecture and code have minimal changes, it may require ongoing code maintenance for the application to stay compatible in the cloud. Companies may end up spending more in the long term. 

Modernization Benefits

Many companies prefer modernizing their entire architecture to align their technology stack with their long-term business strategy and requirements and to fully reap the benefits of the cloud. When the architecture is designed to run in the cloud, IT leaders don’t have to pour in resources to maintain applications that aren’t built or compatible with the cloud, which reduces unnecessary maintenance costs. 

Once applications, databases, and other data sources are moved to the cloud, the capital and operational expenses (CapEx and OpEx) of running and maintaining them are dramatically reduced. 

Limitations of Modernization

Modernizing an entire architecture, however, can be daunting. It may be time-consuming and slow to see benefits in the early phases. If IT leaders decide to take the path to modernize their architecture, they must refactor applications, data sources, and integrations. 


  • Refactor cloud architecture aligned with business requirements
    • Results in higher performance and productivity
    • Lowered operational and ownership costs
    • Unified environment and deployment
  • Replace legacy components with new ones, requiring new processes and best practices


  • More initial architecture and infrastructure planning early on
  • The end-to-end project will take longer to implement and deliver
  • Higher short-term costs


  • Less costly and time-consuming early on
  • Minimal-to-no application architecture and code changes
  • Immediate cloud benefits after migration


  • Cloud-based architecture vs. on-premises architecture
  • Monolithic vs. microservice frameworks
  • Limited cloud benefits if application and integration requirements are not deployed for a cloud environment
  • Latency and performance issues due to lack of application refactoring 
  • Maintenance and resources to patch on-premises architecture
  • Hidden costs on IT development and practices
  • Siloed deployments and outdated processes 


The Path to Modernization

Whether companies choose to do a quick lift and shift or modernize their architecture to meet their long-term business needs, they want to improve cybersecurity, modernize data, and lower costs. Over time companies will outgrow their lift and shift projects and realize that they will eventually need to modernize their architecture if they want their technology to support their business strategy rather than become a hindrance. 

The path to modernization shouldn’t be daunting. Modernization can be approached in phases so that companies can gain modernization benefits faster. 

First, IT leaders need to have business objectives and use cases in mind when refactoring the enterprise architecture and infrastructure. By identifying which business objectives are priorities, IT leaders can create a future state of their architecture to show how applications and integrations are mapped out. They will be able to determine which applications and integrations to modernize first (in some instances, companies may need to establish a hybrid environment), and create a project timeline to kick off the modernization initiative. 

Additionally, IT leaders will need to identify which resources (people or technology) they will need to move forward with the migration. More people, for example, will be needed to scope out the modernization plan. On the other hand, IT leaders need to understand how the applications and systems are connected with each other, and how those integrations will be mapped out in the future state. 

In many cases, companies will have multiple integration tools connecting disparate data sources. Some of these integration tools may only be compatible with on-premises data sources while others may only be for cloud applications. If IT leaders take a phased approach to modernize their architecture, they may consider an integration solution that can handle native cloud, on-premises, and hybrid integrations. 

Request a demo today to learn how SnapLogic can accelerate your path to modernization

Karen He
Former Principal Product Marketing Manager at SnapLogic
Category: Data
Topics: modernization

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