It’s Time to Rethink Rehosting of Cloud Migrations

  • September 13, 2022
man and woman standing in front of servers

It’s 2022, and most companies are moving their information technology resources to the cloud by now. After all, the business cases are well documented and proven. In short — as opposed to on-legacy, on-premise architecture — hosting applications in the cloud promises potential upgrades to modern functionality, scalability to ramp services up or down, opportunities to accelerate innovation, and a variable, on-demand cost model. But while the ultimate benefits of migrating applications to the cloud are clear, there’s still much debate about the best way to make the transition.

If we think of the cloud as a destination on a roadmap, there are many different routes a company could take to get there. In many cases, the fastest, most direct route to arrive at the cloud is through the simple lift-and-shift approach known as “rehosting.” However, as many organizations have learned through the years, rehosting is not the only way to achieve business transformation goals. To truly capitalize on the cloud’s performance-boosting potential, companies need to consider a more thoughtful, purpose-driven approach to modernizing their systems and applications.

The case for rehosting

On the surface, the rationale for rehosting makes sense. When companies start moving applications to the cloud, looking for low-hanging fruit, such as easy opportunities to claim quick wins and move on to more complex projects, is natural. Picking up an existing application and dropping it onto a cloud platform seems like the no-hassle approach.

This line of thinking gained even more popularity over the last two years, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove many companies to accelerate their moves to the cloud. Under pressure to support legions of remote workers with anytime, anywhere access to applications, employers saw rehosting as the simplest solution to an urgent problem. It may have worked for a while, but over time the limitations of rehosting have come to light.

‘Quick and easy’ sometime has a few downsides

However, there are several instances where Rehosting — or lifting and shifting — applications to the cloud fails to provide the optimal long-term benefits the company and its users were looking for. And this could be for any number of reasons. Getting a legacy application to function correctly in a cloud environment is sometimes more challenging than initially anticipated. IT staff spend far too many hours troubleshooting and reconfiguring a business-critical application to make it cloud-ready, frustrating users and sapping business performance. Things can go from bad to worse if the team ultimately determines that the legacy app can’t function in the cloud at all or that it dragged all the technical debt from the legacy implementation with it. This is not an uncommon predicament: a recent Gartner® study1 found “The largest group (40%) had functional issues that could not be remediated by the other “R” modernization options, so replacing each with a new custom-built application, or implementing a SaaS application, would be recommended .”

Even when an app is successfully rehosted, another, less obvious problem can silently undermine the initiative's success: simply lifting and shifting the app may allow the organization to enjoy the same functionality it always has, but it does little, if anything, to modernize the application and unlock new capabilities. In other words, a rehosted app keeps the organization tied to the past when it should be working on ways to move into the future. And as IT staff continue to support the outdated application (albeit hosted in a new environment), it creates hidden costs and technical debt that prevent the company from realizing the cloud’s most potent benefits.

Furthermore, a clear-cut move to the cloud isn’t always in the company’s best interests. For example, as more companies seek to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT), they encounter an increased need for edge computing that enables apps to deliver lightning-fast response times and low latency (prevalent among manufacturers). These situations require applications to exist in a hybrid environment — a complex mix of cloud and on-premise infrastructure — that can’t be achieved through a simple lift and shift approach.

Finding a better way

IT personnel with experience in cloud migrations will know that rehosting is only one of many ways to approach the project. And in most cases, organizations will be better served by choosing one of the other “six R’s,” which include: Retaining, Replatforming, Rearchitecting, Refactoring, and Retiring. These options might consist of keeping some elements of the app on legacy infrastructure, reworking the app to function natively in the cloud, licensing a new SaaS version of the app, or even abandoning the app altogether in favor of building something completely different.

The right strategy ultimately depends on closely examining the company’s business goals and understanding how technology modernization can help meet them. NTT DATA, for example, has begun working with its clients through the lens of Value Stream Management, working to measure business flow in real-time to identify bottlenecks and using data to arrive at the most optimal product and platform implementation approach. Additionally, adopting DevSecOps methodologies can help the organization align modernization initiatives with specific business outcomes. These efforts will likely reach beyond IT and require collaboration with other business units or partners with data science, workforce transformation, and organizational change management expertise.

It’s also important for companies to recognize that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel to move an app to the cloud successfully. Working with an experienced technology partner can help the organization piggyback on many years of lessons learned and take advantage of specialized tools designed to facilitate a smooth transition. For instance, NTT DATA, with its Application Development and Modernization offering, has been through the trenches with its clients to earn a deep understanding of what works best in certain situations. That knowledge has gone into perfecting solutions like its App Transformation Suite (part of the Nucleus for Applications offering) and Unikix replatforming solution.

Worth the effort

It’s true of most things that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Cloud migration is no exception. The time is gone when the quick and easy lift and shift method will provide good results for most companies. Taking a strategic, customized approach may be more time-consuming and perhaps even more expensive, but the investment will always pay dividends over time. By harnessing the actual advantages of the cloud, companies will better position themselves for a future defined by agility, resiliency, and innovation.

Read about our Application Development and Modernization to know more.

1. 2021 Gartner, “Quick Answer: How Much of My Application Portfolio Can I Lift and Shift to the Cloud?” Analyst: Bill Swanton, 16 November 2021.

2. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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Imran MacMillan

Imran brings a passion for digital transformation and building customer-centric products to our team and experience in cloud enablement, application modernization, infrastructure delivery, and product management. In his own words: "I'm excited to be part of a team that is finding better ways to deliver technology improvement platforms for organizations small and large. In a sector that's constantly undergoing change, building resilient strategies that can enable our people to transform a client's digital footprint is what I look forward to most."

Before joining NTT DATA, Imran served as a Technology Implementation Manager at Deloitte, where he had the opportunity to work on major enterprise cloud migrations deploying hundreds of applications to millions of global users. Imran has a wealth of experience across the technology services domain, from developing applications and infrastructure to building migration frameworks for active datacenters.

Imran enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, and reading a good book on the beach in his free time. He is based in Monterey, California.

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