Why lift-and-shift isn’t copy-and-paste

2 February 2023
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Lift-and-shift is a method to migrate applications from your on-premises environment to the cloud. Because lift-and-shift processes involve little or no changes to your applications, they allow for quick and easy migration. But what about their cost-effectiveness?

Lift-and-shift benefits

With lift-and-shift processes, you copy the existing ETL from your on-premises environment and adapt it to the new cloud environment by making minimal changes to the ETL language. Since you don’t need a complete rebuild of your application environment, lift-and-shift is a quick way to take your first steps towards a full cloud migration. On top of that, lift-and-shift ensures end-users are impacted as little as possible.

Where’s the catch?

From a conceptual point of view, lift-and-shift is quite straightforward. One crucial factor is often overlooked, though: the new pay-as-you-go pricing model that comes with a cloud deployment.

With an on-premises environment, you can access databases and servers purchased many years ago. Those components typically have a lot of storage space and high computing power to ensure they meet ever-increasing resource requirements for a period of at least ten years.

In a cloud environment, you could set up a virtual machine with the same processing power as your on-premises server - at least, from a purely technical point of view. However, such an approach would incur high costs for an infrastructure you may not even need in most cases. A much more cost-effective approach is to opt for a pay-as-you-go pricing model: you only pay for the storage space and computing power you use.

And that’s where the catch is. To ensure lift-and-shift does deliver the most cost-effective solution, you can't just copy-and-paste your on-premises set-up. You do need to reassess your application environment and accordingly make some changes.

3 hints to ensure lift-and-shift delivers the most cost-effective solution

To avoid unnecessary costs, you must understand the changes you need to make to your application environment when going through a lift-and-shift process. Hence, you need to assess the problems that potentially arise if lift-and-shift were limited to a copy-and-paste of your on-premises set-up.

  • Since on-premises databases can store lots of data, there has never been a real need to take a critical look at the data stored in those databases. So it’s quite possible that stored data isn’t used any longer for reporting purposes. Hence, it would be best to look at more cost-effective ways to store this unused data in the cloud.

    HINT: Check with your business users which data is used for reporting. Are there star schemas they don’t use anymore? Which period do they report about? Do they need historical data? It can be beneficial to only store the data they use for reporting purposes in databases and store historical data, for example, in a data lake (which comes at a lower cost).

    • As on-premises servers with high computing power can process lots of data, the amount of data processed every night has never been a real concern. In a cloud environment, however, processing data that doesn’t have to be renewed will only cost you money.

      HINT: Check with your business users which data will be renewed in their processes. Don’t process any data that doesn’t change anymore, to eliminate processing time and computing power and avoid the related costs.

      • Because of your on-premises servers’ high computing power, you never had to worry about writing your queries in the most performant way possible. But since the server in the cloud won’t have as much computing power, there is a big chance those queries will take a lot more time to get processed.

        HINT: If you notice it takes a while to process some queries from your old system, it can be beneficial to rewrite them in a more performant way. Another improvement can be to add indexes to the database tables. While this was maybe unnecessary in your on-premises environment, it can create quick wins in your new cloud environment.

        How will lift-and-shift work for you?

        While lift-and-shift is potentially a very efficient method to move your applications to the cloud (especially for environments with a low level of complexity or when you’re under time pressure), you need to be aware of the implications of the pay-as-you-go pricing model. As we discussed, a critical reassessment of your application environment will always be necessary to avoid unnecessary costs and performance issues.

        If you have more questions on how a lift-and-shift process could help you achieve the most cost-effective cloud migration, get in touch with us.