AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

The Lift and Shift: Rehosting Servers to AWS during a Cloud Transformation

To make the most of the cloud, most organizations need to change processes, governance models, and technical architectures. But that doesn’t mean there’s no value to simply “lifting and shifting” applications, which can be a great first step in the cloud journey. In keeping with agile ways of working, it’s a great idea to manage risk and get quick returns by proceeding in smAll increments. Simply re-hosting to the can be used as a first increment of value delivery; later, re-architecting in a cloud-native architecture and changing process and governance models can deliver (substantial) additional value. In this blog post, Damien Renner and Yaniv Ehrlich explain. how.


Written by Damien Renner, Senior Migration Specialist & Yaniv Ehrlich, Migration Service Business Development

With most enterprises having hundreds (if not thousands) of applications, it’s often not viable to make changes for all these applications without overly delaying the benefits of digital transformation. The benefits can be tremendous, though: moving to the cloud can greatly improve your ability to innovate, stay competitive, and reduce risk. A fast, cost-effective approach with minimal disruption is a rehost migration (commonly referred to as “lift and shift”), in which applications are simply moved more or less the way they are. Because it requires no changes to applications, business processes, monitoring, or management interfaces, rehosting your applications is less complicated and takes less effort and time than changing an application or writing a new one from scratch.

In this post, we’ll discuss the typical benefits Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers achieve when rehosting workloads to AWS:

  • Speed of migration
  • Cost reduction
  • Business agility and rapid elasticity
  • Operational resilience
  • Staff productivity

Speed of Migration

One of the largest benefits of performing a rehost migration is the speed in which you can perform these migrations and start realizing all these benefits. Moving an enterprise to the cloud does not have to take half a decade or longer to complete. With lift-and-shift rehosting, you can create repeatable mechanisms to accelerate your migration and implement a factory-like methodology for migrations, with a conveyor belt of applications passing through a proven process. Once a group of applications has been migrated, you can generalize the process and provide a framework that other teams can follow.

AWS tools such as CloudEndure Migration and Application Migration Service (MGN) provide a highly automated migration approach at no license charge, expediting and simplifying the lift-and-shift migration process while decreasing the potential for human error. Inmarsat, a UK-based leader in global satellite communications, moved more than 1,500 servers to AWS, averaging 120 servers per month. And ENEL migrated 5,500 servers to AWS in nine months.

Cost Reduction

Reducing IT costs associated with owning and managing infrastructure is often the first benefit of an organization’s cloud journey. TC Energy (one of North America’s leading energy infrastructure companies), for example, were faced with a $50m capital investment requirement to refresh their datacenter facilities. Instead, TC Energy decided to perform a large-scale rehost to AWS and built a migration factory. And GE Oil and Gas found they could save roughly 30% of their costs just by rehosting to AWS.

Phase one is to lift and shift to the AWS cloud to take advantage of cost savings, agility, resilience, and the other benefits of the cloud. In phase two, you can redesign your applications to take full advantage of the cloud. We’ve found that it’s easier to redesign them when they’re already running in the cloud, partly because your organization will have developed better skills to do so, and partly because the application, data, and traffic are already hosted in AWS. AWS even offers tools such as Migration Evaluator that can recommend the lowest-cost infrastructure for each of your applications. You can access as much or as little capacity as you need, and scale up and down as you need with only a few minutes’ notice. If you implement the factory-like migration methodology mentioned above, once a group of servers has been rehosted, the servers could then be handed to a team that focuses on the optimization phase. You can find further information on optimizing costs by right-sizing infrastructure in this blog post.

We find that teams building and managing on-premises applications struggle to have full visibility of their applications’ total cost. Once your applications have been rehosted to AWS, you’ll have a wide range of data and tools to understand your costs and set targets for teams to reduce them. This will drive the cloud maturity in your organization and pull multiple areas of the enterprise together (IT, Finance, Business) to work toward a common goal.

Business Agility and Rapid Elasticity

With the ability to provision pay-as-you-go infrastructure in minutes comes increased business agility. Developers can instantly acquire infrastructure and begin writing code. Failed initiatives are far less costly in the cloud, since you can quickly and easily shut down resources you don’t need anymore. This lets you control your spending and reinvest your savings in innovations and new business models.

The value of this flexibility became clear in the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, we have seen some customers reduce their infrastructure capacity as demand for their services declined. For example, Finnair needed to cut costs while demand was low but keep their ability to scale back up again when travels pick up. With CloudEndure and Application Migration Service, they were able to rehost all 70 of their applications to AWS in a few short months, and scale accordingly.

Operational Resilience

By simply hosting your application on AWS, you can immediately gain significant operational benefits. For example, every virtual server in AWS is served by two independent power sources, each with backup generators. These approaches are standard with AWS, but would be costly and complex to implement in an on-premises data center. Additionally, rehost migration tools such as CloudEndure and MGN provide the capability to keep your data encrypted on AWS during the migration process. A study of 351 applications from 33 global enterprises found that migrating to AWS substantially improves application availability, reducing both planned and unplanned downtime by 29% and 69%, respectively. They also found improvements in application security, which included a 43% decrease in security events.

If you wanted to take this a step further, you could integrate additional AWS services to modernize your processes, without changing your applications. Services such as AWS Backup and CloudEndure Disaster Recovery enable you to automate data protection activities across applications hosted on AWS.

Staff Productivity

In the on-premises world, employees spend a lot of time doing work that isn’t specific to their business. For example, each server within your network needs to be procured, set up, integrated, and maintained. With AWS, these responsibilities are reduced or no longer necessary. On average, AWS customers are able to manage twice as many virtual machines and 1.8 times as much data per employee compared to using on-premises IT. This frees up employees to do innovative work that truly adds value to the organization—and delivers value to customers. Jim Fowler, CIO of General Electric, explains:

AWS has been working with us for the past four years and has become one of our trusted partners. Why? Because I’m not going to sell another aircraft engine because I run a global compute factory very well. I’m not going to sell another locomotive because I figured out how to engineer the user experience really well for my developers. I’m not going to sell another oil and gas pump or pig because I’ve really figured out how to do self-service and build the different structure features around my infrastructure.


The cloud drives innovation while increasing cost savings, business agility, and staff productivity. All these elements work together to help enterprises stand out from the crowd and make the most of the talent inside the organization. In this blog post, we discussed how some AWS customers gain these benefits quickly by first rehosting their applications, then modernizing them later.

Your AWS account team can guide you on how to execute a large-scale migration. Alternatively, you can contact our Migration Acceleration Program team here.

About our Guests

Damien Renner is a Senior Migration Specialist from the Professional Services team.

He works with enterprises to understand their target business outcomes and transforms them into technology solutions.

Yaniv Ehrlich is from the AWS Application Migration Service business development team.

He focuses on simplifying and accelerating large migrations globally.

Mark Schwartz

Mark Schwartz

Mark Schwartz is an Enterprise Strategist at Amazon Web Services and the author of The Art of Business Value and A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility. Before joining AWS he was the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Service (part of the Department of Homeland Security), CIO of Intrax, and CEO of Auctiva. He has an MBA from Wharton, a BS in Computer Science from Yale, and an MA in Philosophy from Yale.