Key Consideration Before Your Snowflake Migration: Balancing Cost and Scalability for Success

Nora He

Cloud is the new go-to for data, and yeah, Snowflake's catching on. If you're figuring out if Snowflake fits your scaling plans, you've hit the right spot. Next, we’ll dive into what you need to know before migrating to Snowflake: its scalability, price, and why a good balance of both is key for users. Now, let’s explore together!

Unpacking Snowflake's Scalability: Is It the Right Fit for Your Business

Every business aims to grow without its systems holding them back. Traditional databases can scale, sure, but the process can be cumbersome. Typically, scaling up means shutting everything down to set up a new server, which can take about an hour. And then there's horizontal scaling - beefing up hardware to handle more queries at once. It's expensive and not easy to scale down. Both these methods have their pitfalls, and there's a limit to how much you can upgrade. 

This is where Snowflake shines; its architecture is uniquely designed for elastic scalability. This means it can dynamically scale up or down based on demand in no time, even during active operations, allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing needs.  This is especially beneficial for businesses with fluctuating data processing needs. Whether handling peak loads during high-traffic periods or scaling down during quieter times, Snowflake adjusts seamlessly. Take Skai's experience as an example. They adopted Snowflake in 2020. It serves 2 billion users daily and manages more than 1 million activities worldwide. Snowflake enables Skai to process massive data from 13,000 external data sources, ensuring system performance without affecting data availability and performance. 

What’s more, one of Snowflake's most significant advantages is the separation of computing and storage. This design allows for independent scaling of each component. You can increase your storage capacity without affecting compute resources and vice versa. This flexibility is crucial for businesses that might experience rapid growth or need to intermittently handle large volumes of data.

Additionally, Snowflake employs a multi-cluster, shared data architecture known as scaling out, which means that multiple compute clusters can operate on the same data set without interference. (requires Snowflake Enterprise Edition or higher). This architecture enhances concurrency, allowing more users and applications to access the data simultaneously without performance degradation.  

Understanding Snowflake's Pricing: Pay Only for What You Use

In the traditional setup, servers are often running 24/7 because it's tough to predict when you'll need them accurately. This means you're always shelling out cash, even when those servers are just sitting there doing nothing. And if you do decide to pause a server, you're still getting billed by the hour, which isn't ideal if you're only using it for a short period. It's like paying for a full day's parking when you only popped into the shop for five minutes. 

In contrast, Snowflake has its cool pay-as-you-go model that's a lot more flexible. Instead of paying for idle server time, you only pay for the compute resources you actually use. It's like a taxi meter that only ticks when you're moving; when you're not using it, you're not paying for it. 

Snowflake's price depends on your company's needs. Choosing the right version of Snowflake can make your money more worthwhile. The cost of computing power is clear, billed by the second, starting at $2 per credit, with a minimum charge of one minute. Storage costs $23 per TB per month. The data is automatically compressed so that you can save more with less money.

While this sounds like a good deal, why bother balancing cost and scalability? Why do we need to optimize its use? Well, theoretical concepts often fall short in conveying the practical challenges and nuances encountered in real-world scenarios. To bridge this gap, next, let’s take a look at a typical user journey with Snowflake to understand why it’s so important to use Snowflake appropriately from the beginning.

Why does optimization from the get-go matter? 

Snowflake User Journey: From Excitement to Reality Check

Getting started with Snowflake is exciting. It's like when you first sign up for something cool, and you're super pumped to dive in. You’re busy setting things up and playing with the new features, and everything seems super easy and full of possibilities. It feels like you've hit the jackpot with this tool, especially with all the scalability hype. It's the honeymoon phase, where everything's exciting and promising.

But then comes the reality check, the "OMG Moment." You're suddenly facing higher bills than you expected, or your data tasks are becoming more complex than you thought. This makes you rethink how to make the most of the platform. Nobody likes this part – it's a mess, and it's tough to dodge if you didn't focus on optimizing Snowflake right from the start.

That's when your engineers have to jump in, trying to tame these unexpected cost surges into something more manageable. It's like they're stuck dealing with the not-so-fun parts instead of doing cool new stuff. That's the tough part of the "Rollercoaster" – it feels like every little bump is messing with their focus. The survey by Pulse resonates here, indicating a significant portion of time dedicated to ensuring operational stability, which, while crucial, can dampen the engineer's velocity.

Once you get past these initial challenges, there's a moment of relief. Your team's ready to push boundaries again. But just as you're getting comfortable, new workloads pile up, and you're on another rollercoaster. It's a constant cycle of adjusting, trying to keep up without losing control. It's like juggling – you're just hoping not to drop the ball.

This cycle can be frustrating. Imagine you're facing unexpected bills, your queries are taking forever, and your engineering team just can't move as fast as they should.

But hold on, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Starting out with Snowflake is definitely exciting. Yet, maintaining that initial enthusiasm and avoiding unexpected challenges calls for a strategic approach. This is where the importance of optimization comes into play. Optimizing your Snowflake setup from the beginning is essentially laying the groundwork for long-term success. You're less likely to face issues like unexpected bills, sluggish performance, or your engineering team struggling under the load. The goal here is to achieve a balance, ensuring everything operates smoothly and efficiently, no matter the scale of your operations.

Optimization Tips: Maximizing Your Snowflake Investment from Day One

You may wonder how to hit the ground running and what tips you can take from the beginning to optimize your Snowflake environment.  Let's explore some fundamental optimization tips you can take from the outset!

Right-Size Your Warehouses: This is crucial as we know that Snowflake charges based on the compute time used by your virtual warehouses. Starting with smaller warehouses and scaling up only as necessary helps you avoid paying for unused compute capacity, making it one of the most effective ways to manage costs.

Optimize Auto-Suspend and Auto-Resume Settings: Snowflake's functionality automatically suspends idle warehouses and resumes them as required. These features are enabled by default. Typically, Snowflake sets a 10-minute auto-suspend period for all virtual warehouses created via the user interface. However, the ideal duration for auto-suspension varies based on individual use cases and workload patterns. We would recommend considering shorter periods, such as 5 minutes or less, to enhance cost efficiency and reduce credit usage during inactivity.

Monitor Your Usage: Keeping a close eye on your usage statistics is vital. By regularly reviewing detailed reports provided by Snowflake, you can understand your spending patterns, identify areas where you might be using more resources than needed, and make informed adjustments. 

While these fundamental tips provide a starting point for optimizing your Snowflake environment, the real challenge lies in constantly keeping an eye on the entire system and actively identifying areas where it might not be running as efficiently as it could. This is where Bluesky comes into play. Bluesky streamlines the optimization process, offering deep visibility, actionable recommendations, and continuous governance tailored to your specific needs! Typically, our customers see a 30% jump in ROI, but imagine kicking things off with Bluesky right from day one - a super-efficient workload and a smooth ride with Snowflake await!  It's not just talk; we're all about achieving data excellence together! 


We hope you found this topic helpful. In summary, successfully migrating to Snowflake requires a careful balance between scalability and cost management. While Snowflake offers remarkable flexibility and a cost-effective, pay-as-you-go pricing model, optimizing its use from the onset is crucial. If you're looking to migrate to Snowflake, starting with an optimized environment that puts guardrails in place and gets better visibility and returns, use Bluesky copilot for Snowflake. Get access today or book a call with our in-house Snowflake experts to refine your migration strategy! Additionally, don't miss out on our monthly LinkedIn demo webinar. Register now and embark on your path to data excellence!