Katie Lenahan, Director of Marketing at Cloud Cruiser, providing the following thoughts.
The cloud is a wonderful thing, but the ease of access to resources can lead to waste, inefficiency, and out-of-control spending if not carefully managed. The problem is that most businesses rely on the monthly bill from their cloud provider(s) to manage their usage and spend, which can pose a number of problems.
First, cloud bills are in technical terms, rather than terms that make sense to your business. They are also after-the-fact and long past the point of enabling you to react to potentially expensive problems. Furthermore, they lack the historical context required to pinpoint problems or plan for future spend.
While most cloud providers offer some sort of tagging capability that enables customers to categorize resources, compliance and consistency is difficult to enforce, making it hard to understand who used which resources and at what cost.
Cloud’s Expanding “Waste” Line
With Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) growing at a rapid pace, the probability for cloud waste is enormous. In fact, some experts estimate that companies waste on average about 30% of their cloud spend.
The reason for all of this waste? Simple. The cloud makes it easy to spend without governance and control. Per unit costs seem so low and priced by the hour, how could they possibly add-up to 10’s of thousands of dollars each month?
There are many different sources of waste, but some of the most common include purchasing oversized virtual machines (VMs), leaving VMs turned on when they are no longer needed, using expensive storage for infrequently accessed data, or just spinning up unauthorized resources (aka Shadow IT).
Optimization Plan of Attack
Sound cloud management requires a strategic approach to monitoring, managing, and optimizing usage and spend. When looking for areas to focus on, start with the highest cost resources or the resources that have the greatest impact on your organization. For example, if CPU performance is mission-critical for your customer-facing apps, then target VM utilization first. If keeping costs under budget for a particular project is your main objective, then target costs by project.
To help your organization develop a better plan of attack, Cloud Cruiser has developed 12 tips for helping manage your cloud spend:
- If you have more than $20,000 of cloud spend per month, get rid of the spreadsheets and automate.
- Collect cloud usage and spend on a daily basis.
- Normalize data across cloud platforms, service bundles, and units of measure to see everything in a single, holistic manner.
- Think of the end results you want first, and work backwards to identify users, visualizations and data requirements.
- Add both organizational and financial context to your cloud data to give business meaning.
- Eliminate any IT bottlenecks - give end users self-service reporting access. Save time and money.
- Develop use cases to ensure your tagging strategy considers both financial and operational goals.
- People and processes are not enough to enforce consistent tagging – technology must be used to add, correct, or transform tags.
- Data filtering should be enforced to ensure both relevance and confidentiality.
- Use the right visualization chart for the story you’re trying to tell with your data.
- Implement multiple levels of control to ensure usage and spending stays within pre-set thresholds.
- Focus first on the areas of greatest spend and/or the areas of greatest impact to the business.
Getting the Help You Need
As you embrace more cloud services and your spend increases, managing cloud costs becomes a much larger and more critical task and typically requires a purpose-built app for cost management. When looking for the right solution for your cloud environment, you need to consider several key factors:
- Which cloud platform(s) do we use or plan to use?
- Public cloud, private cloud, multi- or hybrid cloud?
- What are our reporting requirements?
- Showback, chargeback, billing?
- Resource use and performance?
- Self-service reports?
- Personalized dashboards for business users?
- What is our cloud spend?
- How accurate does the data need to be?
- Do we need “real-time” results?
- What is our budget?
Trim the Cloud Fat
The cloud is dynamic. It’s agile. It scales and drives business value. The cloud is a wonderful thing.
However, the ease of access to resources can result in usage and costs spinning out of control – in other words, Cloud Bloat. Fortunately, with the right mix of people, process, and technology, you can trim the cloud fat, while at the same time, successfully trim your cloud “waste line”.
About the Author
Katie Lenahan is a former systems engineer and is now a creative marketing professional with a passion for making technology solutions easy to understand through compelling words and images. With a unique skillset in cloud and data center technologies, "startup" marketing, and all things creative, she’s able to drive innovative products and solutions to market leadership positions through strategic product positioning, persuasive messaging, engaging content, and targeted delivery strategies. Prior to being the director of marketing at Cloud Cruiser, Katie was consultant for Granite Technology and a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard.