How to Respond to Rising Cloud Costs

Content By Devops .com

As organizations ascend to the cloud, their cloud expenses are floating to the same lofty heights. But are all cloud costs necessary? The answer is a resounding no — there’s a lot of waste.

In 2020, organizations wasted $17.6 billion on idle cloud resources and cloud overspending, according to ParkMyCloud. Data egress, upgrades and subscriptions to SaaS tools also crowded the cloud invoice inbox. With digital innovation a pressing concern, cloud spend is forecasted to rise significantly in the coming years. Without the right fiscal discipline in place, companies face escalating fees.

I recently met with Eugene Khvostov, VP of product management at Apptio, to discover how organizations can rein in cloud and SaaS spending. According to Khvostov, IT departments require increased visibility, optimization and responsibility if they are to curb the cloud checkbook. Below, we’ll see what he means and discover useful tips for reducing unnecessary expenditures. Following these general guidelines could help right-size your cloud offerings across AWS, GCP, Azure and other cloud-based tools.

Where We Are With Cloud Costs

The pandemic has ushered in significant growth in the cloud computing and SaaS space. We’re also seeing a multi-cloud fracturing effect, as cloud service providers like GCP and Azure reach parity with AWS offerings.

Cloud tooling grants extraordinary flexibility, elasticity and scalability. Being able to spin up or wind down an instance on a whim has permanently altered how software architecture is built. Yet, with great cloud power, comes great responsibility. “How do I make sure I’m not wasting money in the cloud?” Khvostov asked.

According to Khvostov, as more organizations move to hybrid and decentralized multi-cloud models, more and more questions arise: What is the total cost per service? Who is spending what? Is cloud spend actually driving growth, and, if so, how much? How are new tools being procured?

Three Cloud Financial Management Strategies

To address these concerns and plan for cloud spending increases, Khvostov recommended three general strategies. These three phases can be thought of as research, remediation and prevention.

1. Access and Visibility

“You’ve got to have access and visibility,” said Khvostov.

First, companies require access to their spending data. In this case, large, general invoices are not granular enough. You need breakdowns by service, said Khvostov, to access more fine-grained spending habits.

Second, you need to equate those spending habits to team usage. This requires improved visibility into your organizational structure and service usage tracking at a team-by-team level.

2. Optimize

Next comes optimization. Ensure cloud footprints are appropriately sized for each application, and ensure you don’t have any idle resources, Khvostov said.

Where do you have the opportunity to optimize? Well, it could be as simple as shuttering an orphaned volume, such as an Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), which could persist even after an EC2 instance is terminated.

“BS volumes tend to persist unless you select the Delete on Termination,” AWS explained. So, check your configurations. Amazon provides a way to detect this using OpsCenter.

3. Responsibility

Once things are optimized, you need to maintain standards. “You must ensure teams drive responsibility for spend management and optimization,” said Khvostov.

But how do you instill an optimization mindset and empower engineers to take action? Khvostov said it’s all about demonstrating a measurable return on investment (ROI) and continuing discussions between stakeholders.

A recent report from A Cloud Guru found that 90% of organizations plan to expand their cloud services over the next one to three years, but 44% lack a plan to upskill their workforce. Most groups have their work cut out for them if they are to assign accountability for cloud costs ownership.

Specific Cloud Costs That Bite

So, what are some other particular areas we should be watching? Well, arguably, the most common cost is hidden data transfer fees. Surprise ingress and egress fees can be costly — take the story of Chris Short, whose personal site was charged $2700 for an unexpected 30.6 TB data transfer.

Watch out for other cloud costs around:

  • Services automatically launching or autoscaling.
  • Idle resources due to “orphan” instances or overprovisioning.
  • Price lock on granular commitments. You could be stuck in a savings plan on an Amazon EC2 R5 instance, which would be lost upon upgrade to R6. (Khvostov acknowledged that AWS has remedied this situation, to an extent).
  • Legacy, less-efficient code can rack up cloud costs, The Information reports.

The Cloud Economist Role Is Trending

To unearth these costs, some believe a brand new role is required. A cloud economist is a cloud financial manager that helps spot fees, directs further cloud optimizations and calculates overall ROI from cloud investments.

The rise of cloud financial offers is an accelerating trend, Khvostov said, one that requires the right tools and practices within an organization to become a trusted ally. “It’s definitely a legitimate role in the sense that it’s critical to organizations,” said Khvostov. “It’s specialized enough that it requires technical and financial skills.”

Hiring a cloud economist, or building a cloud financial center of excellence, could provide a lot of value. Yet, gauging the ROI of this role isn’t immediately obvious. Some optimizations could take time to visualize, Khvostov said. A certain change could instantly invoke 20% cost savings, but you may not register that impact for 30 days or more.

“It’s not just about cloud infrastructure — it’s about your SaaS spend, as well,” Khvostov added. He believes companies desperately need a window into what infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and automation, like Chef or Jenkins, cost, along with the time savings and dollar ROI their usage equates to — because, he said, “You can only right-size what you know.”

Trimming Cloud Spend and Cloud Costs

Some IT folks simply fail to understand the implications of their cloud resources. Surprisingly, a recent survey by SoftwareONE revealed that 30% don’t realize that everything in the cloud is metered. To rectify this knowledge gap, organizations could use better awareness into their cloud holdings.

The cloud is the future, and we must prepare responsibly. Yet, having fiscal discipline in a world where every software function is commodified “as-a-service” is tricky — teams require financial visibility into their cloud holdings. To rein in costs, Khvostov recommended a linear set of general practices: access and visualize spending data, optimize your existing cloud footprint and disseminate responsibility among teams.

Once you have a better frame of reference, you can begin to right-size cloud, right-size SaaS and appropriately right-size the team. Eventually, with the right multi-cloud and SaaS financial management strategies, perhaps that cloud bill will start to feel a little lighter.

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