How three simple steps will help you save on your cloud spending

If you treat public cloud the same as you would a traditional data centre, there is no doubt you will be over spending. It’s an absolute certainty. Yes, you could just lift and shift an on-premise environment and put it into a cloud environment and still derive numerous benefits – security, reliability and costs. But, you would be failing to take advantage of the number one benefit the cloud provides – elasticity.

The cloud isn’t just about the ability to access powerful computing capacity at a moment’s notice; it’s also about turning that off when you’re not using it. Yet, too many organisations are failing to eliminate over ordering, and therefore, unnecessary cost. This is why Gartner estimates that 70% of spending in the cloud is being wasted.

To avoid pouring budgets down the drain, it’s essential businesses take steps to optimise their spending – and there are some simple steps they can follow to ensure this happens.

1. Reporting

The first crucial step is to get hold of the data in a format that will help you understand how money is being spent. This will allow you to put guard rails up to protect against overspending.

To do this, you’ll need to utilise tools that break down the usage data. Otherwise, you will just receive a bill that looks like a long shopping list – that is almost impossible to decipher.

AWS does offer tools that can help here, but you can also add third party solutions like CloudCheckr to collate this information and play it back to you, with actionable metrics. This will also alert you to any under used resources that could be turned off.

You will also want to ensure you implement a consistent tagging strategy across all of your cloud estate. This will allow you to break spending down to the individual customer, department, team and even developer. It will also help you understand where you’re getting a good return on investment and where you might need to be more efficient.

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2. Cloud native features

It’s essential that you go native in public cloud infrastructures – otherwise you will miss key features that allow you to automate and orchestrate.

For example, you should be taking advantage of features that will automate day to day management tasks, such as software updates and back-ups. This will provide huge time and cost savings – as will the ability for developers to provision their own infrastructure, rather than go through legacy procurement processes to source IT equipment.

Within the public cloud environment, developers can access powerful resources (some of which would be unaffordable on-premise) and, with orchestration, can build platforms that are reproduceable. This means they can spin up those environments whenever needed. But, crucially, they can also destroy them whenever they don’t.

This can also be done programmatically, so if resources are not in use, e.g. at the weekend, they will be switched off automatically.

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3. Provisioning

To save money in public cloud environments, businesses should also be looking to take advantage of the numerous different pricing strategies that public cloud offers – and weigh up the pros and cons of each against your specific requirements. It’s important to realise that you will pay rates for the same cloud resources, depending on how you provision them.

If you order resources on-demand you will be paying top dollar. But, you can make use of ‘reserved instances’ at a lower rate. This makes sense if you’re working on a long term project and your resources will be needed for the majority of the year.

However, if you only need resources for a short period of time, for an ephemeral web work for example, then you should look to make use of ‘spot instances’. This is a system that lets you bid for spare capacity, and you’ll find you can access resources at a very competitive price.

The downside to spot instances is that those resources will not always be available to you, but when they are, you save a lot of money.

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Three further steps

It depends on usage, but it’s realistic to expect a business to save up to a third of its budget by following these steps.

Yet, not everyone is doing this. Why? It is usually because development teams are so focused on getting new features out to market that cloud environment optimisation becomes an afterthought.

If an organisation wants to make savings therefore, it would be advisable to follow three further non-technical steps.

The first would be to identified someone within your business to act as the optimisation champion, someone with a clear goal to save you money. The second, if you’re AWS user, is to conduct a Well-Architected Framework review. This is an assessment of your current cloud infrastructure that will provide you with guidance on design, build and optimisation.

Finally, work with your cloud provider’s partner network. Optimisation has to be an on-going thing, not a one off – and access to expertise will pay for itself, as it will end up saving you a great deal of money.

By following these steps, you’ll not just see the benefits, you’ll have built a compelling business case that will justify an ongoing focus on public cloud optimisation.

Written by Rob Greenwood, CTO of Steamhaus

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