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How to tame your cloud spend

Scared of out-of-control cloud bills? With the right mindset and tools, managing cloud costs doesn’t need to be a full-time job.
By Tiana Cline
Johannesburg, 07 Feb 2024

Cloud cost management is not new, yet it remains the number-one concern for businesses undergoing cloud transformation. According to Flexera’s “2023 State of the Cloud Report”, 82% of IT professionals across organisations of every size believe that high costs are their top cloud challenge. And Gartner has predicted that global cloud spend will exceed $679 billion this year.

In the multicloud era, it’s a little too easy for public cloud costs to spiral, so much so, it has left some decision- makers thinking about going back to on-premises before fully migrating all of their workloads. Anton Grishko, ProfiSea’s chief architect, has been in the DevOps area for over a decade, mainly working on public cloud migration projects. “The pain of saving money on the cloud is real, because once you migrate, the first thing customers ask is why they’re paying a huge bill on AWS or Google or Azure…can you squeeze it? Can you optimise it?”

Grishko adds that a few years ago, understanding cloud costs meant writing scripts, turning to Excel spreadsheets and using the billing already embedded in public clouds and a host of other tools. “Then, after analysing all of that, you could give some kind or recommendation where to cut cloud costs,” he says. “There’s a big problem with that. First of all, you’re already losing money and only after that, you’re starting to save money.” Cost optimisation only happens after someone already – accidentally – spent a lot of money on the cloud. “It’s reactive; we need to work in proactive mode to set governance. FinOps needs to shift from looking at where to save money to not letting engineers spend more than they should.”

Overspending

In order to align and optimise cloud spend with business goals, companies are turning to cloud FinOps, a framework that combines people, processes and technology to drive financial awareness and accountability. “With what’s going on in the economy, there’s a big push towards FinOps, a big push towards asking, ‘What am I actually spending in the cloud?’,” says Chris Love, a Google-certified cloud practitioner, author and podcast host. He says corporations waste billions a year on public cloud spend. “That, to me, is insanity. Companies still don’t have the visibility into their cloud and haven’t taken the time to look at where they’re spending those bucks.” In fact, over 70% of businesses without a cloud optimisation strategy overspend on cloud services, Gartner reports. While FinOps could be the answer to unlocking the economic potential of public cloud, there are still challenges to overcome – one being that FinOps is a practice, not a software, and without the proper tools in place, understanding and managing cloud costs gets increasingly complex. Secondly, identifying recommendations of where costs can be cut is easy – but someone still has to go and make the change to realise the savings.

It’s like leaving the lights on for 16 hours rather than flicking a switch because you know you’ll be there the next day.

Stephen J Barr, CloudFix

“It’s really easy to have cloud overruns,” says Stephen J Barr, a principal architect at CloudFix, particularly when you don’t have to worry about hardware costs. Until the bill arrives, that is. Barr says that one of the biggest mistakes developers make in the cloud is hanging onto a physical mindset. “Having this visualisation of servers in a datacentre somewhere…and even though that’s what it is, there are so many layers of abstraction above, that you end up being precious about your instances or keeping it on because you might need it later.” He adds that it’s important to use the cloud for what it is – an elastic pool of resources. “You can turn things on, you can turn things off. It’s like leaving the lights on for 16 hours rather than flicking a switch because you know you’ll be there the next day,” he says.

Shift your mindset

“When you rent [cloud], it becomes a utility,” says Claire Milligan, CEO of Aimably. “Don’t think about cloud as buying a house – you’re renting it. Think about it in terms of metering – the water or the electricity bill. That’s how all of these cloud systems work. If you leave the water running, but you didn’t need it, you’re still getting billed for it.”

Don’t think about cloud as buying a house – you’re renting it.

Claire Milligan, Aimably

For Milligan, eliminating wasteful cloud spend often comes down to distinguishing between what a company needs and what it’s actually paying for. Spending more on cloud to create a buffer is the norm, but business leaders need to be aware of what is getting spent and where. “[At Aimably], we go in and analyse what is being used, how it can be priced differently, what can be reconfigured so that a company gets the exact same performance without leaving the water on,” she says.

CloudFix identifies misconfiguarations and applies a fix. “Not just finding, but going the next step – you click a button and it gets fixed for you,” says Barr.

From over-provisioned resources to unused or underutilised instances, it’s estimated that organisations waste around a third of their cloud spend. While FinOps adoption has helped this percentage decrease, it’s never been more critical for organisations to gain control over their finances in a cloud-first world. Find the right tools and never, ever leave the lights on.

All respondents: N=750, Enterprise, N=627, SMB: N=123
Source: Flexera 2023 State of the Cloud Report
All respondents: N=750, Enterprise, N=627, SMB: N=123 Source: Flexera 2023 State of the Cloud Report

* Article first published on brainstorm.itweb.co.za