When migrating to the cloud, many organizations realize outcomes of scalability, flexibility and accessibility. However, sometimes a company may instead experience operational inefficiencies that become costly to the bottom line. Sadly, I’ve seen far too many IT teams so intent on migration to the cloud that they disregard why they had wanted to be there in the first place. This often comes from having misalignment with their long-term strategy. To ensure success in the cloud and controlled spending, you must consistently stay in sync with the business strategy.
Indeed, cost optimization is a never-ending and evolutionary process of improvement over the entire lifecycle of IT systems. For those looking to optimize their cloud stance, reducing costs as much as possible, here are a few tips for improvements to your overall investment.
1. Right size your environment.
Achieving cost savings in the cloud depends upon balancing your needs with your budget. Your datasets and applications should have the proper space to expand as needed, but not too much space that your organization is overspending. We no longer live in the days of CapEx spending for IT hardware and software; instead, teams can provision capacity as needed using an OpEx model with third-party leasing. Capacity planning has been replaced by cost monitoring and optimization practices.
But spending predictability has become one of the most challenging aspects of cloud, since a pay-as-you-go model can get expensive if not kept in check. The elasticity of the cloud means that as traffic surges, an expansion of resources could lead to runaway costs if not adjusted after the fact.
2. Scale horizontally and set up rules.
Monitoring bandwidth, networking and load capacity will be paramount in the cloud, since traffic or usage bursts could easily expand beyond allotted capacity or create latency when hitting capacity limits. To ensure you maintain the proper capacity, one trick is having applications first scale horizontally rather than up. This approach utilizes any extra capacity in your environment before needing to provision additional compute and storage.
In addition to scaling horizontally, set up rule-based performance and burst capabilities. Not only will this help your cloud environment gain elasticity, but the rules will act as guardrails for policies across an entire organizational unit. You should also be able to set up push notifications when spending nears a limit. Many third-party vendors will deliver this capability through a SaaS-based platform, which can make a big difference in the long run in having visibility as well as actionability.
3. Use different storage tiers.
Pricing in the cloud can be extremely complex. At first glance, it seems simple, but as you expand your cloud usage and leverage multi-regional infrastructure, mixing products and solutions to achieve company goals, it can become difficult to keep track of everything. There are several different storage options in the cloud, which can reduce some of the pricing complexity and save costs for lesser-used assets. Whether it be object, block or file-based storage, one solution won't be right for every application. For this reason, take a tiered approach and organize each application into groups by what type of storage you need for the objectives and strategy of each application. This tiering will not only optimize your IT budget in the long run; it will also allow your staff to devote resources elsewhere as needed.
4. Reduce technical debt.
A substantial number of IT departments move to the cloud to “get out of the datacenter business.” Maintaining a datacenter has become increasingly difficult in an era that champions the fastest and most nimble companies. In the cloud, businesses can gain performance efficiencies and native features far greater than typically available in an on-prem environment. But in order to gain these benefits of the cloud, companies must reduce their technical debt or else get stuck maintaining a cloud environment as well as their existing infrastructure.
By taking a “cloud first” approach to all ongoing IT investments, you can reduce technical debt -- but this doesn’t mean a “cloud only” approach. IT decisions must always rest within purview of the long-term strategy. If some applications aren’t a good fit for the cloud, having these applications synthesized with your cloud environment will be essential to gain performance efficiency and security.
One good area for consolidation is reducing the number of third-party vendors you employ. Each third-party vendor with access to your sensitive information presents an additional vector for cyber exploitation. A strategic service provider (SSP) might be a good choice to engage for conversation, since this type of vendor not only will consolidate technology expertise under one roof, but also prioritize your long-term strategy above all else.
Cloud providers have mechanisms such as RIs, savings plans, and private pricing that are good discounting tools to save money in the short term. However, these tools do not “improve” the architecture, which is required to gain the additional cost savings. Often, IT teams migrating to the cloud take a “lift and shift” approach, then “cloudify” their assets afterwards. However, this approach can lead to overprovisioning, under-optimizing application code and forgetting to spin down servers not in constant use. Having an inexperienced IT team working in an unfamiliar cloud environment can only exacerbate the situation.
Achieving continual success in the cloud
Taking a strategic approach is the key to achieving success not just in the cloud, but in every aspect of your IT ecosystem. Attention to company-wide objectives ensures spending, connectivity and security remain within controlled limits and aligned to your IT vision. A cost-optimized cloud will both utilize all resources and achieve outcomes at low costs, enabling dedication to other IT priorities.
John Gray is CTO of InterVision, a company that, as a leading strategic services provider, has assisted IT leaders in solving the most crucial business challenges they face. For 25 years, the company has helped IT leaders transform their business by solving for the right technology, deployed on the right premise, and managed through the right model to fit their unique demands and long-term goals.