DevOps Cloud Cost Control: How DevOps Can Solve the Problem of Cloud Waste| By |Chris Parlette

DevOps cloud cost control: an oxymoron? If you’re in DevOps, you may not think that cloud cost is your concern. When asked what your primary concern is, you might say speed of delivery, or integrations, or automation. However, if you’re using public cloud, cost should be on your list of problems to control.

The Cloud Waste Problem

If DevOps is the biggest change in IT process in decades, then renting infrastructure on demand is the most disruptive change in IT operations. With the switch from traditional datacenters to public cloud, infrastructure is now used like a utility. Like any utility, there is waste. (Think: leaving the lights on or your air conditioner running when you’re not home.)

How big is the problem? In 2016, enterprises spent $23B on public cloud IaaS services. We estimate that about $6B of that was wasted on unneeded resources. The excess expense known as “cloud waste” comprises several interrelated problems: services running when they don’t need to be, improperly sized infrastructure, orphaned resources, and shadow IT.

Everyone who uses AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform is either already feeling the pressure — or soon will be — to reel in this waste. As DevOps teams are primary cloud users in many companies, DevOps cloud cost control processes become a priority.

4 Principles of DevOps Cloud Cost Control

Let’s put this idea of cloud waste in the framework of some of the core principles of DevOps. Here are four key DevOps principles, applied to cloud cost control:

1. Holistic Thinking

In DevOps, you cannot simply focus on your own favorite corner of the world, or any one piece of a project in a vacuum. You must think about your environment as a whole.

For one thing, this means that, as mentioned above, cost does become your concern. Businesses have budgets. Technology teams have budgets. And, whether you care or not, that means DevOps has a budget it needs to stay within. Whether it’s a concern upfront or doesn’t become one until you’re approached by your CTO or CFO, at some point, infrastructure cost is going to be under scrutiny – and if you go too far out of budget, under direct mandates for reduction.

Solving problems not only speedily and elegantly, but cost efficiently becomes a necessity. You can’t just be concerned about Dev and Ops, you need to think about BizDevOps.

Holistic thinking also means that you need to think about ways to solve problems outside of code… more on this below.

2. No Silos

The principle of “no silos” means not only no communication silos, but also, no silos of access. This applies to the problem of cloud cost control when it comes to issues like leaving compute instances running when they’re not needed. If only one person in your organization has the ability to turn instances on and off, then all responsibility to turn those instances off falls on his or her shoulders.

It also means that if you want to use an instance that is scheduled to be turned off… well, too bad. You either call the person with the keys to log in and turn your instance on, or you wait until it’s scheduled to come on. Or if you really need a test environment now, you spin up new instances – completely defeating the purpose of turning the original instances off.

The solution is eliminating the control silo by allowing users to access their own instances to turn them on when they need them and off when they don’t — of course, using governance via user roles and policies to ensure that cost control tactics remain uninhibited.

(In this case, we’re thinking of providing access to outside management tools like the one we provide, but this can apply to your public cloud accounts and other development infrastructure management portals as well.)

3. Rapid, Useful Feedback

In the case of eliminating cloud waste, the feedback you need is where, in fact, waste is occurring. Are your instances sized properly? Are they running when they don’t need to be? Are there orphaned resources chugging away, eating at your budget?

Useful feedback can also come in the form of total cost savings, percentages of time your instances were shut down over the past month, and overall coverage of your cost optimization efforts. Reporting on what is working for your environment helps you decide how to continually address the problem that you are working on next.

You need monitoring tools in place in order to discover the answers to these questions. Preferably, you should be able to see all of your resources in a single dashboard, to ensure that none of these budget-eaters slip through the cracks. Multi-cloud and multi-region environments make this even more important.

4. Automation

The principle of Automation means that you should not waste time creating solutions when you don’t have to. This relates back to the problem of solving problems outside of code mentioned above.

Also, when “whipping up a quick script”, always remember the time cost to maintain such a solution.

So when automating, keep your eyes open and do your research. If there’s already an existing tool that does what you’re trying to code, it could be a potential time-saver and process-simplifier.

Take Action

So take a look at your DevOps processes today, and see how you can incorporate a DevOps cloud cost control – or perhaps, “continuous cost control” – mindset to help with your continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines. Automate cost control to reduce your cloud expenses and make your life easier.

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