Five Key Questions to Control Cloud Costs

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Friday, August 9th 2019 — Categories: Azure, Cloud Hosting, IT Modernization

With some organizations looking to move cloud workloads back on-premises to mitigate costs and regain control over their hardware and audit trails, you might be questioning cloud-first and cloud-only initiatives for infrastructure procurement.

After all, for years marketing pushed lower overall costs after migrating to the cloud. So what gives? Why are many cloud workloads ending up more expensive than their on-prem counterparts?

The Cloud is Not Another Data Center

You've probably heard the old joke before that the cloud is “just someone else's data center.” That may have been true a decade ago, but no longer.

Forcing a cloud migration is not the key to savings. You must understand the business value, catalog and think deeply about the existing and desired state of your infrastructure, rearchitect your workloads, and adjust your workflow to this new paradigm.

While “lift-and-shift” is possible, it is not advised for long running workloads. You must adopt an agile mindset based on consumption based resources and take advantage of automation and various PaaS tools. Rather than simply migrating the low hanging fruit VMs to Azure because they’re easy to push to IaaS, consider the roadmap for your entire infrastructure.

Which apps should be maintained by your team? Which services can be delivered entirely -a-a-S from your cloud provider of choice? What base-level cloud foundations are needed to underpin your entire stack? Making too many decisions based on the first apps you migrate is a good way to paint yourself into a corner. Leaving your VMs running 24/7 is a great way to rack up a huge cloud consumption bill.

Previous IT staples like identity management and e-mail or even security monitoring or backup/restore can be consumed as a service. While re-architecting your entire stack for the cloud may sound like a massive project (it probably will be), you are unlikely to experience the full advantages of cloud services without doing so.


Five Key Questions to Control Cloud Costs

OK, so you’re ready to modernize your infrastructure to truly benefit from the cloud and avoid sprawl, poor performance, complexity, and sky-high subscriptions. Here are the five key areas you need to plan things out.

  1. What problem are you solving? The business case behind your infrastructure must be understood, with input from key stakeholders. How will the cloud help you deliver that value to your users or customers? How will you benchmark and improve on that goal? Common goals for cloud infrastructure are faster service delivery, lower operating costs, agile deployment, simplified user experience, modernization, and resilience.
  2. What base infrastructure components will be used across your stack? Your subscription model, identity management, network, storage, backup, and other key components should work with any given app or VM that might be attached to your subscription.
  3. Where can you automate? Automation and standard procedures are key to realizing the full benefit of the cloud. This helps minimize costs by automatically provisioning and decommissioning and implementing configurations without intervention. Infrastructure as Code will only continue to be more vital to cloud management.
  4. Who is responsible for each piece of the stack? As you embrace more and more components delivered entirely as a Service, you must understand which entity is responsible for their management and potential failure. Obviously the underlying hardware is not yours to command, and a hardware-level failure would fall upon the service provider. But issue-resolution can be a difficult gray area. Be prepared to work with the cloud provider and have processes in place for issue tracking and resolution as well as version control and backup/restore.
  5. How are you managing cloud governance? Depending on your management models, it may be much easier for users within or outside the IT department to provision their own resources. It was much harder to order, install, and configure a physical server than to simply click a few times to have a virtual one ready to go. You must be ready to protect and secure your data from inside and outside risks, while also reining in sprawl and maintaining compliance. Automation tools and code are a good place to start with governance and compliance.

These five areas are essential if you wish to truly transform to a cloud-first organization that benefits from the cloud, rather than simply consuming (or being consumed) by Everything-as-a-Service.