We’ve been working side by side with some complex customers as they usher in the next generation of applications and services on Cloud. When it comes to optimizing costs, there are lots of tools and techniques that organizations can use. But tools can only take you so far. In our experiences, there are several high-level principles that organizations, no matter the size, can follow to make sure they’re getting the most out of the cloud. 

The goal of building a complex cloud system isn’t merely to cut costs. Take your fitness goals as an analogy. When attempting to become more fit, many people fixate on losing weight. But losing weight isn’t always a great key indicator in and of itself. You can lose weight as an outcome of being sick or dehydrated. When we aim for an indicator like weight loss, what we actually care about is our overall fitness or how we look and feel when being active, like the ability to play with your kids, live a long life, dance—that sort of thing. Similarly, in the world of cost optimization, it’s not about just cutting costs. It’s about identifying waste and ensuring you are maximizing the value of every dollar spent. 

Similarly, our most sophisticated customers aren’t fixated on a specific cost-cutting number, they’re asking a variety of questions to get at their overall operational fitness: 

  • What are we actually providing for our customers (unit)? 
  • How much does it cost me to provide that thing and only that thing?
  • How can I optimize all correlated spend per unit created? 

In short, they have gone ahead and created their own unit economics model. They ask these questions up front, and then work to build a system that enables them to answer these key questions as well as audit their behavior. This is not something we typically see in a crawl state customer, but many of those that are in the walk state are employing some of these concepts as they design their system for the future.

We’ve seen this dynamic many times, and it’s unfortunate that one of the most desirable features of the cloud elasticity is sometimes perceived as an issue. When there is an unexpected spike in a bill, some customers might see the increase in cost as worrisome. Unless you attribute the cost to business metrics such as transactions processed or number of users served, you really are missing context to interpret your cloud bill.

For many customers, it’s easier to see that costs are rising and attribute that increase to a specific business owner or group, but they don’t have enough context to give a specific recommendation to the project owner. The team could be spending more money because they are serving more customers—a good thing. Conversely, costs may be rising because someone forgot to shut down an unneeded high-CPU VM running over the weekend—and it’s pushing unnecessary traffic to Australia. 

Optimizing cloud costs isn’t a checklist, it’s a mindset; you’ll have the best results if you think strategically and establish strong processes to help you stay on track. But there are also lots of service-specific steps you can take to getting your bill under control. 

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