HomeOperationsReducing Cloud Costs Becomes Top IT Priority

Reducing Cloud Costs Becomes Top IT Priority

The biggest concern of any IT leader in recent memory has been cybersecurity but given the continuing uncertainty over the economy it’s clear the cost of IT has once again returned to the top of the agenda.

A recent survey of 200 IT professionals conducted by Torii, a provider of a platform for managing software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, finds budget concerns (61%) are now virtually tied with cybersecurity (62%) as their top concern, followed closely by whether their technology stack has fallen behind rivals (59%).

A similar survey of 100 vice presidents from organizations with more than 1,000 employees conducted by Vega Cloud, a provider of a platform for managing multiple clouds, finds 65% identify reduced cloud spending as a goal with three quarters (75%) looking to cut cloud costs by 10-50 percent in 2023.

Nearly half of survey respondents (45%) also noted said they have received a surprise in their cloud bills “a number of times” over the past 12 months, with 70% reporting they have been surprised at least a half dozen times in the past year. A total of 40% admitted they had exceeded budgets multiple times in the past year, with 38% admitting they had to modify their forecasted cloud spending budget numerous times over the past 12 months.

There is, naturally, a wide range of spending issues that IT leaders need to address but the one area that sticks out in almost every organization is cloud spending. Developers for years now have been provisioning cloud infrastructure resources with little to no oversight. Unfortunately, developers are prone to leaving the proverbial lights on by, for example, leaving application development environments running over the weekend or simply forgetting that a virtual machine has been left to run for weeks, sometimes, even months.

Developers are also not especially good at alerting IT leaders when there might be a spike in consumption due to, for example, a data-intensive workload being constructed. No finance team likes to be surprised by a monthly bill for a cloud service that is twice as much as the previous month.

These concerns have led more organizations to embrace financial operations (FinOps) as an IT discipline to control cloud computing costs. Fundamentally, FinOps is the discipline that promotes a shared responsibility for an organization’s cloud computing infrastructure and costs. Rather than having disparate procurement teams working in silos to identify and approve costs, business, financial and IT leaders establish policies and best DevOps practices for usage that are programmatically enforced.

Of course, the concept of capacity planning has been around since the early days of the mainframe. In the cloud era, however, the need to build and deploy applications faster resulted in a certain amount of irrational cloud computing exuberance. The bulk of organizations of almost every size have not put many controls in place to limit consumption of cloud infrastructure resources so in that sense FinOps represents an effort to bring some order the chaos that has been allowed to reign for most of the past decade.

The issue that IT leaders will inevitably encounter is that many developers tend to view being able to programmatically invoke cloud infrastructure as something akin to a divine right. IT leaders will need to find a way to strike a balance between total flexibility and the need to control costs. Resistance among developers that are accustomed to being able to provision resources whenever they like on demand is likely to be high, especially if they already have access to a corporate credit card.

Nevertheless, if the choice comes down to controlling costs versus reducing headcount most developers will concede the issue. The challenge now is finding a way to embed metrics for controlling costs into DevOps workflows. A big part of the issue is developers have little to no insight into how much consuming cloud resources actually costs. Once provided with those metrics, many developers will exercise more restraint. IT leaders would be well advised to publicly acknowledge the efforts of developers that make the most efficient use of cloud resources if they want to drive fundamental change with their IT culture.

Longer term, there may come a day when artificial intelligence (AI) automatically optimizes usage of cloud infrastructure based on the cost of running specific classes of workloads. In the meantime, IT leaders need to make sure the entire IT team is behind any effort to optimize cloud computing environments. After all, the truth is many of the younger members of those teams have never experienced an economic downturn, so a little more constructive guidance is likely to be required.

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