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- Brian Kirsch, Milwaukee Area Technical College
So you made the decision to move to the cloud. You reviewed all the material and figured out what you needed. Then, a few months in, you see your operational costs growing at a rapid pace. You're blowing past your monthly cloud budget, and you see no end in sight. You can't go back, but you also can't afford what is coming next.
If only you could rewind a few months and figure out where it all went wrong.
Time machines are not real, but, unfortunately, stories like this are. Businesses face runaway cloud costs in large part because they are simply not ready for how the environment works. It's easy to say, "Well, you should be better prepared for the cloud." But what exactly does that mean?
Moving to the cloud isn't just about what the technology can offer you. With all the features, scale and disaster recovery capabilities, we can lose sight of what it is we really need.
Cloud computing can provide a lot, but none of it is free. Everything an organization needs in a cloud, from an IP address to just a little bit more storage, comes with a cost. That's how a cloud vendor makes its money.
With locally installed infrastructure and systems, admins didn't worry much about decisions to add virtual resources -- such as memory or CPU, an extra IP address or a few more gigs of space. When you own the infrastructure, it's just not a big deal. When someone else owns it and charges for every single piece, then it quickly can become a big deal. This is how those runaway cloud costs get started.
Avoiding this trap has a lot to do with the steps you take before you migrate and establish a cloud budget. Putting excessive restrictions on how your organization uses the cloud simply leads to excuses and cases of why different groups need more resources than what you allocated. This type of discussion never ends well.
Rather than talk about it after the fact, address these questions and concerns before you get to the cloud. If you have an accurate picture of what you're using today, moving to the cloud shouldn't result in a lot of surprises.
Every organization will claim that it did the homework and accounted for everything, and yet it still exceeded its cloud budget. IT people can be their own worst enemies when it comes to estimations because, too often, they rely on their experiences as infrastructure owners. It would be ideal to have people with accounting skills come in and look at things, but those who know numbers best don't know IT.
When looking at cloud resources, the simplest way forward is to attach the costs to your resource estimates. Too often, IT people do this in a vacuum. As they start to pull together the resources needed, they look at them from the numbers of bits and bytes and don't see the costs. As a result, they don't recognize the impact of the costs.
Attaching costs to those IT numbers shows management and everyone else the effects of the decisions being made. It's not just about how to control a cloud budget and accurately estimate resource needs. When they see the actual dollar values, IT staff will understand the importance of the data. This emphasizes how critical the validity of that data is. Controlling runaway costs is absolutely linked to the data you use as you migrate to the cloud. This approach also enables IT staff to look at things from a business perspective, something that can only benefit the organization.
Instead of the IT staff looking at the particular amounts of storage needed, seeing the associated costs of that storage might encourage ideas for data cleanup efforts or duplicate file reductions. These ideas can be applied to multiple systems and infrastructure in your data center. Giving your staff the numbers to work with might encourage them to create all sorts of new approaches to reduce cloud costs. And by seeing the entire picture, staff and management can make realistic plans for an affordable shift to the cloud.