As cloud computing Opex occupies an ever greater portion of IT budgets and organizations scrutinize expenses more than ever, interest in FinOps has steadily increased.
Against this backdrop, The Linux Foundation's FinOps.org hosted its FinOps X conference in San Diego in late June. Conference organizers made several announcements that aimed to guide FinOps discussions across organizations.
The FinOps Open Cost & Usage Specification (FOCUS) is an attempt to solve the largest problem in FinOps by creating a standard, vendor-neutral specification for cloud cost, usage and billing data. FinOps.org Executive Director J.R. Storment compared this standardization to "rail gauge decisions" in trains -- where standardization makes the entire system work better.
Currently, on version 0.2, FOCUS is a work in progress with an expected release of a near 1.0 specification slated for autumn 2023. Nearly all the practitioners I spoke to support FOCUS as the answer to the disparate proprietary billing data they get from cloud providers. Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure are on board with the specification effort, but AWS has yet to officially participate.
Green ops and sustainability
Several sessions at the conference focused on sustainability and, more specifically, how FinOps processes can help track electricity usage and carbon remissions with cost data in environmental, social and governance settings.
Practitioner organizations such as HSBC pointed out that linking sustainability to FinOps requires only a small amount of additional overhead to track and show back carbon emissions to DevOps teams. With that data, DevOps teams could then adjust cost decisions to make holistically better decisions that factor in the previously unknown variables.
According to one attendee, "Carbon is just another metric to optimize, like cost and time to market." While efforts in this area aren't moving as quickly as FOCUS, expect to see movement on this soon given the widespread interest in carbon emissions tracking.
Sponsors for the show also had some interesting takes. While FinOps is largely the domain of very large enterprises, one sponsor -- DoiT International -- is focused on helping smaller, high-growth organizations optimize their cloud expenditures with traditional FinOps reporting and its Flexsave tool. Flexsave relies on DoiT's ability to buy cloud instances in bulk at a significant savings and resell them to smaller clients at lower rates to save money.
At the other end of the spectrum, Deloitte discussed how they advise clients on internal transfer pricing for cloud services using FinOps data. Transfer pricing isn't exactly new, but using it for centrally purchased cloud transactions is an innovative use case that can favorably influence an organization's bottom line if done properly.
Other noteworthy sponsors included Kubernetes' cost management tool, Kubecost, which introduced Trenton Truitt, President of Kubecost. He has big growth plans for Kubecost SaaS to complement its on-premises offerings.
Croatia-based Oracle Cloud FinOps specialist Neos occupies a niche area in the marketplace that helps organizations using Oracle Cloud manage cloud costs with its multi-cloud tool CloudVane. According to Neos, Oracle Cloud is growing in popularity, especially in the Middle East where it has several important customers.
Perhaps the biggest news at the show was regarding IBM's acquisition of Apptio, which puts IBM in a strong position in FinOps and IT financial management if it can successfully integrate Apptio, Turbonomic and Nordcloud -- all of which attended the event, albeit at different booths.
What does the future hold for FinOps?
If attendance and enthusiasm are indicators, FinOps as a discipline is coming of age. By my measure, FinOps is still in the early days, but the work of FinOps.org members and moves like those at IBM/Apptio and the FOCUS specification point to a maturing discipline.
In the near term, standardization of source data will lower the effort it takes organizations to ingest, tag and manage data streams from different cloud providers. Further down the road, adding carbon usage metrics to the data stream -- after it makes its way into the FOCUS specification -- will increase the effect that FinOps has on IT and business decision-making.