Cloud cost-consciousness is having a moment

  • Developers need to rediscover the “lost art” of cost awareness, says Amazon CTO Werner Vogels.

  • IT shops aren’t cutting costs, but they’re focusing on becoming more efficient.

  • Emerging FinOps tools can help.

After years of spending with abandon like teenagers, IT departments are becoming more aware of cloud costs — and, by extension, the need to control them. 

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels acknowledged the awakening cost consciousness at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference late last month.

“Cost awareness is a lost art,” Vogels said.

AWS even went so far as to introduce resource management tools and a web manifesto: “The Frugal Architect." Red Hat also debuted cost-cutting tools for Kubernetes at re:Invent.

That doesn’t mean cloud spending is slowing down. Gartner expects cloud spending to total $678.8 billion in 2024, up 20.4%. But the market is changing, with non-technical issues, including cost and other factors, driving decisions.

As Gartner put it, cryptically: “… cloud models no longer drive business outcomes, but rather, business outcomes shape cloud models.” (Whoever writes Gartner’s press releases has a future in fortune cookies.)

IT shops aren’t cutting costs, but they are focusing on “efficiency and the overall cost of goods/services that cloud contributes,” Roy Illsley, Omdia chief analyst, told Silverlinings.

He continued: “IT budgets are still increasing (although last year, with inflation, they were flat in real terms), and cloud is consuming a greater proportion of the budget.” Organizations are adopting FinOps practices to control costs.

Companies want to grow the business “without an equal linear increase in IT costs,” Illsley said. “For many, if the company doubled, then IT doubled, but now it is all about breaking that linkage, so IT becomes a smaller component of the cost of goods and services.”

To achieve efficiency, IT shops must ensure employees know the best practices for cloud use.

“It is like having teenagers — you need to remind them to switch off the lights, PlayStation, etc. when they leave a room,” Illsley said. Similarly, development teams must know to only power on cloud instances when necessary.

Developers, including Apptio and CloudHealth, provide tools to help control cloud costs, and the FinOps Foundation provides valuable resources, Illsley said.

Multi-cloud is a “double-edged sword” for cost efficiency, the Omdia analyst said. “It can reduce costs by selecting the correct workload for the correct cloud, but it also complicates cloud cost management as there is no true portability in the cloud, so you have to factor in remedial work to migrate workloads.”

Keeping track of costs

Vendor Massdriver introduced tools to help operations teams create cloud infrastructure bills of materials (CloudIBOM) and for cloud cost tracking.

“We’re a platform for designing platforms,” Cory O’Daniel, Massdriver CEO and co-founder, told Silverlinings. (I guess December is Talk Like a Fortune Cookie Month? I didn’t get the email.)

Massdriver’s customers are in traditional industries, such as healthcare and utilities, which historically struggle to attract engineering talent, O’Daniel said.

The company's platform allows operations engineers to publish infrastructure components running on any platform supported by Terraform — including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure or on-premises. Developers can access those components by drawing the infrastructure they need, as simply as drawing a diagram on a whiteboard.

The result is that operations teams can control costs and assure security and compliance while developers get the necessary flexibility.