Cloud adoption is becoming more popular across all industries, as it has proven to be reliable, efficient, and more secure as a software service. As cloud adoption increases, companies are faced with the issue of managing these new environments and their operations, ultimately impacting day-to-day business operations. Not only are IT professionals faced with the challenge of juggling their everyday work activities with managing their company’s cloud platforms but must do so in an timely, cost-efficient manner. Often, this requires hiring and training additional IT people—resources that are getting more and more difficult to find.
Managing your cloud operations on your own can seem like a daunting, tedious task that distracts from strategic business goals. A cloud managed service provider (MSP) monitors and maintains your cloud environments relieving IT from the day-to-day cloud operations, ensuring your business operates efficiently. This is not to say IT professionals are incapable of performing these responsibilities, but rather, outsourcing allows the IT professionals within your company to concentrate on the strategic operations of the business. In other words, you do what you do best, and the service provider takes care of the rest.
The alternative to an MSP is hiring and developing within your company the expertise necessary to keep up with the rapidly evolving cloud environment and cloud native technologies. Doing it yourself factors in a hiring process, training, and payroll costs. While possible, maintaining your cloud environments internally might not be the most feasible option in the long run. Additionally, a private cloud environment can be costly and requires your applications are handled internally. Migrating to the public cloud or adopting hybrid cloud model allows companies flexibility, as they allow a service provider either partial or full control of their network infrastructure.
What are Managed Cloud Services?
Managed cloud services are the IT functions you give your service provider to handle, while still allowing you to handle the functions you want. Some examples of the management that service providers offer include:
Managed cloud database: A managed database puts some of your company’s most valuable assets and information into the hands of a complete team of experienced Database Administrators (DBAs). DBAs are available 24/7/365 to perform tasks such as database health monitoring, database user management, capacity planning and management, etc.
Managed cloud security services: The public cloud has many benefits, but with it also comes security risks. Security management is another important MSP service to consider for your business. A cloud managed service provider can prevent and detect security threats before they occur, while fully optimizing the benefits provided by a cloud environment.
Managed cloud optimization: The cloud can be costly, but only as costly as you allow it to be. An MSP can optimize cloud spend through consulting, implementation, tools, reporting services, and remediation.
Managed governance & compliance: Without proper governance, your organization can be exposed to security vulnerabilities. Should a disaster occur within your business, such as a cyberattack on a data center, MSPs offer disaster recovery services to minimize recovery downtime and data loss. A managed governance and compliance service with 2nd Watch helps your Chief Security and Compliance Officers maintain visibility and control over your public cloud environment to help achieve on-going, continuous compliance.
At 2nd Watch, our foundational services include a fully managed cloud environment with 24/7/365 support and industry leading SLAs. Our foundational services address the key needs to better manage spend, utilization, and operations.
What are the Benefits of a Cloud Managed Service Provider?
Using a Cloud Managed Service Provider comes with many benefits if you choose the right one.
Some of these benefits include, but are not limited to:
Cost savings: MSPs have experts that know how to efficiently utilize the cloud, so you get the most out of your resources while reducing cloud computing costs.
Increased data security: MSPs ensure proper safeguards are utilized while proactively monitoring and preventing potential threats to your security.
Increased employee production: With less time spent managing the cloud, your IT managers can focus on the strategic business operations.
24/7/365 management: Not only do MSPs take care of cloud management for you but do so 100% of the time.
Overall business improvement: When your cloud infrastructure is managed by a trusted cloud advisor, they can optimize your environments while simultaneously allowing time for you to focus on core business operations. They can also recommend cloud native solutions to further support the business agility required to compete.
Why Our Cloud Management Platform?
With cloud adoption increasing in popularity, choosing a managed cloud service provider to help with this process can be overwhelming. While there are many options, choosing one you can trust is important to the success of your business. 2nd Watch provides multi-cloud management across AWS, Azure, and GCP, and has a special emphasis of putting our customers before the cloud. Additionally, we use industry standard, cloud native tooling to prevent platform lock in.
The solutions we create at 2nd Watch are tailored to your business needs, creating a large and lasting impact on our clients. For example:
On average, 2nd Watch saves customers 41% more than if they managed the cloud themselves (based on customer data)
Customers experience increased efficiency in launching applications, adding an average 240 hours of productivity per year for your business
On average, we save customers 21% more than our competitors
2nd Watch helps customers at every step in their cloud journey, whether that’s cloud adoption or optimizing your current cloud environment to reduce costs. We can effectively manage your cloud, so you don’t have to. Contact us to get the most out of your cloud environment with a managed cloud service provider you can trust.
Cloud optimization is an ongoing task for any organization driven by data. If you don’t believe you need to optimize, or you’re already optimized, you may not have the data necessary to see where you’re over-provisioned and losing spend. Revisit the optimization pillars frequently to best evolve with and take advantage of everything the cloud has to offer.
Begin with the end in mind
The big question is, where are you trying to go? This question should constantly be revisited with internal stakeholders and business leaders. Define the process that will get you there and follow the order of operations identified to reach your optimization goal. Losing sight of the purpose, getting caught up in shiny new tools, or failing to incorporate the right teams could lead you off path.
Empower someone to drive the process
This is pivotal because without this appointed person, cloud optimization will not happen. Give someone the power to drive optimization policies throughout the organization. Companies most successful in achieving optimization have a good internal mandate to make it a priority. When messages come from the top, and are enforced through a project champion, people tend to pay attention and management is much more effective.
Fill the data gaps
Cloud optimization is a data driven exercise, so you need all the data you can get to make it valuable. Your tools will be much more compelling when they have the data necessary to make smart recommendations. Understand where to get the data in your organization, and figure out how to get any data you don’t have. Verify your data regularly to confirm accuracy for intelligent decision making geared toward optimization.
Implement tagging practices
The practice of not only implementing, but also actively enforcing your tagging policies, drives optimization. Be it an environment tag, owner tag, or application tag, tags help you understand your data and what or who is driving spend.
While lack of tagging and data gaps prevent visibility, overprovisioning is also an accountability issue. Just look at the hundred plus AWS services alone that show up on a bill for an organization that’s a long-time user. It’s not uncommon for 20-30% of the total to be attributed to services they never even knew existed at the time they migrated to the cloud.
Hold your app teams accountable with an internal mechanism that lets the data speak for itself. It can be as simple as a dashboard with tagging grading, because everybody understands those results.
Rearchitect and refactor
Migrating to the cloud via a lift and shift can be a valuable strategy for certain organizations. However, after a few months in the cloud, you need to intentionally move forward with the next steps. Reevaluating, refactoring and rearchitecting will occur multiple times along the way. Without them, you end up spending more money than necessary.
Continuous optimization is a must
Optimization is not a one and done project because the possibilities are constantly evolving. Almost every day, a new technology is introduced. Maybe it’s a new instance family or tool. A couple years ago it was containers, and before that it was serverless. Being aware of these new and improved technologies is key to maintaining continuous optimization.
Engage with an experienced partner
There are a lot of factors to consider, evaluate, and complete as part of your cloud optimization practice. To maximize your optimization efforts, you want someone experienced to guide your strategy.
One benefit to partnering with an optimization expert, like 2nd Watch, is that an external partner can diffuse the internal conflicts typically associated with optimization. So much of the process is navigating internal politics and red tape. A partner helps meld the multiple layers of your business with a holistic approach that ensures your cloud is running as efficiently as possible.
Optimizing your cloud is essential for maximizing budgets, centralizing business units, making informed decisions, and driving performance. Regardless of whether you’re already in the cloud or you’re just beginning to consider migrating, you need to be aware of the challenges to optimization in order to avoid or overcome them and reach your optimization goals.
The most pervasive challenge of optimization in the cloud is the complexity of the task. Regardless of the cloud platform – AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or a hybrid cloud strategy – the intricacies are constantly evolving and changing. Trying to stay on top of that as an individual business requires a good amount of time, resources, and effort. Adding new tools and processes to your cloud requires integration, stakeholder agreement, data mining, analysis, and maintenance. While the potential outcomes from optimization are business-changing, it’s an ongoing process with many moving parts.
Standardized governance frameworks bring decentralized business units and disparate stakeholders together to accomplish business-wide objectives. Shared responsibility, from central IT to individual app teams, prevents the costly consequences of overprovisioning. While many organizations are knowingly overprovisioned, they can’t seem to solve the problem. Part of the issue is simply a lack of overall governance.
Cloud optimization is a data driven exercise. If it’s not data driven, it’s not scalable. You need to maximize your data by knowing what data you have, where it is, and how to access it. Also important is knowing what data is missing. Many organizations believe they have complete metrics, but they’re not capturing and monitoring memory, which is a huge piece of the puzzle. In fact, memory is one of the most constrained points of data across organizations.
Incredibly important within data discovery and data mapping is gaining visibility through tagging. Without an enforced and uniform tagging strategy as part of your governance structure, spend can increase without accounting for it. Tags provide insight into your cloud economics, letting you know who is spending what, what are they spending it on, and how much are they spending. It’s not uncommon to see larger organizations with a number of individual linked accounts and no one knows who they belong to. We’ve even found, after some digging, that the owners of those accounts haven’t been with the company for months! To get the cost saving benefits from cloud optimization, you need visibility throughout the process.
5. Technical expertise
You need a certain level of technical expertise and intuition to take advantage of all the ways you can optimize your cloud. Too often, techs aren’t necessarily thinking about optimization, but rather make decisions based on other performance or technical aspects. Without optimization at the forefront of these deterministic behaviors, the business drivers may not perform as expected. Partner with data scientists and architects to map connections between data, workloads, resources, financial mechanisms, and your cloud optimization goals.
Tools are part of the solution, but not the entire solution.
While tools can help with your cloud optimization process, they can’t solve these common challenges alone. Tools just don’t have the capability to solve your data gaps. In fact, one foundational issue with tools is the specific algorithms used to generate recommendations. Regardless of whether or not the tool has complete data, it will still make the same recommendations, thereby creating confusion and introducing new risks.
It takes work to get the best results. Someone has to first be able to deduce the information provided by your tools, then put it into context for the various decision makers and stakeholders, and finally, your application owners and businesses teams have to architect the optimization correctly to be able to take advantage of the savings.
In choosing the right tools to aid your optimization, be aware of ‘tool champions’ who create internal noise around decision making. New tools are launched almost daily, and different stakeholders are going to champion different tools.
Once you find a tool, stick with it. Give it a chance to fully integrate with your cloud, provide training, and encourage adoption for best results. The longer it’s a part of your infrastructure, the more it will be able to aid in optimization.
2nd Watch takes a holistic approach to cloud optimization from strategy and planning, to cost optimization, forecasting, modeling and analytics. Download our eBook to learn more about adopting a holistic approach to cloud cost optimization.
Hybrid cloud strategies require a fair amount of effort and knowledge to construct, including for infrastructure, orchestration, application, data migration, IT management, and potential issues related to silos. There are a number of complexities to consider to enable seamless integration of a well-constructed hybrid cloud strategy. We recommend employing these 5 best practices as you move toward a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud architecture to ensure a successful transition.
Utilize cloud management tools.
Cloud management providers have responded to the complexities of a hybrid strategy with an explosion of cloud management tools. These tools can look at your automation and governance, lifecycle management, usability, access and more, and perform many tasks with more visibility.
Unique tooling for each cloud provider is especially important. Some partners may recommend a single pane of glass for simplicity, but that can be too simple for service catalogues and when launching new resources. The risk with going too simplistic is missing the opportunity to take advantage of the best aspects of each cloud.
Complete a full assessment of applications and dependencies first.
Before you jump into a hybrid cloud strategy, you need to start with a full assessment of your applications and dependencies. A common misstep is moving applications to the public cloud, while keeping your database in your private cloud or on-prem datacenter. The result is net latency drag, leading to problems like slow page loads and videos that won’t play.
Mapping applications and dependencies to the right cloud resource prior to migration gives you the insight necessary for a complete migration with uninterrupted performance. Based on the mapping, you know what to migrate when, with full visibility into what will be impacted by each. This initial step will also help with cloud implementation and hybrid connect down the line.
Put things in the right place.
This might sound obvious, but it can be challenging to rationalize where to put all your data in a hybrid environment. Start by using the analysis of your applications and dependencies discussed above. The mapping provides insight into traffic flows, networking information, and the different types of data you’re dealing with.
A multi-cloud environment is even more complex with cost implications and networking components. On-prem skills related to wide area network (WAN) connectivity are still necessary as you consider how to monitor the traffic – ingress, egress, east, and west.
Silos can be found in all shapes and sizes in an organization, but one major area for silos is in your data. Data is one of the biggest obstacles to moving to the cloud because of the cost of moving it in and out and accessing it. The amount of data you have impacts your migration strategy significantly, so it’s critical to have a clear understanding of where data may be siloed.
Every department has their own data, and all of it must be accounted for prior to migrating. Some data silo issues can be resolved with data lakes and data platforms, but once you realize silos exist, there’s an opportunity to break them down throughout the organization.
An effective method to breaking down silos is by getting buy-in from organizational leaders to break the cultural patterns creating silos in the first place. Create a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) during your cloud transformation to understand and address challenges within the context of the hybrid strategy across the organization.
Partner with proven experts.
Many companies have been successful in their hybrid cloud implementation by leveraging a partner for some of the migration, while their own experts manage their internal resources. With a partner by your side, you don’t have to invest in the initial training of your staff all at once. Instead, your teams can integrate those new capabilities and skills as they start to work with the cloud services, which typically increases retention, reduces training time, and increases productivity.
Partners will also have the knowledge necessary to make sure you not only plan but implement and manage the hybrid architecture for overall efficiency. When choosing a partner, make sure they’ve proven the value they can bring. For instance, 2nd Watch is one of only five VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency holders in the United States. That means we have the verified experience to understand the complexities of running a hybrid VMware Cloud implementation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the hybrid cloud consulting and management solutions provided by 2nd Watch, Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.
Surprisingly, AWS has very quietly released a major enhancement/overhaul to purchasing compute resources up front. To date, purchasing Reserved Instances (Standard or Convertible) has offered AWS users great savings for their static workloads. This works because static workloads tend to utilize a set number of resources and RIs are paid for in advance, thereby justifying the financial commitment. That said, how often do today’s business needs remain constant, particularly with today’s product development? So, until now, you had two choices if you couldn’t use your RIs: take the loss and let the RI term run out or undertake the hassle of selling it on the marketplace (potentially for a loss). AWS Savings Plans, on the other hand, provide a gigantic leap forward in solving this problem. In fact, you will find that these AWS Savings Plans provide far more flexibility and return for your investment than the standard RI model.
Here is the gist of the AWS Savings Plans program, taken from the AWS site:
AWS Savings Plans is a flexible pricing model that provides savings of up to 72% on your AWS compute usage. This pricing model offers lower prices on Amazon EC2 instances usage, regardless of instance family, size, OS, tenancy or AWS Region, and also applies to AWS Fargate usage.
AWS Savings Plans offer significant savings over On Demand, just like EC2 Reserved Instances, in exchange for a commitment to use a specific amount of compute power (measured in $/hour) for a one- or three-year period. You can sign up for Savings Plans for a 1- or 3-year term and easily manage your plans by taking advantage of recommendations, performance reporting and budget alerts in the AWS Cost Explorer. (Jeff Barr, AWS, 11.06.2019)
This is HUGE for AWS clients, because now, for the first time ever, savings can also be applied to workloads that leverage serverless containers—as well as traditional EC2 instances!
Currently there are two AWS Savings Plans, and here’s how they compare:
EC2 Instance Savings Plan
Compute Savings Plan
Offers discount levels up to 72% off on-demand rates (same as RIs).
Offers discount levels up to 66% off on-demand rates (the same rate as Convertible RIs).
Any changes in instances are restricted to the same AWS region.
Spans regions. This could be a huge draw for companies with need for regional or national coverage.
Restricts EC2 instance types to the same family, but allows change in instance size and OS (e.g., t3.medium to t3.2xlarge).
More flexible. Does not limit EC2 instance families or OS, and therefore, you are no longer locked into a specific instance family at the moment of purchase, as you would be with a traditional RI.
EC2 instances only: Similar to convertible RIs, this plan allows you to increase instance size, with a new twist: you can also reduce instance size! Yes, this means you may no longer have to sell your unused RIs on the marketplace!
Allows clients to mix-and-match AWS products, such as EC2 and Fargate; extremely beneficial for clients who use a range of environments for their workloads.
BOTTOM LINE: Slightly less flexible, but you garner a greater discount.
BOTTOM LINE: More flexible, but with less of a discount.
As with standard RI purchases, understanding your workloads will be key to determining when to use AWS Savings Plans vs. standard RIs (RIs aren’t going anywhere, but we recommend that Savings Plans be used in place of RIs moving forward) vs. On-Demand (including analysis of potential savings from auto-parking, seasonality, elasticity, and so on). Sound a bit overwhelming? Fear not! This is where 2nd Watch’s Cloud Optimization service excels! Enrollment starts with a full analysis of your organization’s usage, AWS environment, and any other requirements/restrictions your organization may have. The final result is a detailed report, expertly determined by our AWS-certified optimization engineers, with our savings findings and recommendations—customized just for you!
Due to the nature of AWS Savings Plans, they will bring the most immediate value to clients who are either new to AWS or don’t have any RI commitments currently on their account. This is due to the fact that AWS Savings Plans cannot, unfortunately, replace existing RI purchases. Whatever your goals, our optimization experts are ready to help you plan the most strategically efficient and cost effective “next step” of your cloud transformation.
And that’s just the beginning
If you think that AWS Savings Plans may benefit your new or existing AWS deployment, contact us to jumpstart an analysis.
In my last blog post, I covered the basics of cloud cost optimization using the Six Pillars model, and focused on the ‘hows’ of optimization and the ‘whys’ of its importance. In this blog, I’d like to talk about what comes next: preparing your organization for your optimization project. The main reason most clients delay and/or avoid confronting issues regarding cloud optimization is because it’s incredibly complex. Challenges from cloud sprawl to misaligned corporate priorities can cause a project to come to a screeching halt. Understanding the challenges before you begin is essential to getting off on the right foot. Here are the 5 main challenges we’ve seen when implementing a cloud cost optimization project:
Cloud sprawl refers to the unrestricted, unregulated creation and use of cloud resources; cloud cost sprawl, therefore, refers to the costs incurred related to the use of each and every cloud resource (i.e., storage, instances, data transfer, etc.). This typically presents as decentralized account or subscription management.
Billing complexity, in this case, specifically refers to the ever-changing and variable billing practices of cloud providers and the invoices they provide you. Considering all possible variable configurations when creating many solutions across an organization, Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone has 500,000 plus SKUs you could see on any single invoice. If you cannot make sense of your bill up front, your cost optimization efforts will languish.
Lack of Access to Data and Application Metrics is one of the biggest barriers to entry. Cost optimization is a data driven exercise. Without billing data and application metrics over time, many incorrect assumptions end up being made resulting in higher cost.
Misaligned policies and methods can be the obstacle that will make or break your optimization project. When every team, organization or department has their own method for managing cloud resources and spend, the solution becomes more organizational change and less technology implementation. This can be difficult to get a handle on, especially if the teams aren’t on the same page with needing to optimize.
A lack of incentives may seem surprising to many, after all who doesn’t want to save money, however it is the number one blocker in large enterprises that we have experienced toward achieving optimization end goals. Central IT is laser focused on cost management and application/business units are focused more on speed and innovation. Both goals are important, but without the right incentives, process, and communication this fails every time. Building executive support to directly reapply realized optimization savings back to the business units to increase their application and innovation budgets is the only way to bridge misaligned priorities and build the foundation for lasting optimization motivation.
According to many cloud software vendors, waste accounts for 30% to 40% of all cloud usage. In the RightScale State of the Cloud Report 2019, a survey revealed that 35% of cloud spend is wasted. 2nd Watch has found that within large enterprise companies, there can be up to 70% savings through a combination of software and services. It often starts by just implementing a solid cost optimization methodology.
When working on a project for cloud cost optimization, it’s essential to first get the key stakeholders of an organization to agree to the benefits of optimizing your cloud spend. Once the executive team is onboard and an owner is assigned, the path to optimization is clear covering each of the 6 Pillars of Optimization.
THE PATH TO OPTIMIZATION
STEP ONE – Scope It Out!
As with any project, you first want to identify the goals and scope and then uncover the current state environment. Here are a few questions to ask to scope out your work:
Overall Project Goal – Are you focused on cost savings, workload optimization, uptime, performance or a combination of these factors?
Budget – Do you want to sync to a fiscal budget? What is the cycle? What budget do you have for upfront payments? Do you budget at an account level or organization level?
Current State – What number of instances and accounts do you have? What types of agreements do you have with your cloud provider(s)?
Growth – Do you grow seasonally, or do you have planned growth based on projects? Do you anticipate existing workloads to grow or shrink overtime?
Measurement – How do you currently view your cloud bill? Do you have detailed billing enabled? Do you have performance metrics over time for your applications?
Support – Do you have owners for each application? Are people available to assess each app? Are you able to shutdown apps during off hours? Do you have resources to modernize applications?
STEP TWO – Get Your Org Excited
One of the big barriers to a true optimization is gaining access to data. In order to gather the data (step 3) you first need to get the team onboard to grant you or the optimization project team access to the information.
During this step, get your cross-functional team excited about the project, share the goals and current state info you gathered in the previous step and present your strategy to all your stakeholders.
Stakeholders may include application owners, cloud account owners, IT Ops, IT security and/or developers who will have to make changes to applications.
Remember, data is key here, so find the people who own the data. Those who are monitoring applications or own the accounts are the typical stakeholders to involve. Then share with them the goals and bring them along this journey.
STEP THREE – Gather Your Data
Data is grouped into a few buckets:
Billing Data – Get a clear view of your cloud bill over time.
Metrics Data – CPU, I/O, Bandwidth and Memory for each application over time is essential.
Application Data – Conduct interviews of application owners to understand the nuances. Graph out risk tolerance, growth potential, budget constraints and identify the current tagging strategy.
A month’s worth of data is good, though three months of data is much better to understand the capacity variances for applications and how to project into the future.
STEP FOUR – Visualize and Assess Your Usage
This step takes a bit of skill. There are tools like CloudHealth that can help you understand your cost and usage in cloud. Then there are other tools that can help you understand your application performance over time. Using the data from each of these sources and collaborating them across the pillars of optimization is essential to understanding where you can find the optimal cost savings.
I often recommend bringing in an optimization expert for this step. Someone with a data science, cloud and accounting background can help you visualize data and find the best options for optimization.
STEP FIVE – Plan Your Remediation Efforts and Get to Work!
Now that you know where you can save, take that information and build out a remediation plan. This should include addressing workloads in one or more of the pillars.
For example, you may shut down resources at night for an application and move it to another family of instances/VMs based on current pricing.
Your remediation should include changes by application as well as:
RI Purchase Strategy across the business on a 1 or 3-year plan.
Auto-Parking Implementation to part your resources when they’re not in use.
Right-Sizing based on CPU, memory, I/O.
Family Refresh or movement to the newer, more cost-effective instance families or VM-series.
Elimination of Waste like unutilized instances, unattached volumes, idle load balancers, etc.
Storage reassessment based on size, data transfer, retrieval time and number of retrieval requests.
Tagging Strategy to track each instance/VM and track it back to the right resources.
IT Chargeback process and systems to manage the process.
Remediation can take anywhere from one month to a year’s time based on organization size and the support of application teams to make necessary changes.
With as much as 70% savings possible after implementing one of these projects, you can see the compelling reason to start. A big part of the benefits is organizational and long lasting including:
Visibility to make the right cloud spending decisions
Break-down of your cloud costs by business area for chargeback or showback
Control of cloud costs while maintaining or increasing application performance
Improved organizational standards to keep optimizing costs over time
Identification of short and long-term cost savings across the various optimization pillars:
Many companies reallocate the savings to innovative projects to help their company grow. The outcome of a well-managed cloud cost optimization project can propel your organization into a focus on cloud-native architecture and application refactoring.
Though complex, cloud cost optimization is an achievable goal. By cross-referencing the 6 pillars of optimization with your organizations policies, applications and teams, you can quickly find savings from 30 – 40% and grow from there.
By addressing project risks like lack of awareness, decentralized account management, lack of access to data and metrics, and lack of clear goals, your team can quickly achieve savings.