A Short Guide to Understanding Looker Pricing and Capabilities

Navigating the current BI and analytics landscape is often an overwhelming exercise. With buzzwords galore and price points all over the map, finding the right tool for your organization is a common challenge for CIOs and decision-makers. Given the pressure to become a data-driven company, the way business users analyze and interact with their data has lasting effects throughout the organization.

Looker pricing models

Looker, a recent addition to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, has a pricing model that differs from the per-user or per-server approach. Looker does not advertise their pricing model; instead, they provide a “custom-tailored” model based on a number of factors, including total users, types of users (viewer vs. editor), database connections, and scale of deployment.

Those who have been through the first enterprise BI wave (with tools such as Business Objects and Cognos) will be familiar with this approach, but others who have become accustomed to the SaaS software pricing model of “per user per month” may see an estimate higher than expected – especially when comparing to Power BI at $10/user per month. In this article, we’ll walk you through the reasons why Looker’s pricing is competitive in the market and what it offers that other tools do not.

Semantic and Governance Model

Unlike some of its competitors, Looker is not solely a reporting and dashboarding tool – it also acts as a data catalog across the enterprise. Looker requires users to think about their data and how they want their data defined across the enterprise.

Before you can start developing dashboards and visualizations, your organization must first define a semantic model (an abstraction of the database layer into business-friendly terms) using Looker’s native LookML scripting, which will then translate the business definitions into SQL. Centralizing the definitions of business metrics and models guarantees a single source of truth across departments. This will avoid a scenario where the finance department defines a metric differently than the sales or marketing teams, all while using the same underlying data. A common business model also eliminates the need for users to understand the relationships of tables and columns in the database, allowing for true self-service capabilities.

While it requires more upfront work, you will save yourself future headaches of debating why two different reports have different values or need to define the same business definitions in every dashboard you create.

By putting data governance front and center, your data team can make it easy for business users to create insightful dashboards in a few simple clicks.

Customization and Extensibility

At some point in the lifecycle of your analytics environment, there’s a high likelihood you will need to make some tweaks. Looker, for example, allows you to view and modify the SQL that is generated behind each visualization. While this may sound like a simple feature, a common pain point across analytics teams is trying to validate and tie out aggregations between a dashboard and the underlying database. Access to the underlying SQL not only lets analysts quickly debug a problem but also allows developers to tweak the auto-generated SQL to improve performance and deliver a better experience.

Another common complaint from users is the speed for IT to integrate data into the data warehouse. In the “old world” of Cognos and Business Objects, if your calculations were not defined in the framework model or universe, you would be unable to proceed without IT intervention. In the “new world” of Tableau, the dashboard and visualization are prioritized over the model. Looker brings the two approaches together with derived tables.

If your data warehouse doesn’t directly support a question you need to immediately answer, you can use Looker’s derived tables feature to create your own derived calculations. Derived tables allow you to create new tables that don’t already exist in your database. While it is not recommended to rely on derived tables for long-term analysis, it allows Looker users to immediately get speed-to-insight in parallel with the data development team incorporating it into the enterprise data integration plan.

Collaboration

Looker takes collaboration to a new level as every analyst gets their own sandbox. While this might sound like a recipe for disaster with “too many cooks in the kitchen,” Looker’s centrally defined, version-controlled business logic lives in the software for everyone to use, ensuring consistency across departments. Dashboards can easily be shared with colleagues by simply sending a URL or exporting directly to Google Drive, Dropbox, and S3. You can also send reports as PDFs and even schedule email delivery of dashboards, visualizations, or their underlying raw data in a flat file.

Embedded Analytics

Looker enables collaboration outside of your internal team. Suppliers, partners, and customers can get value out of your data thanks to the modern approach to embedded analytics. Looker makes it easy to embed dashboards, visuals, and interactive analytics to any webpage or portal because it works with your own data warehouse. You don’t have to create a new pipeline or pay for the cost of storing duplicate data in order to take advantage of embedded analytics.

So, is Looker worth the price?

Looker puts data governance front and center, which in itself is a decision your organization needs to make (govern first vs. build first). The addition of a centralized way to govern and manage your models is something that is often included as an additional cost in other tools, increasing the total investment when looking at competitors. If data governance and a centralized source of the truth is a critical feature of your analytics deployment, then the ability to manage this and avoid headaches of multiple versions of the truth makes Looker worth the cost.

call to action

If you’re interested in learning more or would like to see Looker in action, 2nd Watch has a full team of data consultants with experience and certifications in a number of BI platforms as well as a thorough understanding of how these tools can fit your unique needs. Get started with our data visualization starter pack.

 

rss
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Managed Cloud Services: Optimize, Reduce Costs, and Efficiently Achieve your Business Goals

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.

This is where a managed cloud service provider, like 2nd Watch, comes in.

Managed Cloud Service Provider

What is a Managed Cloud Service Provider?

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

Next Steps

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.

-Tessa Foley, Marketing

rss
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Top 10 Cloud Optimization Best Practices

Cloud optimization is a continuous process specific to a company’s goals, but there are some staple best practices all optimization projects should follow. Here are our top 10.

Top 10 Cloud Optimization Best Practices

1. Begin with the end in mind

Business leaders and stakeholders throughout the organization should know exactly what they’re trying to achieve with a cloud optimization project. Additionally, this goal should be revisited on a regular basis to make sure you remain on track to achievement. Create measures to gauge success at different points and follow the agreed upon order of operations to complete the process.

2. Create structure around governance and responsibility

Overprovisioning is one of the most common issues adding unnecessary costs to your bottom line. Implement specific and regulated structure around governance and responsibility for all teams involved in optimization to control any unnecessary provisioning. Check in regularly to make sure teams are following the structure and you only have the tools you need and are actively using.

3. Get all the Data you Need

Cloud optimization is a data-driven exercise. To be successful, you need insight into a range of data pieces. Not only do you need to identify what data you need and be able to get it, but you also need to know what data you’re missing and figure out how to get it. Collaborate with internal teams to make sure essential data isn’t siloed or already being collected. Additionally, regularly clean and validate data to ensure reliability for data-based decision making.

4. Implement Tagging Practices

To best utilize the data you have, organizing and maintaining it with strict tagging practices in necessary. Implement a system that works from more than just a technical standpoint. You can also use tagging to launch instances, control your auto parking methodology, or in scheduling. Tagging helps you understand the data and see what is driving spend. Whether it’s an environment tag, owner tag, or application tag, tagging provides clarity into spend, which is the         key to optimization.

5. Gain Visibility into Spend

Tagging is one way to see where your spend is going, but it’s not the only way required. Manage accounts regularly to make sure inactive accounts aren’t continuing to be billed. Set up an internal mechanism to review with your app teams and hold them accountable. It can be as simple as a dashboard with tagging grading, as long as it lets the data speak for itself.

6. Hire the Right Technical Expertise

Get more out of your optimization with the right technical expertise on your internal team. Savvy technicians should work alongside the business teams to drive the goals of optimization throughout the process. Without collaboration between these departments, you risk moving in differing directions with multiple end goals in mind. For example, one team might be acting with performance or a technical aspect in mind without realizing the implication on optimization. Partnering with optimization experts can also keep teams aligned and moving toward the same goal.

7. Select the Right Tools and Stick with Them

Tools are a part of the optimization process, but they can’t solve problems alone. Additionally, there are an abundance of tools to choose from, many of which have similar functionality and outcomes. Find the right tools for your goals, facilitate adoption, and give them the time and data necessary to produce results. Don’t get distracted by every new, shiny tool available and the “tool champions” fighting for one over another. Avoid the costs of overprovisioning by checking usage regularly and maintaining the governance structure established throughout your teams.

8. Make sure your Tools are Working.

Never assume a tool or a process you’ve put in place is working. In fact, it’s better to assume it’s not working and consistently check its efficiency. This regular practice of confirming the tools you have are both useful and being used will help you avoid overprovisioning and unnecessary spending. For tools to be effective and serve their purpose, you need enough visibility to determine how the tool is contributing to your overall end goal.

9. Empower Someone to Drive the Process.

The number one call to action for anyone diving into optimization is to appoint a leader. Without someone specific, qualified, and active in managing the project with each stakeholder and team involved, you won’t accomplish your goals. Empower this leader internally to gain the respect and attention necessary for employees to understand the importance of continuous optimization and contribute on their part.

10. Partner with Experts.

Finding the right partner to help you optimize efficiently and effectively will make the process easier at every turn. Bringing in an external driver who has the know-how and experience to consult on strategy through implementation, management, and replication is a smart move with fast results.

2nd Watch takes a holistic approach to cloud optimization with a team of experienced data scientists and architects who help you maximize performance and returns on your cloud assets. Are you ready to start saving? Let us help you define your optimization strategy to meet your business needs and maximize your results. Contact Us to take the next step in your cloud journey.

-Willy Sennott, Optimization Practice Manager

rss
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Cloud Optimization: Top 5 Challenges and Why Tools Can’t Solve Them

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.

1. Complexity

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.

2. Governance

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.

3. Data

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.

4. Visibility

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.

-Willy Sennott, Optimization Practice Manager

rss
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

5 Steps to Cloud Cost Optimization: Hurdles to Optimization are Organizational, Not Technical

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.

 

5 Main Cloud Cost Optimization Challenges

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.

Path to Cloud Optimization

Step One: Scope and Objectives

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: Data Access

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: Data Management

Data is grouped into a few buckets:

  1. Billing Data – Get a clear view of your cloud bill over time.
  2. Metrics Data – CPU, I/O, Bandwidth and Memory for each application over time is essential.
  3. 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 Data 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: Remediation Plan

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:

  1. RI Purchase Strategy across the business on a 1 or 3-year plan.
  2. Auto-Parking Implementation to part your resources when they’re not in use.
  3. Right-Sizing based on CPU, memory, I/O.
  4. Family Refresh or movement to the newer, more cost-effective instance families or VM-series.
  5. Elimination of Waste like unutilized instances, unattached volumes, idle load balancers, etc.
  6. Storage reassessment based on size, data transfer, retrieval time and number of retrieval requests.
  7. Tagging Strategy to track each instance/VM and track it back to the right resources.
  8. 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.

Download our ‘5 Steps to Cloud Cost Optimization’ infographic for a summary of this process.

End Result

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.

Ready to get started with your cloud cost optimization? Schedule a Cloud Cost Optimization Discovery Session for a free 2-hour session with our team of experts.

-Stefana Muller, Sr Product Manager

rss
Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail