A Guide to Cloud Cost Visibility

The first step in taking control of your cloud costs is knowing what resources are in use, but that only answers half of your governance question. Knowing who is responsible for those resources helps you better coordinate between teams and products, and align cloud costs with business value. You need tools that deliver cloud spend reports and forecasts by team and project so your organization knows what investments it is making in cloud resources. These tools should also help teams identify drains on cloud budgets. All this starts with reporting cloud costs directly to each resource’s owner and to anyone else who needs the information.

Cloud cost visibility isn’t just about what information is available; it’s also about how quick and easy it is to access that information. The best way to ensure a cloud cost optimization project is never finished is to never start because engineers can’t take the time to determine if the project is even worthwhile. Looking at disorganized data costs even more money by taking engineer time away from other projects.

Seeing that you spent ten thousand dollars on EC2 instances last month isn’t particularly actionable. Some cloud expenses are worthwhile investments: think production servers, developer tools, staging environments, testing services, and so forth. These investments must be attributed to the initiatives that generated them. On the other hand, some costs are meaningless drain you should eliminate: idle resources, over-provisioned services, and unnecessary data storage. Neither type of cost is effectively managed without a directly responsible owner. Tracking this information empowers the people generating costs to make effective informed decisions.

Attribute Worthwhile Investments

Cost visibility lets you calculate the real cost of various efforts to ensure proper attribution and bookkeeping. Amazon offers some tools for increasing the visibility of your cloud costs.

Amazon’s AWS Cost Explorer breaks down its bills by service and suggests generalized savings plans. It reports how much an organization spent on S3, EC2, elastic load balancers, each type of managed database, and so forth. When using a managed solution like AWS Elastic Beanstalk, AWS Cost Explorer breaks down expenses into their component services. This helps users determine what resources they spent money on. It is quite granular on the time axis, but isn’t particularly useful without tags.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) also supports tagging, which, when configured with a consistent scheme and clear namespaces, provides general information about resource usage. Tags are key-value pairs and are a fundamental tool for interacting with AWS resources. The key to effective tagging is uniformity. Everything from capitalization to naming strategy must be documented and standardized. This way, when manually or automatically tagging resources, the tags will be interoperable in future efforts to pull and analyze costs.

Yotascale’s cloud cost management solution can help with tagging hygiene by setting up tagging policies consisting of mandatory flags for tag keys and regular expression validation for tag key values which identify and remediate past inconsistencies. For example tags that were named similarly but are not identical, tags with spelling errors or tags keys missing values, Yotascale can also automatically inherit from parent or update tag key and tag key values with auto-tagging rules that are established within the platform

There are multiple ways that you can categorize resources with tags, matching the hierarchy of the tags to your business needs. These include:

  • By deployment type (dev test, staging, QA, production)

  • By team

  • By project

Once your resources have been tagged, you can create a prototype cost analysis, analyze the budget at a team and project level, and estimate the cost of a full deployment. Yotascale can help you achieve up to 95% accuracy for your cost allocation, greatly improving your cost visibility.

Although managing multiple tools for governance and auditing introduces significant overhead for your team, Yotascale offers an easier way to achieve cost visibility. Yotascale Contexts organizes your AWS bill according to your org chart instead of AWS’s service structure. This way, instead of seeing just what services are spending money, you see which teams and projects are responsible for each charge. Yotascale also will give you an overview of your monthly usage, but our platform is designed to compare your current utilization to the previous month which is a unique benefit to Yotascale.

Eliminate Unnecessary Spend

With complete cost visibility attributed to teams, it becomes more clear which portions of spend are unnecessary.

There are two different types of resources in cloud environments that cost more than they deliver: idle resources and over-provisioned resources. As a metaphor, consider a shipping company’s fleet of trucks. Idle resources are the trucks sitting empty and idling in the parking lot of a warehouse. The drivers are logging hours and the trucks are burning fuel, but they aren’t moving goods. Similarly, on cloud service providers, servers are spun up, used briefly, and left idle or doing useless calculations.

On the other hand, over-provisioned resources are trucks on the highway, moving inefficient loads of boxes. If the company has two types of trucks, one with room for 100 boxes, the other with room for 200 boxes, it would not send out the bigger truck, which burns more fuel, to deliver only 50 boxes. Yet, in cloud environments, there are plenty of overpowered compute units running minor tasks.

In cloud environments, virtual machines, instances, databases, load balancers, and containers, among others, may be idle resources if they are no longer needed. Idle resources are difficult to track down in resource-based reporting. Any resource may end up idle eventually, and they range from inconsequential to burdensome.

Over-provisioning is easier to solve, as what scales up can scale down. Automated tools can scan for instances that need to be right-sized. Watch out for over-provisioning when working with reserved compute instances, as these are harder to adjust once provisioned. Yotascale has the ability to make right-size recommendations based on autoscaling groups or tag groups, making it easier to assess right-size recommendations at scale vs individual instances.

Guard Against the Unexpected

Vigilance plus cost visibility prevents sticker shock at the end of the month or accidental runaway processes racking up unanticipated bills. When it comes to budgeting, Amazon again provides a general tool that falls short for complex use cases.

Yotascale gives unusual spend immediate and urgent cost visibility with machine learning-based (ML-based) runaway cost detection. Not only does Yotascale detect the cost anomaly, it sends notifications to your team by Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email to cut through the noise and integrate directly with teams’ communication patterns. This way, the people who can fix the problem are aware of it sooner, saving money.

Shine a Light on Cloud Spending

Yotascale gives you cost visibility on both good investments and unnecessary costs, organizing the information according to your company’s structure. It tracks complex architectures and reports directly to people generating the costs — as well as management, finance, and anyone else who needs the data — without wasting engineering time (and salary) digging through and organizing all this information.

Determining tradeoffs and tracking costs within a single region of a single cloud provider may be relatively manageable, but what happens when your company grows and you suddenly have many sets of tools for governance and auditing? Yotascale allows you to optimally budget for complicated cloud-native environments, down to Amazon EKS clusters and standalone Kubernetes cluster costs. The improved cost visibility surfaces existing issues and gives you the information you need to forestall new ones, accelerating operational efficiently in cloud environments.

To learn more about how Yotascale reduces cloud spend, check out some case studies or request a demo. Are you ready to dissect your massive cloud services bill and save money now? Claim your free trial.