Gaining visibility into cloud costs and identifying potential cloud waste

Managing cloud costs and knowing exactly where their cloud spend goes and why- becomes a nearly impossible task for most of the Saas companies. As per our current interaction with our users, these companies don’t have the required expertise and resources i.e developer bandwidth and cost to build cost-efficient products on the cloud. As the infrastructure grows, there are many cloud resources like ec2 instances, DB clusters, etc. to keep track of. Due to this increased number of resources and split context of infrastructure in developers, their cloud starts getting complex and challenging to understand. 

While using cloud-native technologies such as microservices, containers, and Kubernetes, they don’t have full visibility into their costs. This affects the allocation of sufficient resources to the right use cases, instance types, deployment projects, and other DevOps practices which is an important factor in order to reduce the overall cloud costs. This information is frequently buried under text rows of AWS bills.

DevOps Engineers find it difficult to forecast, plan and budget the cloud spend with accuracy. They are not able to

  • See the cost impact of their work.
  • Identify their least profitable features, customers, and projects within the cloud.
  • Discover areas of their software that could be rearchitected for increased profitability.
  • Decide whether to adjust their pricing structure, decommission some features to cut operational costs, or scrap some projects to make room for more profitable ones.
  • Determine the best services to use for each application.

To ensure you are maximizing your investment in cloud providers like AWS, the practice of monitoring, measuring, and controlling cloud costs comes into play. Cloud cost management focuses on waste reduction measures, such as eliminating under-utilized or forgotten resources and optimizing purchasing decisions (e.g., reserved instances and savings plans) along with this, focusing on architectural optimization. Applications can be built so that infrastructure is highly elastic — so your company only pays for what you and your customers use.

Now, let’s talk about some of the native cloud cost monitoring and visibility solutions AWS is offering-

  • AWS CloudWatch: CloudWatch is one of AWS’ native tools for managing cloud costs. It pulls metrics and logs from multiple AWS applications, services, and resources in near-real-time and provides AWS cost reporting by displaying them over a single dashboard for more straightforward computation.
  • Cost Explorer: AWS Cost Explorer lets you analyze cost and usage data at a high level (for example, total costs and usage across all accounts) 
Now let’s see where these tools are lagging: 
  • As the name suggests, AWS Cost Explorer and CloudWatch only provide visibility into the AWS cloud i.e it can’t be used for Azure, Google Cloud, or Kubernetes. So, it is not a good option for hybrid environments or multi-cloud organization.
  • Information on idle, unallocated, and utilized costs within Kubernetes are crucial to understand resource efficiency in Kubernetes. But none of AWS tools provides that.
  • AWS Cost Explorer and CloudWatch do not provide recommendations for Kubernetes or even ECS workloads, for which you need to leverage AWS Fargate. While AWS Cost Explorer provides a similar service, it does come with caveats: You need to set it up – and pay – for each service you want tracked. 
  • AWS Cost Explorer marks tags as “optional.” It is true that it can function without them, but the results without good tag hygiene are quite basic, showing you the costs for your services across regions. For granular visibility, it is important to create, apply, and maintain good tagging policies. This granularity of visibility cannot be achieved in AWS Cost Explorer without tags. Without tagging, you’ll only have access to service-level data when it comes to costs. 

Other than these, there are some of the other problems faced by users over the period of time

  • No free support, Building CloudWatch dashboards can be cumbersome. You have to navigate through various screens to get the metrics you want to add. CloudWatch only has some defined free metrics for every service; to build a custom metric, you need to pay extra for each metric. 
  • CloudWatch does not give you any recommendations, so you have to know what you’re doing.
  • If you have application, microservice, or environment costs that are outside of AWS- Cost Explorer would not be able to provide insight, as it only works within the AWS cloud. 
  • They do not provide integration with third-party libraries.
  • The report function is very inconvenient. CSV files can be imported but it is really hard to integrate with any of the Databases on Amazon Web Services to search and run queries.
  • You have to build alerts and alarms yourself. Amazon CloudWatch alerts appear to only allow you to set “Alarms” for things already exposed & integrated to publish metrics to CloudWatch. They don’t support the ability to configure when you want to be alerted. This means you can’t categorize alarms into priority levels leading to the slippery slope towards over-alerting. 

For AWS, AWS Cost Explorer offers a useful set of visibility, cost-saving, and forecasting tools. As a free tool available to AWS customers, it delivers the basics that finance teams and budget owners would like to know. However, AWS Cost Explorer is built for point-in-time views into costs, not for the daily toil that goes into efficient cloud cost management.

However, AWS native tools are not sufficient for multi-cloud setups and container orchestration outside of AWS ECS, which is where the world is moving now. There is an excessive amount of tagging required to fully use the features of AWS Cost Explorer and acquire a thorough insight of costs, and customers must pay extra for add-on services like anomaly detection. 

If you’re looking for comprehensive multi-cloud and container cost visibility and cost-savings opportunities, OpsLyft Cost Saving Insights for Cloud Cost Management is at your rescue. OpsLyft recognises the strain that engineering teams feel in order to get a complete view of cloud costs. OpsLyft is a solution that provides users with more cloud value in less time.