As technology drives forward faster than ever, it becomes more difficult to understand what the best course of action is. As a result, playing it safe tends to be the preferred option, especially when time and resources are scarce. Although this is low risk strategy, this isn’t necessarily the best approach. It is generally accepted that adopting a strategic IT direction that includes ‘cloud’ affords IT teams the flexibility to be more daring to try new things without the burden of investing heavily in IT hardware and management costs. Instead, cloud can offer the ability to ‘fail fast’ and try again, with little financial exposure.

Adopting a ‘cloud first’ strategy will not measure up to expectations if it’s not managed and governed properly. There are many good habits that need to be established at an early stage to avoid your IT assets looking more like a messy pile of bits and less like the well-oiled machine you set out to create. Thankfully, it’s never too late to whip things into shape with good management, measurement and guidance. And you can still retain the flexibility and agility the cloud brings.

In order to manage, measure and guide, we created a new set of product offerings under the category of ‘Cloud Optimisation’. Three levels of service powered by a combination of:
• Tooling – CloudHealth by VMWare, the market leader in cloud management software
• Best Practice – drawing on the wealth and depth of experience in our cloud teams to deliver best practice advice
• Cloud Optimisation Consultants – specialists concentrating on combining the power of the tooling and best practice teams underpinned by a background in real life business problems gained from a career in IT architecture, development, support and management

One of the things we often can’t quite understand is why a prospective new customer wouldn’t want to get the efficiencies out of the cloud;
• maybe they don’t realise where they are vs where they could be – this can be a complicated environment after all
• maybe they don’t have any budget to allocate – our recommended savings tend to free up cash that could be assigned to making further improvements

Based on discussions with our customers, I thought I’d put together some common questions as a sort of ‘FAQ’, as it strikes me that, understandably, there’s a lot of uncertainty, reluctance and possibly ignorance in knowing what’s truly possible.

What is cloud optimisation?
It’s the ongoing process of improving your cloud-based workloads to make optimal use of cloud products and services to deliver secure, best value for money efficiencies from your cloud investment.

I heard being in the cloud would naturally give me lots of savings – do I need to optimise it?
Migrating IT applications and services out of your data centre is only the first step. You can save on hosting and management costs, but you need to regularly (and repeatedly) measure and review what you have running and align that with best practices to ensure you’re travelling in the right direction. Cloud functionality is improving all the time and to realise the true savings, you need to stay abreast of the latest features, functionality and pricing options. All this, plus staying aligned to your business goals requires dedication.

I don’t need the latest cloud gadgets though do I?
Tooling and gadgets are great when used appropriately and could be exactly what you need to solve a particular challenge, but you need to be careful as they can also prove to be a distraction. Staying up-to-date with and assessing the latest developments is fundamental to our team of experts and running your business is your key focus. Collaboration somewhere in the middle will identify the best application of any new tools and features. You also need to be aware of the latest pricing offerings as this is changing constantly, for example, simply moving to a newer server type could save around 10% cost and give you a bit more computing power too!

But can’t I do it myself?
Yes of course, if you have a team assigned to reviewing and analysing the newest tools, features (there were over 1,900 released by AWS last year) and pricing models, and then applying them to your IT strategy – but it’s probably cheaper and easier to pay a specialist.

Won’t that be expensive though?
Surprisingly, no! For the equivalent of a few days of tech resource per month, you can get a regular review with insights from a service that builds knowledge of how your applications run, what business constraints you have and what your future roadmap looks like, which is likely to be more cost effective than upskilling internally.

My IT guys will make sure we’re running efficiently.
Yes, they might. However, what we tend to see is that IT and technical teams are focussed on performance, resilience and security. They aren’t usually accountable for cost.  Subsequently, efficiency may not be considered a priority and they may not have visibility of the impacts of their decisions, i.e. they don’t see the costs. IT teams are not always necessarily aware of budgets so may design solutions which are not aligned with budget or costs constraints. Cloud is a toolbox of products and services and we can advise which is the best option to meet all requirements including functionality, performance and cost.

My Finance Director will make sure of that though.
Possibly, if they know how IT services can be run efficiently in the cloud – but without that knowledge, they may not realise there’s a cheaper way of operating.

What could I realistically expect to save?
We are seeing consistent savings of around 30% – but that’s really just the start. A combination of the right tooling from CloudHealth by VMWare, our cloud optimisation experts, channeling best practices and a wealth of experience means that recommendations never stop - whether it be for identifying improvements in efficiencies, governance, budgeting, control or further cost savings. KCOM’s Cloud Optimisation service blends technical expertise with commercial know-how meaning we drive improvements to the financial bottom line.

Ok, how do I find out if my cloud-based services are running in an optimal way?
We can set you up straight away with a free trial to look at a slice of your estate. We can also perform a half day Cloud Optimisation Review to understand how you manage and provision your cloud IT currently. Contact us at Cloud.team@kcom.com to find out more about either of these options. Alternatively, we can give you a demo of the CloudHealth tooling and provide an overview of the approach we take.

In dealing with the many customers over the last few years, we’ve encountered lots of reasons why cloud optimisation wasn’t adopted and scenarios where challenges were faced.

For one customer, who was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, we identified that by rightsizing (restarting an instance on a smaller or larger machine type) and reserving (committing for a minimum of 12 months to earn considerable discounts) their instances, they could save 40% per month.

Providing these high-level recommendations uncovered other constraints that were not previously understood. For example, there was little to no autoscaling designed into the application architecture – instead, applications were scaled for peak demand (which was unpredictable). Their IT teams weren’t constrained by budget, and the directors weren’t aware that there was a more efficient way of operating.

KCOM provided findings and recommendations to the Directors, who were keen to adopt the advice of building in some additional elasticity into some of the applications to allow them to scale. During this process an additional benefit was also uncovered which addressed some fundamental governance issues. As a result, we were able to provide them with even more confidence that their cloud strategy could drive greater efficiencies.

Another of our customers saw their IT spend increasing over time but wasn’t able to identify the cause. KCOM expertise coupled with CloudHealth identified that they hadn’t adopted a company-wide strategy of tagging their cloud assets. As a result, they had no way of identifying the runaway assets and apportioning costs to teams or departments. We were able to advise them on a strategy for tagging, which went on to uncover many of the reasons for the disparity between their expectations of the costs, and the reality. This included development resources that weren’t switched off overnight and assets which weren’t cleaned up thoroughly following deletion.

Hopefully you can see there are lots of reasons to have cloud optimisation as part of your ongoing activities. I’ve tried to answer some of the basic questions that might have been bothering you and provide some food for thought.

You can read eGuide – Driving success through Cloud Optimisation - for some more detailed thoughts about getting started, but my colleagues and I are always happy to answer questions or arrange a Cloud Optimisation Review, so please do get in touch if there’s anything we can help with.