Self-service, one of the greatest features cloud computing, makes lives of enterprises jumping on the cloud bandwagon easier in more than one ways. It makes it possible for them to have software, security, infrastructure and many other full-blown enterprise-capable applications up and running in minutes. All their website data could sit in the cloud on infrastructure they don’t even own or operate.
But such ease-of-use and flexibility also brings with it less visibility of resources, less control over computing, unintended expenses and ballooned bills. A big majority of companies are unaware of the services and resources deployed by them that they don’t even need or aren’t properly utilizing.
Large number of workloads, lax monitoring and lack of usage alert thresholds lead to bill shocks for such companies who find keeping track of what they’re spending too herculean a task. Add to it unwieldy spreadsheets with heavy amount of billing data and a decentralized financial view and they’re up for a nightmare.
We spoke to Mat Ellis, co-founder and CEO, Cloudability on the importance of avoiding unexpected or unnecessary cloud computing expenses and how Cloudability helps companies do so.
– Mat Ellis, CEO, Cloudability.
Q: Let’s begin with a broad overview of Cloudability.
A: The cloud has spurred a revolutionary increase in growth. Pinterest, Instagram, Netflix are all growing at unheard of rates. But managing cloud resources during that kind of growth presents a huge problem.
Cloudability helps companies overcome the growing pains so that they can continue to take full advantage of the cloud revolution and grow at unheard-of speeds.
We provide comprehensive tools in an easy-to-use SaaS format that measure cloud infrastructure costs and usage throughout your organization, allowing our users to:
- Find cloud resources that they’re paying for but not using.
- Track their cloud spending and usage trends over time, and plan for the future.
- View their spending in the context of important business actions, e.g. “we spend $2 per user per month on the cloud”.
- Predict and track ROI on large cloud purchases like AWS Reserved Instances.
Q: Can you please throw some light on the modus-operandi of Cloudability? How exactly does it help organizations in mitigating their cloud costs?
A: Most people assume that Cloudability’s primary benefit is in mitigating cloud costs. The reality is that we have a lot of customers who would like nothing more than to increase their cloud usage.
We provide constant visibility into a company’s cloud spending so that Operations, IT, Finance and Management are always confident that any dollar spent on the cloud is a dollar well-spent. It’s critical to develop that level of assurance when you’re spending so much money on a variable resource like cloud computing.
Q: Is there any difference in how Cloudability works with respect to the service provider? I mean does your monitoring process differ between a client having Git Hub and another one one having Amazon?
A: Ideally, we’d love to provide the same level of visibility for all of the cloud services our customers use. But we’re sometimes restricted by the amount of data that the service provider provides.
For instance, AWS provides hourly billing and usage data with a lot of granularity. That’s allowed us to build out a very deep analytics interface to track and analyze a user’s AWS costs and usage. For other providers, though, we only have access to daily or even monthly billing data.
Regardless of the level of integration, though, our users love having one report at the end of the month that contains all of their cloud spending.
Q: Founded in 2011, Cloudability passed $250M in cloud spending in a very short span of time. When you look back, what is one factor that you would say contributed most to your growth?
A: Our growth is a product of two factors:
First, we were the first company to recognize that the cloud was going to radically change the way companies managed their IT spending. That gave us a big head start and helped us reach a lot of cloud users right when they started feeling the pain.
Second, the cloud market itself is growing and our customers are growing with it. There are companies that we started working with two years back, who had one team of a few people working on AWS. Now their entire company is moving to the cloud … and creating their own Cloudability accounts.
Q: Do you see any major shift in the market’s perception of ‘Cloud’ during these 3 years?
A: Absolutely. At a fundamental level, the cloud has gone from “It’s coming. Are you ready?” to “It’s here. Are you on board?”.
While there’s still some discussion to be had about things like maximizing security in some applications or uptime in others, the conversation is now less about whether or not you should use the cloud and more about how you should be using the cloud.
That’s why we’re seeing revenue predictions of $20B/year by 2020 for cloud services like AWS. It’s also why we’re seeing traditional IT companies like VMWare and Oracle coming out with their own public cloud services.
Q: You recently launched your new product-AWS Cost Analytics. Now it has a lot of features which I think can be of real value to heavy AWS users. So can you talk about in detail about how each one of them helps in enhanced monitoring and analysis of cloud costs:
AWS tag mapping is, hands-down, our most popular feature. Ever since AWS started allowing their users to tag resources, those users have been desperate for an easy way to apply those tags to spending and usage data.
Cloudability’s AWS tag mapping lets finance and management teams break down their AWS costs from one or more accounts by cost centers like department, project or client. Meanwhile, operations and engineering teams can see usage and optimization data broken out along functional lines like environment, team or role.
AWS Product-level spending reports:
Seeing your AWS spending by product (EC2, S3, RDS, etc.) is hard enough with one account. If you have more than one account, it becomes a huge monthly chore involving hours with a spreadsheet. Cloudability automates the entire process by pulling in billing data from all of your AWS accounts and giving you an easy way to see that spending broken down by product, time frame or anything else you can think of.
Segmented reports for multiple AWS accounts :
In larger companies using AWS, it’s pretty common to find multiple AWS accounts that have been set up for different teams, departments, projects, etc. This is the old school way of breaking down the company’s costs.
Inevitably, though, you need to look at the costs across all of the company’s accounts broken down by another dimension. Suppose you have three different AWS accounts for three different products. Within each product’s account, you have a dev environment, a testing environment and a production environment. So how do you show what your company is spending on testing across all three of your products?
Now it’s simple. You can tag your resources in all three accounts as environment=dev, environment=testing, or environment=production. Then, with all three accounts added to Cloudability, you can view your aggregate spending broken down by the tag “environment.” Now your finance and management teams can make better, more informed decisions with a better understanding of their costs.
Customized Metric Reports:
Let’s face it. There are a lot of AWS dashboards out there; plenty of static reports that can show you a simple analysis of your company’s AWS cost and usage data. But what happens when you need to see the data in a new way? Broken down by a new dimension?
Cloudability’s AWS Cost Analytics tool was built on a foundational principle that the best person to design a report for your organization is you. You know which questions need to be answered better than anyone else. So, instead of just creating another AWS dashboard, we’ve created a platform that allows IT, DevOps and Engineering pros to create any report they need.
Q: Since you’ve over 6000 clients, can you tell us three things most organizations over spend on when it comes to cloud service?
A: First, they often don’t accurately know their own spending. Finding out who is actually using the cloud can be challenging, even in smaller organizations. And even when you think you know, finding out exactly what is being spent is very time consuming to keep up to date and accurate. We often see spend drop 20% when new users sign up, simply because they know their spending for the first time. You can’t control what you aren’t measuring.
Secondly, engineers are notorious for over-provisioning. They will readily turn on new services but sometimes aren’t so diligent in turning them off when they are no longer needed. And when you ask what all these services are being used for, or what will happen when you turn them off, you can get a mouthful of technical details that can be hard to parse. So make sure you know how to gauge what’s actually being used. (Fortunately, tools like ours can point out services that appear under-utilized.)
Finally, the biggest and most spectacular overages are often caused by human error and/or malice. Scripts that turn servers on but not off and security compromises are the leading causes. In these cases we’ve seen overages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they’re easy to detect if you’re watching your costs on a daily basis.
Q : With the complexity and size of data increasing, many organizations have started taking cloud expenditure seriously . We’ve thus seen a sudden boom in analysis tools like yours in a last couple of years. With such a bracing competition out there, how do you plan to stand out?
A: At Cloudability, we’ve always differentiated ourselves along three lines:
- Fully customizable reporting: With our Cost and Usage analytics tools, users can mix, match, slice and dice their cost and usage data any way that they need to see it. This gives a much greater level of flexibility than traditional dashboard tools with pre-defined reports.
- Organization-wide ease-of-use: Cloudability is designed to be used by anyone in an organization, from engineers and IT/Ops pros to finance, management and C-suite team members. This means that cloud cost and usage data is accessible by everyone who needs it without having to mess around with spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations.
- Cloud-agnostic cost management: Cloudability has always worked to support as many IaaS, PaaS and SaaS vendors as possible. This means that organizations can track, manage and report their entire cloud spending from one tool.
Q: What do you have to say to Non-technology companies who probably aren’t very conscious when it comes to budget-allocation for the cloud?
A: Cloud cost management is no different than any other area of budgeting. It takes three steps:
- You have to monitor your cloud spending daily so that you can react to changes before they get out of hand.
- You have to be able to segment your cloud spending based on cost and profit centers so that you know what impact it’s having on your bottom line.
- And you have to be able to communicate your cloud spending quickly and effectively to anyone in your organization who needs it.
Q: Tell our readers a bit about team Cloudability?
A: A picture is worth a 1000 words. Here’s a team photo from our last off-site which was held Sunriver Resort in July:
Q: To wrap up, what changes can we expect in the cloud computing market in 2013 and your footprint in it?
A: 2013 is the year of the enterprise. The world’s largest organizations are embracing the cloud, and their usage and spending is only increasing. It’s not uncommon anymore to talk to companies that are spending $1M-$2M per month on their cloud infrastructure. With that much money at stake, it’s more critical than ever to be able to quickly and effectively track, manage and communicate a company’s cloud spending throughout the month.
Cloudability is stepping up to that challenge with a whole new suite of enterprise-ready features, like multi-user support and account grouping and views, that are designed to make it easier and easier to manage cloud spending in large organizations.