Cleaning up cloud costs 'hidden in plain sight'

Raise your hand if you’ve ever received a cloud service bill that looked more like one of CVS’ notoriously long receipts than a streamlined SaaS application invoice.

Over the years, SaaS companies have struggled at managing and optimizing the cost of delivering their solutions via cloud services, resulting in more and more IT leaders experiencing the anxiety that receiving their bills can induce. SaaS companies by nature are masters at continuously enhancing their production solutions and closely monitoring them via deep visibility into performance, security and resource utilization, as well as ensuring customer uptime meets service-level agreements.

So, why do costs continue to run amuck? It turns out, it comes back to the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind.”

DevOps’ Impact In A SaaS World

Anyone working in IT knows that the cloud has fundamentally changed things. Over the last decade, businesses pursuing their cloud journey have reaped the benefits, including streamlined SaaS application development and deployment; increased visibility, management and optimization of cloud resources; and, cost reductions.

The emergence of DevOps has further accelerated the journey and speed of innovation for businesses cloudifying services which in turn has resulted in better, more robust SaaS services that are also better suited to remain secure in a rapidly evolving threat landscape.

DevOps Costs “Hidden In Plain Sight”

Despite the many benefits DevOps bring to SaaS service providers, it also introduces additional challenges for businesses when it comes to managing cloud costs. Looking around at your developer colleagues, what are the primary pain points they express as keeping them up at night? They are likely very different than their operations and product management counterparts, right?

The reality today is that developers feeling the pressure to deliver near-constant updates to SaaS services tend to focus more on removing barriers in order to develop, test and push services and features to production, so they can do it all over again during the next two week sprint. However, this is where things can get lost in the shuffle and costs can continue compiling in the background.

Unbounded scaling of infrastructure with public clouds gives DevOps greater flexibility and can improve production cycles, but creates new challenges for financial/budget controllers as the spend could vary depending on the cloud provider and locations being leveraged at any one point in time. Despite serious efforts to control costs on the production instance, most organizations do not have good visibility into spending per department or application, so the source of cost overruns can often be difficult to identify.

Customers frequently express dismay to me when they realize that all of the loose ends weren’t closed by developers leaving pre-production and testing and QA environments running on public clouds long after the latest revision is pushed into production. Furthermore, business leaders are often looking to understand the cloud costs associated with each of the customers on their multi-tenant SaaS platform.

Path to Better Processes and Visibility

Public clouds hold a lot of value for SaaS development teams within the DevOps process and will become even more critical for businesses seeking to remain competitive and at the forefront of services innovation. Businesses moving down this path should take steps now to ensure cloud spend management and monitoring processes are working properly and include steps aimed at increasing visibility into cloud resources in use so they can systematically shut them down as they move through the development process.

Locking down good cloud cost management processes and continuously monitoring spend will enable teams to provide better budget forecasts and apply tighter budget controls throughout the SaaS service development cycle.

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