Cloud adoption rates are climbing quickly in the UK - standing at almost 90 per cent at the end of 2017, with nearly seven in 10 UK users aiming to increase their usage this year.
Alongside this increased adoption, however, comes a serious risk of costs spiralling out of control. Cloud management provider RightScale estimates that more than a third of the money currently spent on cloud computing is being wasted, with - of all the ‘as-a-Service' offerings available to businesses - Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) representing the greatest potential for runaway financial risk.
To ensure that they don't spend the year facing massive, unexpected bills for their cloud usage, we've put together the following recommendations for CIOs and CFOs to help keep cloud costs under control.
Keeping spending on track, while accurately planning for the future, is a key part of a CIO's role.
Visibility is required into a company's current and past cloud consumption if the IT office is to avoid spikes in cost and unplanned expenditure. To optimise their organisation's cloud spend, CIOs need to understand which services have been ordered; which are being used; whether usage matches the needs of the business and, if not, which business unit within the organisation will foot the bill if it can't be spun down.
However, with business units going direct for the services they need rather than waiting for the IT team to deliver on their request, an ever-increasing amount of cloud consumption will completely bypass the IT office. Achieving this visibility can, therefore, often prove to be no mean feat.
When it comes to optimising IaaS costs in particular, it's important to start with knowing the who, what and why of virtual machines (VMs). Typically, the bill from the service provider will only show a list of environments and associated costs, with no detail on who set up a VM and whether or not it's still in use. However, by showing who requested and set up a VM, what it's being used for and how long they expect to use it, the application of tags across an organisation's public and private cloud infrastructure will present CIOs with the opportunity to gain the visibility they need to manage those assets.
Employing intelligent automation can help CIOs to better manage their organisation's IaaS environments.
Setting up a self-service store, for example, will enable specific users or business units to request the service they need for as long as they need it and employ automated routines for environmental takedown. Users can choose how long they'll need a VM for and the automated system will notify them as they approach that deadline, giving them the option to either take it down or extend its usage.
This approach also enables automated tagging, which, as mentioned, provides essential information on the business unit allocation of a VM, its use and its required timeframe, avoiding the need for cumbersome, manual processes for the IT office.
Not only does this automated approach ensure that bills are sent to the right department but, with VMs being taken down by the user or IT office when no longer needed, it also helps reduce wasted resources and unnecessary expenditure.
Whether it's developers creating test environments, pre-sales showcasing demos or customer support replicating a customer's environment to help them work out an issue, it has never been easier or more interesting for business units to spin up a VM when required.
But, while the ability to spin up VMs faster than it would be to request and wait for it from the IT team has led to business units becoming more agile, this decentralised approach to IaaS makes it considerably more difficult for the IT office to track usage. VMs now cost by the second, so it's essential that they aren't left running once they're no longer of use. When the business unit responsible isn't directly charged for their usage, however, the resultant lack of accountability can lead to a somewhat lacklustre approach to management.
With business unit-led purchasing trends set to accelerate this year, many CIOs will be forced to admit that they have lost control of their organisation's cloud environment. They must ensure that they don't lose their influence over it, however. Making sure that the right bills are sent to the right business units will be critical in driving greater accountability across the business as a whole. When business unit leaders start footing the cost of their department's cloud usage, it's very likely that we'll see a greater drive for a more responsible approach to spinning up and down VMs.
The times, they are a-changing
As the adoption and usage of IaaS across a business continues to increase, it's essential that the IT office evolves from using the traditional methods of managing and optimising their assets to techniques and processes that reflect new purchasing trends driven by individual business units.
By introducing visibility, automation and accountability as core pillars to their 2018 strategy, CIOs will have the potential to create a governance-based model that will allow for the agility business units require in consuming IaaS, while still maintaining their responsibility for effective allocation of technology spend.
Tim Jesser is a director at Snow Software
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