Attacking overconsumption of cloud services

A 'cloud is cheap' mindset drives bad behavior, causing overconsumption of resources and driving up costs

Attacking overconsumption of cloud services
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In the early 2000's when the IT world was in the throes of ERP, CRM, SFA and ecommerce, IT infrastructure was invariably designed to support the absolute worst-case scenario. I quickly learned there were two options when launching any self-serve solution: it either flat-lines or takes off like a rocket—there is no in-between. 

The capacity planning challenge drove the development of grid computing, then virtualization, and finally cloud computing. Although with cloud we now have a way to rapidly scale up to meet increasing demand, it seems we have forgotten scaling down to conserve resources is equally important. Instead of provisioning “just in case” our worst fears came true, I find repeated examples where cloud is provisioned “just because.”

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When people think about cloud they often think cheap. Cheap storage. Cheap compute. Cheap applications. In traditional IT, once a server is purchased and installed, it’s run rate is largely ignored. In a cloud world, though—particularly in public cloud—the meter is ticking each and every moment the resource is allocated whether value is being delivered or not.

And because cloud resources are easy to consume, there is a natural tendency to overconsume. Why get one when I can get two because it’s still cheap! A “cloud is cheap” mindset drives bad behavior, which can be measured by the overconsumption of resources: the new norm of “just because” provisioning. 

Consequences of overconsumption

Cheap is not the same as free, and free is never actually free. Plus, there are unintended consequences of overconsumption.

First, resources must be provisioned, deployed, configured, secured, monitored and managed; the list seemingly goes on forever. These are real costs that, although small, compound rapidly when multiplied by overconsumption.

Second, overconsumption muddies the water because the true cost of cloud cannot be determined, which negatively impacts future business cases.

Third, overconsumption breeds inefficiency, the opposite direction of every IT mandate I’ve heard.

Finally, in the private cloud world, an allocated resource can be unavailable to others in need, resulting in unnecessary capital expenditure.

It’s no surprise cloud management and brokerage tools commonly include finance tools to help cloud managers understand the true cost of their environment. As these tools evolve, greater visibility into the hidden costs of overconsumption are needed to help organizations identify, isolate and eliminate waste. Through business rule drive automation, cloud environments—public cloud in particular—can deliver on the promise of an economically viable alternative to traditional IT resources.

As long as “just because” provisioning is allowed to exist, costs will spiral and cloud will wear out its welcome.              

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