How to take control of your multi-cloud costs
Oct. 22, 2020


Cloud complexity on cost and visibility

Over half of CIOs find that having more workloads running across multiple cloud services, often in complex deployments across

hybrid cloud environments, can be a recipe for creeping costs. Approximately 50% of respondents feel they have a hybrid cloud

management problem, while those who feel environments are getting more complex outnumber those who feel they're getting

simpler by seven to one. The more complexity increases – and the more they embrace self-service IT models and Infrastructure-

as-a Service (IaaS) – the more difficult it becomes to maintain overall vision and control.


This ties into a general lack of visibility over multi-cloud. On the one hand, it can be difficult to keep track of rising costs when

workloads are running on different platforms maintained by multiple providers. On the other, handling bills that may contain

thousands of line items is a serious challenge for hard-working CIOs that are becoming increasingly integral to business transformation.

According to ESG's research, 52% of CIOs believe that use of public cloud has either not improved or had a negative impact

on their ability to gain visibility over the IT environment. Only 48% feel it has had a positive impact.


This leads to situations where end-users launch cloud services in an ad-hoc fashion, then leave what some have termed 'zombie services' 

running, adding cost to no tangible benefit. Forgotten applications and abandoned initiatives, sometimes the result of shadow IT,

can leave now unwanted services up and running, adding to the bills. Oversized, under-utilised virtual machines only make the problem worse.


Cloud has become a hugely competitive business, and many organisations are lured in by low headline costs. It's only once they've gone through

the pain and expense of migration that they find that scaling up can be expensive and that there are often hidden costs. What's more, Rightscale's

2019 State of the Cloud report found that while cloud costs were a huge priority for enterprise, many respondents weren't even doing the most

basic cost optimisations. Many businesses make little use of automation to shut down idle workloads or fail to make the most of cloud provider

discount options. Tellingly, while respondents to the survey estimated the amount of wasted cloud spend at 27%, its authors measured the actual waste at 35%.


Taking control of the costs

What, then, can companies do to reduce their multi-cloud costs? Up to a point, it's a question of doing your homework, understanding pricing

structures and becoming aware of hidden costs both for existing services and potential new ones. It also helps to do anything that can improve

visibility of workloads, services and costs, whether that's making use of the management tools provided by cloud vendors, or using tags to clarify

what resources are being used where and for what purpose.


Companies also need to do anything they can to reduce waste, whether that's ensuring that they're not overprovisioning cloud resources for

relatively undemanding workloads, putting in policies that control proliferation or avoiding data duplication. There are even savings to be made

in turning virtualised workloads into containerised workloads, which use fewer RAM and storage resources. Getting to grips with existing cloud

workloads and taking control of future workloads makes it easier to rationalise, so that you're not running unnecessary services or using excess resources to do so.


As the Rightscale report suggests, organisations can also make more use of automation, using tools to automate cloud management instead of

relying on manual controls. For instance, you might want to automate sleep or shutdown for idle or under-utilised workloads so that they're not

consuming resources – and incurring cost – while they're not being used. Resources used by non-priority workloads could be switched to accelerate

crucial business tasks. Meanwhile, smarter data orchestration can help avoid duplication or the unnecessary movement of large datasets between

multiple clouds and central servers – provided this doesn't have an impact on performance.


Communicating cloud costs

Cost-conscious CIOs might also want to rethink how they engage with employees and senior leadership. CFOs expecting major IT cost reductions

may need help understanding why these may not happen overnight, or may need guidance on how these new cost centres operate. Meanwhile,

teams keen to launch new applications and services might need a more detailed picture of the full costs involved. This doesn't mean acting as

a gatekeeper and constantly saying no, but setting budgets and making it clear that with freedom comes responsibility. Cloud-based workloads

may be faster and cheaper to get up and running, but there are still real costs involved.




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