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There’s a fine line between cloud spend and cloud sprawl. Most companies today are using cloud technologies to power their most important products and services – communications and collaboration. However, it’s easy to cross the line from spending smartly on cloud services to spending unnecessarily.

Gaining control of cloud operations and cloud spend should be a goal for every organization, regardless of size. The good news is, it’s not as tough as you think. With a few smart moves, every MSP can become a cloud operations optimizer for their customers.

Gain complete visibility into your data

It’s all about gaining a comprehensive view of all your data. Pulling correct metrics, ensuring tagging best practices are followed, and analyzing/interpreting what is going on, are key steps you should be following. Many of the cloud optimization tools out there, but often they don’t pull the necessary information (actual RAM usage, for example) to accurately make meaningful recommendations on cloud operations.

Compute resource data is only part of the equation. Having a deep financial understanding around when to make RI/Savings Plans purchases and EDP/EA negotiation is just as important. You don’t want to charge SMB customers for too much coverage or too little, and ideally you don’t want to make those decisions before you know the environment has been optimized.

Know your applications

Cloud providers offer multiple financial methods of procuring resources such as Savings Plans, Reserved Instances, Spot resources, EDP/EA Plans, etc. Knowing how users are interacting with applications is key to understanding which financial option will make the most sense and achieve maximum savings.

For example, a client has an application that is very spikey in utilization and is only accessed at certain hours during the work week. Purchasing a Compute, EC2 Savings plan or RI may not be as cost effective as applying auto-parking policies or utilizing Spot resources (or a combination of both), since the application doesn’t need to be on all of the time.

Non-traditional cloud services

Frequently, clients migrating to the cloud will simply perform a 1-to-1 migration and carry with it the traditional three-tier architecture (Web/App/Database). Getting out of that mentality can be a struggle for many clients. Being aware of what is going on in the cloud environment at the application layer can help formulate a strategy for that over time.

It can also help transition that mentality away from traditional architecture into more cloud-native services (containers/serverless, for example), which can provide cost savings, improved performance and open the door to more advanced services that can be taken advantage of in the future, such as machine learning and AI.

Mistakes to avoid

Too often, companies believe that their cloud environment is already optimized. A typical cloud provider rolls out approximately 20-30 new features and updates per week. Multiply that by three for the top cloud platform providers (AWS, Azure and Google Cloud), and you have a daunting challenge of keeping up with everything. This takes the client away from their most important job – running their business.

Companies also have a tendency not to think about optimization or application modernization when deciding to move to the cloud. A lot of clients will simply look at the compute requirements that are being utilized in their data center and build the exact same thing in the public cloud. While this will get them to the cloud quicker in most cases, there tends to be a lot of waste when performing this method. The sooner your MSP can get the client to start thinking about optimizing, the better.

And, finally, too many companies take a traditional data center operations mentality to the cloud. The cloud continues to offer more and more advanced services that can greatly benefit a business.

Cloud offers more for MSPs

Taking a holistic approach to optimization and application modernization leaves no stone unturned. It typically generates enough savings to pay for itself, and, once implemented on a regular basis, will ensure that application performance meets demand. This is especially effective for clients with a large cloud spend and dynamic environments.

As an MSP, you must remind SMB prospects and clients that the best way to optimize cloud operations and spend is by engaging with you. Your MSP must help them realize that there is no single tool that can provide the type of analysis most companies need. Optimization requires both in-depth technical and cloud financial knowledge. It also requires collaboration between the MSP and all of a company’s business units to gain an understanding of their needs and application usage.

Once all the data has been collected and interviews performed, recommendations can be delivered. It’s then up to the client, in collaboration with the MSP, to implement those recommendations to achieve true optimization and ultimately realize cost savings.

Photo: pogonici / Shutterstock

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Jeff Collins

Posted by Jeff Collins

Jeff Collins is a product manager for cloud optimization at 2nd Watch.

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