Interview: How Dealer-FX Saves Sysadmins’ Sanity with Automated AWS Management

Interview: How Dealer-FX Saves Sysadmins’ Sanity with Automated AWS Management

We chatted with Steve Scott, Cloud Infrastructure Manager at Dealer-FX about how they use ParkMyCloud’s automated AWS management to save significant amounts of time and sanity.

Tell us about what Dealer-FX does, and what your team does within the company. 

Dealer-FX provides software solutions to dealerships. Our software is used at the service advisor level – the people that you see when you take your car in. They’re usually behind a monitor that you never get to see and they’re typing away all things associated with your car information, VIN, scheduling information, recall information, etc. Our software controls all of that across many different OEMs, which are the manufacturers, and thousands of dealerships across Canada and the US.

I am the manager of cloud operations here and my team is strictly at the cloud management level, fully invested in AWS. We started using AWS through one of the OEMs we work with and that’s how we got into the cloud a few years ago.

Can you describe more about how you’re using AWS?

We use AWS for all of our testing, development, staging, and production environments. We use it all, from the API level to the functional level with virtual servers and virtual environments – everything we have that’s customer facing resides with AWS today.

Before you started using ParkMyCloud, what challenges did you face in your use of AWS?

One of the biggest things is that we use a lot of servers. When we had somewhere around 400 servers, we started to look into scheduling, both for server maintenance and for things that were only required to be online during certain periods of time. There was no inherent AWS service that was easily configurable for the same function that ParkMyCloud offered.

We’ve been using ParkMyCloud for a few years for automated AWS management to schedule resources on and off. Our code is in a period of transition from legacy to more cloud native, so we don’t have the resources to use some of the more cost-effective offerings from AWS like reserved instances, but we’re getting there. ParkMyCloud is certainly helping us, as we rely on it for scheduling server maintenance, staging, testing, and development environments.

How did you find ParkMyCloud?

I was bugging our AWS rep for some type of scheduling functionality. They could do it, but it would have taken a lot of work, and it was kind of iffy whether or not it would work for us. He directed me to ParkMyCloud.

Do you see yourselves using more cost efficient resources like Reserved Instances in the future?

I wouldn’t say that exactly. One thing we will look into is more autoscaling functionality. We do all of that manually, except ParkMyCloud sets up the scheduling and does that beautifully. We currently use ParkMyCloud scheduling because we have a predictable workload. For example, we might have 8 servers online between a certain number of hours, and after a period of time bring it down to 7, then 6, and so on depending on the environment, and then bring them back up again the next day.

In the future, as we build new apps, we’ll still be utilizing ParkMyCloud as we always have. We have RDS functionality on the horizon, which we know we can also schedule with ParkMyCloud’s automated AWS management.

We also use ParkMyCloud for planning on/off times for our staging environments which are on-demand. We haven’t taken advantage of all the features yet, but we use ParkMyCloud for very strategic reasons, in very strategic places, and it works phenomenally.

How would you describe the benefits that Dealer-FX has gotten from ParkMyCloud?

From the sysadmin perspective, the main reason we wanted ParkMyCloud was the sheer ease of turning servers on and off. Before, we needed to wake up at certain times and do it ourselves, manually turning off and on hundreds of servers. Having to do those things is no one’s cup of tea!

Who was responsible for doing that previously?

It was 2-3 people on my team.

It sounds like that took a lot of time.

It was a significant amount of time, and due to the high volume of deployments and growth over time, it became more and more terrible to administrate. ParkMyCloud is saving us time and sanity all over the place, and it just works. We’ve never had an issue with it. The design is ultimately “set it and forget it.”

Any other feedback? 

I know there’s lots of things on the horizon that we’ll be using as needed, and I’d be happy to receive updates of new features. Any new tools, extensions, or anything you add I would love to hear about.

We’ll be sharing rightsizing shortly, so look forward to that next! We appreciate your time and feedback.

Sounds great! Thanks!

New: Schedule Google Cloud SQL Databases with ParkMyCloud

New: Schedule Google Cloud SQL Databases with ParkMyCloud

The latest release of ParkMyCloud includes the ability to schedule Google Cloud SQL Databases, among other updates to help you save more money through cloud automation.

Save with Google Cloud SQL Parking

First up, ParkMyCloud can now park Google Cloud SQL Databases! This means you can automate start/stop on a schedule, so your databases used for development, testing, and other non-production purposes are only running when you actually need them – and you only pay for the hours you need. The average schedule in ParkMyCloud is OFF 65% of the time, which means 65% savings – that’s a lot of money.

You can also use ParkMyCloud’s policy engine to create rules that automatically assign your SQL databases to parking schedules and to teams, so they’re only accessible to the users who need them.

Google Cloud SQL databases are just the latest in the growing list of types of cloud resources you can park, which also includes Google VM instances, Google Managed Instance groups, AWS EC2 instances, AWS auto scaling groups, AWS RDS instances, Azure VMs, Azure Scale Sets, and Alibaba Cloud ECS instances.

So why now? A growing number of ParkMyCloud users base their infrastructure in Google Cloud – in fact, GCP users are our fastest-growing segment of users. We’ll continue to add ways to optimize your environment no matter what clouds you use, of course, but expect more GCP features to come. We’ve focused on databases in this release because databases are the biggest area of cloud spend after compute, accounting for about 15-20% of an average enterprise’s bill.

What Else is New in ParkMyCloud?

Users will enjoy a few other recent additions to the ParkMyCloud platform:

  • Automatically accept SmartParking recommendations – fully automate your resource optimization by using ParkMyCloud’s policy engine to automatically apply schedules (previously, these had to be manually applied). There are several settings you can tweak to suit your needs – more in the release notes.
  • Chat integrations – we most recently added chat integration for Google Hangouts and MS Teams, joining our existing Slack integration. You can receive notifications and perform override commands and more through your chat window
  • Join the ParkMyCloud User Community on Slack – feel free to join even if you’re not yet a customer!

How to Get Started

If you’re new to ParkMyCloud, you can get started with a free trial. After the full-featured 14-day trial, you can choose to subscribe to a premium plan, or use the free tier – visit our pricing page for more information.

If you already use ParkMyCloud, you’ll need to enable ParkMyCloud to discover and manage your Google Cloud SQL databases. Find the details about the updated limited access role permissions in our user guide. Two things to note: first, you’ll need to be subscribed to the Standard or Enterprise tier in order to access this feature.

As always, we welcome your feedback about this new addition to ParkMyCloud, and any features you’d like to see in the future – comment below or shoot us a note. Cheers!

 

3 Things to Expect from the Google Cloud Summit DC

3 Things to Expect from the Google Cloud Summit DC

Google Cloud is hosting summits all over the world, but the Google Cloud Summit DC is a particularly interesting one. The location in the nation’s capital brings together a mix of government contractors, a growing community of technology startups and innovators, and everything in between.

Plus, it’s just up the road from the data center capital of the world – did you know that 70% of the world’s web traffic flows through ParkMyCloud’s home county of Loudoun, Virginia? Google Cloud opened a data center here in 2017, and has offices in downtown DC and in Reston, VA, giving them a more established presence here than in some other Summit locations.

Here are 3 things you can expect from the Google Cloud Summit DC on October 30th:

1. Public Sector Discussion

Each of Google Cloud’s Summits has content paths tailored to local industries, so it’s no surprise that the Washington, DC edition will highlight government considerations – with security tied into the track as well. Sessions include Security Considerations when Migrating; Cloud Regulatory Compliance; and a Public Sector Roadmap panel.

An interesting wrinkle is that Google just announced that it will not submit a bid for the U.S. Department of Defense’s JEDI cloud computing project, citing their AI principles regarding weapons. In the statement, Google said “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

2. Sessions on Roles and Teams

Google aims to make their summits enticing for people in technical and leadership roles alike, which is why you’ll see sessions on the agenda like “Welcome to the Age of the Cloud Worker” or “Getting ahead of digital transformation: how leaders can build a cloud-first workplace”. Expect discussion of the ways cloud computing impacts hiring and organizational strategy, with roles including Google’s own invention of site reliability engineering.

3. A Focus on AI and Machine Learning

At Google Cloud Next in June, 16 major announcements were made around AI and machine learning. As Google seeks to share knowledge and spread adoption among users, they will focus on tools like Kubeflow, which automates deployments of machine learning workflows to Kubernetes, and various AutoML products that let developers with limited machine learning experience start leveraging machine learning models.

Summit sessions include an Intro to Cloud AI Platform for Data Scientists, Easy Ways to Start Automating Intelligence, and Building the Right Foundation for Competitive Advantage Customers.

 

If you’re coming to the Google Cloud Summit DC, let us know! We’d love to get a coffee or a drink.

Google Hangouts & Microsoft Teams Integrations for Cloud Server Monitoring

New in ParkMyCloud: we’ve released integrations with chat clients Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams to make cloud server monitoring easier and integrated into your day. Now, ParkMyCloud users can get notifications when their resources are about to turn on or off, when a user overrides a schedule, and more.

We created these integrations based on popular demand! ParkMyCloud has had a Slack integration since last summer. Now, we’re encountering more and more teams that set themselves up as pure Google or pure Microsoft shops, hence the need. If your team only uses Google tools – Google Cloud Platform for cloud, Google OAuth for SSO, and Google Hangouts for chat — you can use ParkMyCloud with all of these. Same with Microsoft: ParkMyCloud integrates with Microsoft Azure, ADFS, and Microsoft Teams.  

ParkMyCloud notifications in Google Hangouts – note the “view resource” link will take you straight to the resource in ParkMyCloud

Here’s what actions ParkMyCloud admins can get notified on through a chat client for better cloud server monitoring:

  • Resource Shutdown Warning – Provides a 15-minute warning before an instance is scheduled to be parked due to a schedule or expiring schedule override.
  • User Actions – These are actions performed by users in ParkMyCloud such as manual resource state toggles, attachment or detachment of schedules, credential updates, etc.
  • Parking Actions – These are actions specifically related to parking such as automatic starting or stopping of resources based on defined parking schedules.
  • Policy Actions – These are actions specifically related to configured policies in ParkMyCloud such as automatic schedule attachments based on a set rule.
  • System Errors – These are errors occurring within the system itself such as discovery errors, parking errors, invalid credential permissions, etc.
  • System Maintenance and Updates – These are the notifications provided via the banner at the top of the dashboard.

There are a few ways these can be useful. If you’re an IT administrator and you see your users toggling resource states frequently, the notifications may help you determine the best parking schedule for the users’ needs.

Or let’s say you’re a developer deep in a project and you get a notification that your instance is about to be shut down — but you still need that instance while you finish your work. Right in your Microsoft Teams window, you can send an override command to ParkMyCloud to keep the instance running for a couple more hours.

ParkMyCloud notifications in Microsoft Teams

These integrations give ParkMyCloud users a better perspective into cloud server monitoring, right in the same workspaces they’re using every day. Feedback? Comment below or shoot us an email – we are happy to hear from you!

P.S. We also just created a user community on Slack! Feel free to join here for cloud cost, automation, and DevOps discussions.

4 Cloud Computing Jobs to Check Out if You Want to Break Into the Space

4 Cloud Computing Jobs to Check Out if You Want to Break Into the Space

Lately, we’ve been thinking about cloud computing jobs and titles we’ve been seeing in the space. One of the great things about talking with ParkMyCloud users is that we get to talk to a variety of different people. That’s right – even though we’re laser-focused on cloud cost optimization, it turns out that can matter to a lot of different people in an organization. (And no wonder, given the size of wasted spend – that hits people’s’ buttons).

You know the cloud computing market is growing. You know that means new employment opportunities, and new niches in which to make yourself valuable. So what cloud computing jobs should you check out?

If you are a sysadmin or ops engineer:

Cloud Operations. Cloud operations engineers, managers, and similar are the people we speak with most often at ParkMyCloud, and they are typically the cloud infrastructure experts in the organization. This is a great opportunity for sysadmins looking to work in newer technology.

If you’re interested in cloud operations, definitely work on certifications from AWS, Azure, Google, or your cloud provider of choice. Attend meetups and subscribe to industry blogs – the cloud providers innovate at a rapid pace, and the better you keep up with their products and solutions, the more competitive you’ll be.

See also: DevOps, cloud infrastructure, cloud architecture, and IT Operations.

If you like technology but you also like working with people:

Customer Success, cloud support, or other customer-facing jobs at a managed service provider (MSP). As we recently discussed, there’s a growing market of small IT providers focusing on hybrid cloud in the managed services space. The opportunities at MSPs aren’t limited to customer success, of course – just in the past week we’ve talked to people with the following titles at MSPs: Cloud Analyst, Cloud Engineer, Cloud Champion/Cloud Optimization Engineer, CTO, and Engagement Architect.

Also consider: pre-sales engineering at one of the many software providers in the cloud space.

If you love process:

Site Reliability Engineer. This title, invented by Google, is used for operations specialists who focus on keeping the lights on and the sites running. Job descriptions in this discipline tend to focus on people and processes rather than around the specific infrastructure or tools.  

If you have a financial background:

Cloud Financial Analyst. See also: cloud cost analyst, cloud financial administrator, IT billing analyst, and similar. Cloud computing jobs aren’t just for technical people — there is a growing field that allows experts to adapt financial skills to this hot market. As mentioned above, since the cloud cost problem is only going to grow, IT organizations need professionals in financial roles focused on cloud. Certifications from cloud providers can be a great way to stand out.

What cloud computing jobs are coming next?

As the cloud market continues to grow and change, there will be new cloud computing job opportunities – and it can be difficult to predict what’s coming next. Just a few years ago, it was rare to meet someone running an entire cloud enablement team, but that’s becoming the norm at larger, tech-forward organizations. We also see a trend of companies narrowing in “DevOps” roles to have professionals focused on “CloudOps” specifically — as well as variations such as DevFinOps. And although some people hear “automation” and worry that their jobs will disappear, there will always be a need for someone to keep the automation engines running and optimized. We’ll be here.