The ParkMyCloud team is looking forward to attending our first Microsoft Ignite conference this year! The sold-out event, which will take place November 4-8 in Orlando, is a gathering of more than 25,000 Microsoft users focused on building solutions and managing infrastructures. Here are three things to look forward to at the conference.
As with other tech conferences, Microsoft will make plenty of product and service announcements at Ignite 2019. At the 2018 conference, more than 150 announcements covered product and roadmap highlights across AI/Machine Learning, Analytics, Blockchain, Compute, Containers, Databases, Developer Tools, DevOps, Identity, Integration, IoT, Management and Governance, Microsoft Azure Stack, Migration, Mobile, Networking, Security, Storage, Web, and Windows Virtual Desktop.
Highlights from last year include doing away with passwords using Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Surface Hub 2 whiteboards, Microsoft Teams updates, Azure Digital Twins, and more – so we’re sure 2019 will have some exciting releases in store.
2. Speakers & Sessions
Featured speakers at the event include leaders from throughout Microsoft – but it doesn’t stop there. There are currently 1445 sessions on the calendar – more than 500 of which are on Azure. Typically when confronted with this volume of options, we recommend that you pick 1-2 goals of things you would like to learn or questions you would like to get answered for your business, and look for relevant sessions from there. Many sessions will be recorded and posted online, so keep that in mind if you are interested in sessions at conflicting times – you can always come back to them.
That said, here are a few sessions we thought looked particularly interesting:
- THR1004 – A real-world smart city: How Richmond VA is transforming citizen services
- WRK 3017 – Accelerating natural language processing development with Azure Machine Learning
- UNC1010 – Achieving zero downtime deployments with Azure DevOps and Kubernetes
- BRK3181 – Advanced monitoring: Five Azure Monitor best practices you should know
- BRK3190 – Analyze, manage, and optimize your cloud cost with Azure Cost Management
- BRK1074 – Announcing Bing Maps Geospatial Analytics Platform Preview for Enterprise Business Planning
- BRK3062 – API management for microservices in a hybrid and multi-cloud world
- BRK2021 – Architecting and implementing governance across your Azure subscriptions
- THR2186 – Azure Databricks and Azure Machine Learning better together
Check out also the 140 (!) podcasts that will broadcast live during the event.
Of course, part of the conference experience is the fun surrounding all the sessions. Be sure to spend some time in the expo hall to meet vendors, see product demos, get swag, and enter drawings for the chance to win cool prizes.
Don’t miss Thursday evening after party – this year, it’s at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Island of Adventure, which means you can explore Hogsmeade and more with access to the parks and rides, food and drink, and more.
See You at Microsoft Ignite 2019
We hope to see you at the event! We’ll be joining our parent company Turbonomic at booth #1713 in the expo hall. Schedule a time to stop by – we’d love to chat cost optimization for Azure and hear what you think of the event.
AWS offers a number of discount options for their cloud resources, of which one of the more interesting is AWS spot instances. Spot instances offer an alluring discount for spare capacity – but of course, this purchasing option can’t be used the same way as on demand infrastructure. Here are seven things you should know about AWS spot instances, which may help you decide whether or not you should be using them.
1. What Spot Instances Are
AWS spot instances are not a specific type of instance – rather, this is the name of a purchasing option that allows users to take advantage of spare capacity at a low price, with the possibility that it could be reclaimed for other workloads with just a two minute notice. If the price goes above your maximum set price, your workload will also be interrupted.
This means that workloads need to be specifically designed for fault tolerance, though AWS claims that spot instances are interrupted less than 5% of the time. With spot instance hibernation, interrupted instances need not be terminated. Rather, they can be essentially paused, with the memory saved to the root EBS volume, then reloaded when the machine is resumed.
2. Best Practice: Spot Fleets
Spot Fleets are collections of instances, including Spot Instances and optionally On Demand instances. When provisioning a spot fleet, you can set a target capacity for the fleet, and the request will be fulfilled if there is available capacity.
AWS recommends Spot Fleets as a best practice. One reason is that you can use fleets to request multiple instance types simultaneously – which not only increases the likelihood that your request is filled, but can mitigate cost risks by setting a maximum cost per hour for the whole fleet rather than a specific spot pool (group of instances with the same instance type, operating system, availability zone, and network platform).
3. When to Use AWS Spot Instances
Since Spot Instances are interruptible, you’ll need to limit your usage of them to fault-tolerant workloads.
Time critical workloads should have instances be automatically replaced, either by restarting workloads on a new instance, or for production websites, send users to a different instance using a load balancer.
Common use cases for spot instances include:
- Batch processing
- Web services
- CI/CD development
- Hadoop data processing
- Image rendering
- Big data analytics
- Machine learning
- Video transcoding
- Massively parallel computations
AWS recently announced that spot instances will now be available in US GovCloud regions, putting them available in 21 regions and 66 availability zones. They’re only available for EC2 instances.
If you’ve read any older (pre-fall-2017) articles about Spot Instances, you’ll see a lot of talk about bidding strategies and spikes in pricing. AWS seems to have listened to customers’ complaints that this system was confusing, and in response, they changed the pricing mechanism in November 2017. Now, spot instance prices do still adjust based on trends, but these trends are longer term and gradual. There is no bidding function. Instead, you pay the spot price that’s in effect for the current hour, with the option to set a maximum price you are willing to pay.
6. Savings Potential
To compare current savings over on demand pricing, you’ll want to visit AWS’s spot instance advisor. A quick check shows savings largely in the 70-80% range for Linux OS and in the 40-50% range for Windows OS, with a few instance types showing anomalies at 0% savings.
For longer-running systems, reserved instances or on demand instances with on/off schedules may be better, so you should evaluate the savings rate for all three based on the workload.
When determining whether this amount of savings will be worthwhile, remember to consider any labor costs of building and maintaining your application to tolerate interruptions.
7. How AWS’s Option Compares to Other Clouds
It’s always worth considering how the major cloud providers approach similar offerings. Comparable to AWS spot instances, Microsoft Azure has low priority VMs while Google Cloud offers preemptible VMs. As the names of both of these offerings highlight, they, too, are interruptible instances offered at a discount.
There are a few main differences to highlight. Both Azure and Google offer fixed discounting structures, offering clarity and predictability on pricing. Google’s offering is a bit more flexible, with no limitations on the instance types. On the other hand, Azure users report issues with scaling to large numbers of VMs, with many VM types having limited availability. You also must launch in Batch/Scale Sets, with no option for an individual VM.
Should You Adopt an AWS Spot Instance Strategy?
Whether you adopt an AWS spot instance-focused strategy depends on your workloads, your application, and your expertise. But if you can address the issues of fault tolerance, then most likely, yes: the savings from spot instances will be worth your while.
When evaluating public cloud providers, whether to choose the best for your environment or simply to try to decipher the disparity in market share, it can be easy to get hung up on the differences. AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud each have their own service catalog, pricing and purchasing variations, and flavor. But do these differences actually matter?
What’s Actually Different Between Cloud Providers?
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the various cloud providers.
First up is terminology. At first glance, it may seem like the cloud providers each have a unique spread of offerings, but many of these products and services are quite similar once you get the names aligned. Here are a few examples:
Obviously, this is not a sign of substantive differences in offerings – and just goes to show that the providers are often more similar than it might appear at first glance.
Though we are able to align comparable products across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, there are of course differences between these offerings. In fact, with the number of products and services available today (we’ve counted 176 from AWS alone), comparing each is beyond the scope of this single blog post.
For our purposes, we can compare what is still the core product for cloud service providers: compute. Compute products make up about ⅔ of most companies’ cloud bills, so the similarities and differences here will account for the core of most users’ cloud experiences.
Here’s a brief comparison of the compute option features across cloud providers:
Of course, if you plan to make heavy use of a particular service, such as Function-as-a-Service/serverless, you’ll want to do a detailed comparison of those offerings on their own.
That covers functionality. How do the prices compare? One way to do this is by selecting a particular resource type, finding comparable versions across the cloud providers, and comparing prices. Here’s an example of a few instances’ costs as of this writing (all are Linux OS):
For more accurate results, pull up each cloud provider’s price list. Of course, not all instance types will be as easy to compare across providers – especially once you get outside the core compute offerings into options that are more variable, more configurable, and perhaps even charged differently (in fact, AWS and Google actually charge per second).
Note that AWS and Azure list distinct prices for instance types with the Windows OS, while Google Cloud adds a per-core license charge, on top of the base instance cost.
The table above represents the default On Demand pricing options. However, each provider offers a variety of methods to reduce these base costs, which we’ll look at in the Purchasing Options section below.
Comparisons of the myriad purchasing options are worth several blog posts on their own, so we’ll keep it high level here. These are the most commonly used – and discussed – options to lower costs from the listed On Demand prices for AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
Each of the major cloud providers offers a way for customers to purchase compute capacity in advance in exchange for a discount: AWS Reserved Instances, Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances, and Google Committed Use discounts. There are a few interesting variations, for example, AWS offers an option to purchase “Convertible Reserved Instances”, which allow reservations to be exchanged across families, operating systems, and instance sizes. On the other hand, Azure offers similar flexibility in their core Reserved VM option. Google Cloud’s program is somewhat more flexible regarding resources, as customers must only select a number of vCPUs and memory, rather than a specific instance size and type.
What about if you change your mind? AWS users have the option to resell their reservations on a marketplace if they decide they’re no longer needed, while Azure users will pay a penalty to cancel, and Google users cannot cancel.
Spot and Preemptible Instances
Another discounting mechanism is the idea of spot instances in AWS, low-priority VMs in Azure, and preemptible VMs, as they’re called on Google. These options allow users to purchase unused capacity for a steep discount. The cost of this discount is that these instances can be interrupted (or perhaps Azure puts it best with their “evicted” term) in favor of higher priority demand – i.e. someone who paid more. For this reason, this pricing structure is best used for fault-tolerant applications and short-lived processes, such as financial modeling, rendering, testing, etc. While there are variations in the exact mechanisms for purchasing and using these instance types across clouds, they have similar discount amounts and use cases.
Sustained Use Discounts
Google Cloud Platform offers another cost-saving option that doesn’t have a direct equivalent in AWS or Azure: Sustained Use Discounts. This is an automatic, built-in discount for compute capacity, giving you a larger percentage off the more you run the instance. Be aware that the GCP prices listed can be somewhat misleading, as a sustained use discount is already built in, assuming full-month usage – but it is nice to see the cloud provider looking after its customers and requiring no extra cost or work for this discount.
A last sort of “purchasing option” is related to contract agreements. With all three major cloud providers, enterprise contracts are available. Typically, these are aimed at enterprise customers, and encourage large companies to commit to specific levels of usage and spend in exchange for an across-the-board discount – for example, AWS EDPs, Azure Enterprise Agreements. As these are not published options and will depend on the size of your infrastructure, your relationship with the cloud provider, etc., it’s hard to say what impact this will have on your bill and how it will compare between clouds.
Revenue & Market Share
As of earlier this year, AWS still dominates public cloud market share at 47%, while Azure and Google trail at 22% and 7% respectively. AWS quarterly sales are at least $7.7 billion – while Microsoft and Google avoid reporting specific numbers for public cloud but instead lump it in with other services, making revenue impossible to compare (other than an assumption that, yes, AWS is beating them.) Both report growth and their market share seems to be on the rise as well.
Does this matter? In some ways, yes. There’s a positive feedback loop in which larger enterprises will be more inclined to go with the solution that is serving the most large enterprises. And, AWS’s many-year head start and market advantage have let it develop more, and more innovative, offerings at a rapid pace. But ultimately we do not find the market picture to have any impact on functionality or availability.
It’s worth mentioning that you may also need to consider whether or not your organization competes with the cloud provider’s other lines of business. For example, many retailers specifically choose to avoid using AWS because they compete directly with Amazon. However, for most organizations, this is not an important factor to consider.
There’s also just the pure perception of the differences between cloud providers. Many folks perceive Azure as a bit stodgy, while Google Cloud seems slick but perhaps less performant than AWS.
Some appreciate AWS and Azure’s enterprise support and find Google Cloud lacking here, but this is changing as Google onboards more large customers and focuses on enterprise compatibility.
There are also perceptions regarding ease of use, but actually, we find these to be most affected by the platform you’re used to using. Ultimately, whatever you’re most familiar with is going to be the easiest – and any can be learned.
Do the Differences Matter?
On some of the factors we went through above, the cloud providers do have variations. But on many variables, the providers and their offerings are so similar as to be equivalent. If there’s a particular area that’s especially important to your business (such as serverless, or integration with Microsoft applications), you may find that it becomes the deciding factor.
And… that’s okay! The fact of the matter is, you’re likely to be using multiple clouds soon, if you’re not already – so you will have access to the advantages of each provider. Additionally, applications and data are now more portable than ever due to containers.
So, prepare yourself and your environment for a multi-cloud reality. Build your applications to avoid vendor lock-in. Use cloud-agnostic tools where possible to take advantage of the benefits of abstraction layers.
Even if you’re only considering one cloud at the moment, these choices will benefit you in the long run. And remember: if your company is telling you to use a specific cloud provider, or an obscure requirement drives you to one in particular – don’t worry. The differences don’t matter that much.
It’s time to plan your 2019 AWS re:Invent schedule! This will be our team’s fifth trek to the AWS conference in Las Vegas, so we’ve put together some tips for planning out your conference experience.
First up, if you have not yet registered for re:Invent, do that now! Tickets have sold out in the past, so don’t wait.
Choose Your Sessions in Advance
The key to a great AWS re:Invent schedule is to plan in advance. The essential part of this planning is to register for sessions in advance. Reserved seating goes live on October 15 at 10:00 AM PST. Mark your calendar and plan to select a few key sessions immediately – seating can be competitive and fill up quickly!
What you can get started with today is reading through the re:Invent agenda and, especially, the immense event catalog. Note the sessions you’re interested in. You may want to use one of these schedule planning tools to show in a calendar view, have better filters, and get email notifications of new sessions.
When planning, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Focus – what do you most hope to gain at re:Invent? You can sort sessions based on subject areas and industries – would a “focus path” help you gain more out of your experience?
- Value of In-Person vs. Session Videos – Many sessions will be online afterward, so prioritize sessions with an element that is more valuable in person – that may be chalk talks, workshops, and others with interactive elements. You’ll be able to watch any sessions you missed and catch up on the information on others with videos. This can put you more at ease and let you have some fun while in Vegas.
- Sessions will be repeated at the 2019 event – no doubt in response to complaints about full sessions and long wait times in 2018, for this year, AWS will be repeating their most popular sessions several times over across venues. There will also be overflow rooms for popular sessions and more late-night session options than have been available in previous years.
- Travel time – This won’t be the first or the last time you hear this, but it’s worth saying again: the re:Invent campus is big. HUGE. Plan your schedule accordingly, with as few travel periods up and down The Strip as possible. If there are multiple sessions you’re interested in at the same time, prioritize ones with the least travel time. You should also plan to arrive to sessions early.
Once dates, times, and locations have been announced for sessions, we recommend putting them into your calendar for a clean visual of your day, and reminders. Once it’s available, you’ll be able to view your schedule in the AWS re:Invent app, along with maps and more.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of sessions that looked particularly interesting to our team.
Set Aside Time for the Expo Hall
Make sure you plan on time to visit the expo hall! Actually, there are two expos – the main one at The Venetian and another at the Aria.
The Welcome Reception from 4-7 PM on Monday is a great time to visit the expo and kick off your re:Invent experience with food, drinks, and giveaways. However, it will be crowded. You’ll want to come back again later in the week to check out vendor products and services, chat with vendors whose products you already use, get swag, and enter drawings. The expo is open from 10:30 AM – 6 PM Tuesday, 8 AM – 6 PM Wednesday, and 10:30 AM – 4 PM Thursday.
You won’t be disappointed by the swag. Just search #reinventswag for examples — sponsors go all out. By the way, if you’re aiming to maximize swag, definitely stop by after lunch on Thursday. Sponsors will practically beg you to take stuff off their hands so they don’t have to ship it home. You can grab toys, stickers, and keychains for your kids, or build an entire wardrobe of t-shirts and socks for yourself.
And of course, stop by and visit ParkMyCloud and Turbonomic at the Venetian expo! We’ll be at booth #1029.
We’d love to see you there! Sign up for a meeting with us now.
Activities and Parties
Round out your Vegas experience with some partying! The great thing about a conference like this is that you can often drink your way through for free. Outside of the pub crawl, many parties require you to register ahead of time, so keep an eye on your email for invitations. You’ll want to bookmark this list of 2019 re:Invent parties. As of this writing, it’s a bit sparse, but check out last year’s party list for an idea of the multitude of options to come.
Obviously, you don’t want to miss re:Play, the AWS re:Invent party and centerpiece of the conference (you know, besides the keynotes.) More free food, drink, an EDM concert, retro arcade, laser escape room, drone obstacle course, climbing wall, dodgeball, bounce castle, archery tag, and/or whatever else they come up with for this year. And new for 2019 is the Intersect Music Festival put on by AWS on Friday and Saturday, although note that tickets are separate from re:Invent.
Or venture out beyond the conference hall walls and try your luck or catch a show – it’s hard to be bored in Vegas.
Frequently Asked Questions, Answered
Here are some answers to the most common questions about AWS re:Invent 2019:
How much does AWS re:Invent 2019 cost?
A full pass to the conference costs $1799. There are a handful of discounts available (for example, if your company is also sponsoring the event), but if you don’t already have access to one of those, we’d recommend going ahead and buying a full pass.
What are the AWS re:Invent 2019 dates?
This year’s AWS Las Vegas extravaganza will run December 2-6. If you fly in on Sunday December 1, you can participate in Midnight Madness. And don’t forget that AWS’s new Intersect Music Festival is then 6th and 7th.
Will there be AWS re:Invent video recordings?
Yes – AWS records many of the sessions and posts to their YouTube channel.
How does AWS re:Invent registration work when I arrive?
There will be registration areas available in multiple venues throughout the conference. There may also be one in the arrival terminal at the airport, but if the line is long, skip it – you’ll wait less at the Venetian or other venues to check-in.
AWS re:Invent Sessions That Caught Our Eyes
See more details and (once open) register through the official AWS re:Invent agenda.
- AIM302-R – Create a Q&A bot with Amazon Lex and Amazon Alexa – A recent poll showed that 44 percent of customers would rather talk to a chatbot than to a human for customer support. In this workshop, we show you how to deploy a question-and-answer bot using two open-source projects: QnABot and Lex-Web-UI. You get started quickly using Amazon Lex, Amazon Alexa, and Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES) to provide a conversational chatbot interface. You enhance this solution using AWS Lambda and integrate it with Amazon Connect.
- AIM303-R – Stop guessing: Use AI to understand customer conversations – You don’t need to be a data scientist to build an AI application. In this workshop, we show you how to use AWS AI services to build a serverless application that can help you understand your customers. Analyze call-center recordings with the help of automatic speech recognition (ASR), translation, and natural language processing (NLP). Get hands-on by producing your own call recordings using Amazon Connect. In the last step, you set up a processing pipeline to automate transcription and NLP analysis, and run analytics and visualizations on the results.
- ARC201 – Comparing serverless and containers – Microservices are a great way to segment your application into well-defined, self-contained units of functionality. Come join us in this chalk talk as we discuss two common architectures for deploying microservices: containers and serverless.
- ARC204-R – Cost optimizing a workload – In this hands-on session, we guide you through the AWS tools, services, and design decisions for architecting cost-optimized applications. Whether you run cloud-native applications or legacy monolithic applications, we show you tricks and techniques to run your workload at the lowest cost possible. Once the workload is optimized, we set up an enterprise cost-optimization dashboard to measure and report on workload efficiency utilizing Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight.
- ARC303-R – Failing successfully: The AWS approach to resilient design – AWS global infrastructure provides the tools customers need to design resilient and reliable services. In this session, we explore how to get the most out of these tools. We discuss achieving continued stability and availability in the face of impaired dependencies. We also cover AWS tools and best practices you can use to design applications and services that avoid overload.
- ARC406-R1 – Building multi-region microservices – In this session, participate in a hands-on exercise where you create, verify, and test a serverless solution across multiple regions using AWS Lambda and Amazon DynamoDB global tables.
- CON210-S – How to run like a startup with enterprise Kubernetes on AWS – Scholastic Corporation reinvented itself with the adoption of a startup mindset and a move to microservices on AWS running in Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, an enterprise Kubernetes distribution. In this session, you hear about the journey that this large publishing enterprise went on during its transformation. From our discussion of breaking up monolithic applications into microservices, you learn about some of the pitfalls along the road to Kubernetes, containers, and microservices adoption. You also hear about the resulting demonstrable benefits—faster time to market, lower infrastructure costs, happier developers, and improved business performance.
- DOP204-S – Transforming IT pros to DevOps gurus: How to secure your new tech stacks – Large enterprises are limited by legacy systems. With existing tools, traditional platforms, outdated requirements, and more, IT and engineering teams have difficulty building in a modern way. Hear how Pivvot, a US enterprise, used tools in the AWS Cloud to escape this traditional trap. The Pivvot team learned to scale by adopting a DevOps philosophy to support hundreds of organizations and thousands of customers inside a commercial software company. Learn how building a pipeline-driven cloud-native process with built-in security helps modernize an organization. Culture change is challenging, but with the right approach and a strong tech stack, you can build securely and ship quickly in the AWS Cloud.
- DOP206-S – Breaking the monolith with style and speed – Microservices are here to stay, but nearly all of the most successful architectures originate from the classic monolith. The promised land of microservices is filled with treasures like decoupled deploys, scalability, resilience, development velocity, and more. However, the journey there can involve prolonged seasons of pain, suffering, and even regret. This talk is the story of how Stitch Fix used all three pillars of observability to build confidence, accelerate its migration, and collaborate with other teams. Learn about the strategies that Stitch Fix used and how it incorporated logs, metrics, and traces into these strategies.
- IOT301-R – Race to generate IoT connected wind energy – In this workshop, learn how to connect a simple wind turbine to AWS IoT Core and work in teams to see which one can generate the most aggregate power in a five-minute race at the end of the workshop. A large fan will be the single source of wind, and energy levels from each turbine will be aggregated between the two teams with a continuously updating dashboard. Participants will learn how to set up an IoT device connection with their own account, enrich the data with a pipeline, and store the data for a dashboard.
- MGT304 – Automate everything: Options and best practices – You can use an expanding set of services to automate many common management tasks in your AWS environment, including patching, configuration updates, software stack deployments, and more. In this session, we explore how you can use AWS management tools for automation, including the use of self-service runbooks. We discuss the many options available, including AWS CloudFormation, AWS Service Catalog, and AWS Systems Manager.
- MGT310-R – High-velocity service delivery: Infrastructure as code – Customers today are looking to the cloud to help them evolve, adapt, and innovate faster than ever. In this chalk talk, learn how to use AWS native services to increase your organization’s ability to deliver at high velocity using services like AWS CloudFormation, AWS OpsWorks, and AWS Systems Manager. We talk about best practices to help you provision and manage infrastructure, deploy code, and automate your software-release processes.
- SVS203-R1 – Build a serverless ride-sharing web application – In this workshop, you deploy a simple web application that lets users request unicorn rides from the Wild Rydes fleet. The application presents users with an HTML-based user interface for indicating the location where they would like to be picked up and interfaces on the backend with a RESTful web service to submit the request and dispatch a nearby unicorn. The application also provides facilities for users to register with the service and log in before requesting rides.
- SVS309 – Development life cycle for serverless backends – With serverless applications, you can easily get started, experiment, and build prototypes. However, as serverless usage grows and more developers adopt serverless, it can be hard to maintain a good workflow from ideas to production. In this talk, we share inspirations for how to build a good development workflow for serverless applications that allow for fast experimentation while sharing common standards across teams and organizations.
See You There!
Do you have any other tips for planning the perfect AWS re:Invent schedule? Sessions you’re looking forward to? Any other questions, tips, swag suggestions Let us know in the comments. Cheers, and see you there!
More on re:Invent: 2018 recap.
Sean Brundle, DevOps Engineer at website development specialist Brainjocks, told us about how his team uses ParkMyCloud to manage cloud and DevOps costs.
Hi Sean! Tell us about Brainjocks and what you all do.
Sure. Brainjocks is a web design and development company that utilizes Sitecore, Episerver, and WordPress solutions to help companies build and manage websites. The Brainjocks team creates and updates websites that are most frequently hosted on public cloud servers.
We support our customers from end to end. We create and update their websites, and often support them after they go live, also. Sometimes we host their web sites on our cloud servers using Google Cloud, AWS, or Azure cloud solutions.
What’s your role at Brainjocks?
I’m a DevOps engineer, so my role is to set up and support all of the different environments for projects. I also configure automation tools and processes for developers, allowing them to deploy code changes in a seamless and automated process.
That is where ParkMyCloud comes into play for us. I make sure that we aren’t charging our clients too much for their cloud services when those services are not being actively utilized.
We have a DevOps team of five, and we support approximately 90 employees across our company.
How did you all decide to have a multi-cloud environment across all three of the major providers?
When we first started using public cloud, we opted for Google Cloud. At the time, Google Cloud was a more economically affordable option, and it was a great start for internal servers and internal projects. As of today we have 55 Google Cloud servers being managed in ParkMyCloud. These instances consist of internal servers for quality assurance sites, as well as proof of concept servers for the clients who we manage within Google Cloud.
Later we began using AWS for our continuous integration needs. One of the primary tools that we use for continuous integration and continuous deployment is TeamCity, which contains numerous AWS integration points. When Azure became a feature leader in the cloud market we began transitioning many of our clients to the Azure solution, primarily for the reliability of supporting production environments and to take advantage of the integration options for our development tools. Azure bolstered their integration offerings for servers, as well as for the continuous integration Azure Devops tool that we use for most of our projects on the Azure environment. We also use Microsoft products for our development processes. Since we use both SQL Server and Visual Studio, we utilize Azure for production environments.
What led you to search for a solution like ParkMyCloud?
We have a lot of active servers for internal testing, and keeping those online 24/7 is a significant cost when we only need them online when we are actively using them. Initially we would enable and disable the servers manually as needed, but that was a very time-consuming activity for our DevOps team. Cross-department communication became a challenge, also, as the QA team might try to do tests within a certain environment only to discover that the servers they needed were turned off, requiring them to seek out a DevOps resource and request that the server be brought back online.
Azure includes some automated options to schedule server availability, but neither Google Cloud nor AWS offers a good scheduling feature. That’s why I began researching different tools in the market that can automate server schedules. It is ideal to have one to reliably schedule server availability. ParkMyCloud does an amazing job with that.
I also like the option of configuring policies that allow me to schedule specific server availability per project. These scheduling features also greatly facilitate our processes across our US- and European-based offices since they operate in multiple time zones. With ParkMyCloud I have a schedule for each time zone, so when it’s 3:00 in the morning local time in our Atlanta office the European servers will automatically be online. They don’t have to ping us and wake us up early in the morning. So that’s one thing I was definitely looking for in a tool that we never had before.
That sounds like it was a pain to manage.
It sure was. The previous, manual process for enabling and disabling servers was not an efficient process at all, and it was a tedious task to organize all of our servers across all of our time zones.
How did you first hear about ParkMyCloud?
We looked into creating a custom application that would do something similar to ParkMyCloud, but our custom solutions didn’t have a lot of the benefits that we have found in your solution. We wanted a way that the QA team could go in and see if the servers are on or off, request to have the servers turn on, and then I was planning to create an automated process to have these servers on and off on a certain schedule. I was creating automation scripts to turn off the servers, and eventually I just realized that there’s got to be a good tool out there that will automate this process for me. That’s when I started researching, and through my research I found ParkMyCloud. I saw a demo, and determined that ParkMyCloud does everything that I want plus much, much more.
How much have you saved on your cloud bills so far with ParkMyCloud?
We just started using it a few months ago, and we’ve already saved $10,000.
Do you have ParkMyCloud integrated with any other tools you use?
Yes. We use Slack, which is the biggest communication tool that we use throughout our company. I have Slack integrated with ParkMyCloud, so any time a scheduled configuration changes or when certain critical servers are turned on or off, all applicable team members are alerted via the Slack-ParkMyCloud integration before those servers are shut down.
That’s all I have for now! Thanks for your time.