Why Use One Cloud, When You Can Use Any Cloud?

Why Use One Cloud, When You Can Use Any Cloud?

No, seriously, why would we just use one cloud?

Let’s stop for a moment and think about what has happened over the course of the last few years in public cloud computing and the hypervisor wars on-premises.  VMware has largely dominated the data center, but we are seeing a strong push from Microsoft on the hypervisor front.  KVM and Xen continue to grow in popularity for certain sectors, and all across the spectrum we see lots of folks running more than one hypervisor.

The cloud is no different.  The reason that we are all seeking the “AWS killer” just like the elusive “iPhone killer” is that there is some bizarre need to locate a winner of the platform war. 

This isn’t a zero-sum game.  The real shift in our industry is the broad acceptance of multiple platforms inside every IT portfolio.  We jumped right past the cloud to the multi-cloud.

Why Run More Than One Cloud?

Technology is not the problem, it’s the solution.  Business challenges are being answered by technology which is what really matters.  So, why would we run more than one cloud?  The reason is a technological one usually.  Certain features, APIs, and architectures may be supported on one more than another.  There are raw economics involved as well.  There are overall availability concerns which drive businesses to disperse their IT across multiple data centres, so why not do the same in the cloud?

The reason that AWS and OpenStack are often pitted against each other is that there are capabilities to enable AWS API access within the OpenStack platform. This is something that Randy Bias and many in the community fought for over the last few years.  The reason that it becomes important is that we see the huge adoption of AWS and being able to take the same workloads and move them to OpenStack using the same API calls and interactions would be a massive win for OpenStack as a platform.

If we stick to strictly public cloud providers, we can start with what we would call the big three:  AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform.  Among those three, we see a lot of parrying as we see features and pricing updates happening regularly.  Features more so than pricing lately. That results in an ever-growing set of services that can be easily consumed.  As we see common orchestration and operational platforms like Mesos, Kubernetes, and the like gaining in popularity, it gives even more credence to the commoditization of cloud.  (Author’s opinion note:  The supposed “race to zero” for cloud costs is over.  They have all agreed that pricing isn’t where they win the customers any more)

Reducing the Complexity of Multi-Cloud

Complexity is the one thing that will slow the multi-cloud adoption a bit longer.  There are clearly different ways to consume resources, and to programmatically create and destroy resources in the public cloud platforms.   Especially when you go outside of the big three.  That means consumers of the public cloud will have to start with one target and generally work up to a deep comfort there before moving to embrace a multi-cloud strategy.

Once we remove or reduce complexity from the list of barriers, that opens up the door for embracing the economic value of a multi-cloud strategy.  This is where we can embrace spot pricing and on-demand growth to tackle scaling needs, while making the workload truly portable and making sure that price becomes the real win.  Networking stacks across the clouds are rather different for a reason.  If every car manufacturer used the same exact parts, they would lower the chances of you coming back to them for up-sell opportunities.  The same goes for the cloud.  Networking and security (they should always be paired) will most likely be the greatest challenge that technologists face in architecting their single multi-cloud solutions.

Next-Generation applications are being built as cloud-native where possible.  This opens up the door for what has been talked about for years.  Supposed freedom from vendor lock-in.  I’m always rather skeptical when a representative from one cloud company says “come to us and avoid vendor lock-in” because every vendor, even public cloud ones, have lock-in.  

What we do gain by embracing the cloud-native approach to application development and deployment is that we reduce the risk of lock-in.

The more we learn from the forward-leaning development teams, the more we are able to give ourselves agility in a multi-cloud architecture.  As all of the public cloud pundits who represent one faction or another are arguing over who will be the last one to be all-in on the public cloud running cloud-native applications, they forgot about one thing:  they opened the door for their competition too.

Interview: Cyber Security Orchestration Vendor Syncurity Optimizes Cloud Costs with ParkMyCloud

Interview: Cyber Security Orchestration Vendor Syncurity Optimizes Cloud Costs with ParkMyCloud

We chatted with JP Bourget, founder and CSO of Syncurity, about how his cybersecurity orchestration company uses ParkMyCloud. 

Hi JP. Can you start off by telling us about Syncurity, what you do, and how big your team is? 

Sure. We’re a cybersecurity orchestration vendor. We are in the cybersecurity product space of SOAR which is security, orchestration, automation, and response. What we do is we facilitate the security alert handling, sometimes called triage, and then use automation to help decide if the alert is concerning, and if necessary kick off a response process for the security operations center or incident response team. We usually launch these processes with alert polling as well as run our automated analysis/enrichment with alert ingesting via security product APIs. 

I’m the founder and CSO. There’s about 25 of us on the team.

What clouds do you use, and how are you using those clouds?

We use Amazon, Azure, Google, Oracle, and Digital Ocean. We do a lot of CI using CircleCI, Travis, and some others.

The reason that we use all those clouds is because we ship images on the different cloud providers for consumption by customers. Our product is subscription-based and we share a private image with our customers, they can then go deploy our product in their environment.

Most of our work is done on Azure VMs and Amazon EC2. We also have another cloud environment which is hosted on bare metal servers that we use for VMware – I don’t get billed per VMguest in that scenario. It’s a per bare metal server cost model. We also now use spot instances quite often based on ParkMyCloud helping us understand the benefit of them, even for longer running instances. 

As for how we’re using them, most of our QA and Proof of Concepts are done in Amazon. Because we do all this automation, we have a huge integration lab up in Amazon. We also do POCs in all the other vendors based on customer requirements.

How did you decide to start using ParkMyCloud? 

We’ve been using ParkMyCloud right from the beginning – we know the team that helped build the product. 

The key benefit of ParkMyCloud for me is that I have about 75 instances at any one time that don’t need to be running all the time because it’s the lab. In some cases, I need to turn on a lab in a fashion that gives me a stack of tools, or I need to run a lab in a fashion where the machines run a schedule. 

There’s certain stuff that is dummy infrastructure or lab infrastructure like windows servers and domains that we want running most of the time, but we turn them off on the weekend. But there are other things that only ever need to be turned on when we’re using them. So what ParkMyCloud gives me is the ability to essentially have an interface that’s multi-cloud for anybody to go in and turn a box on as needed and then automatically turn them off.

How would you describe your experience using ParkMyCloud?

I like being able to see my projected savings right on the platform. The other thing that I really like is the fact that I can see how much a box costs a month instead of hourly. It’s one of those small things that provides huge value. Amazon provides that hourly information but you have to calculate the monthly cost.

We use ParkMyCloud as an alternative to some users logging directly into the AWS console, which is a lot easier. 

How much have you saved using ParkMyCloud?

Our total savings to date is more than $70,000.

Great to hear – thanks JP! 

 

More interviews with ParkMyCloud users:

How Do I Stop Wasting Money on Reserved Instances?

How Do I Stop Wasting Money on Reserved Instances?

“How do I stop wasting money on Reserved Instances?” 

It’s a question we’ve heard before from despairing AWS users. They were told Reserved Instances (RIs) would save them money, so they purchased them. Now, halfway into a three-year contract, they realize they’re not utilizing the RIs they’re paying for. Or worse… they may not even know what RIs they have. 

Amazon offers Reserved Instances to ostensibly help get your cloud costs in control. The message is that RIs help you save money on your EC2 instances by offering discounted hourly rates in exchange for a 1- or 3-year commitment. Before we get into how you can cut your cloud spending with an AWS RI, here’s a bit of background and what you need to know about AWS EC2 Reserved Instance pricing. 

How do EC2 Reserved Instance Purchasing Options Work?

When it comes to Reserved Instances purchasing options, you can either choose a 1- or 3-year contract. The longer the commitment, the greater the cost savings compared to On-Demand. By choosing one of these contracts, customers are promised savings of up to 75%.

There are a few risks that come with the longer commitment times. For starters, if AWS drops pricing, then the promised savings are reduced or may disappear. And when AWS introduces a new generation of an instance type family it may attract your users away from your contracts – these are based on the older generation. If you don’t know your future needs, it may be appealing to use the 1-year instead of a 3-year contract, which has savings vs. On Demand at about 31-40%.

There are three different types of EC2 Reserved Instances that customers can purchase – Standard Reserved Instances, Convertible Reserved Instances, or Scheduled Reserved Instances. With Standard Reserved Instances, customers would see the most significant savings. However, Convertible Reserved Instances are attractive to customers because it gives them added flexibility like the ability to use different instance families, operating systems, or tenancies over the term. Scheduled RIs allow you buy an RI that is only used at certain times each day in a recurring schedule.

When an RI expires, you are charged again at the normal rate.  See the recently released option to queue RI purchases in advance. This may help provide the greatest savings by eliminating gaps in your coverage from reservations.

Additional Ways To Save

AWS also offers additional discounts if you have more than $500,000 worth of Reserved Instances in a region – the more Reserved Instances you have, the larger your discount. 

You may also buy RIs on the Reserved Instance Marketplace from third-party sellers. The great thing about this is that these third parties tend to list their RIs at lower prices for a shorter period of time. And if you find you have too many RIs, you can sell them on the Marketplace as well.

Payment plans

There are three different payment plans offered with Reserved Instances. Payments can be made either All Upfront, Partial Upfront, or No Upfront. It is important to note that if you pay all up front, you will have greater savings because there are no other costs or additional charges during the term regardless of the usage hours. 

Some may think that the need to pay upfront and be locked in undermines both “pay as you go” and the notion of being “elastic”- almost like a step backward to the old economic model. 

An example of the savings offered by each EC2 RI option, along with the percent of savings each has over the On-Demand price is shown below. From these graphs, you can see that with a 3-year contract, your savings would be much greater. Other things to note is that you will have greater savings with Standard Instances, as well as if you choose the “All Upfront” payment plan. While you would receive discounted hourly rates for choosing Partial Upfront or No Upfront as a payment plan, if you can, All Upfront would be your best option with the most savings.

How should I use my Reserved Instances?

In non-production environments such as dev, test, QA, and training, Reserved Instances are not your best bet. Why is this the case? These environments are less predictable; you may not know how many instances you need and when you will need them, so it’s better to not waste spend on these usage charges. Instead, schedule such instances (preferably using ParkMyCloud). Scheduling instances to be only up 12 hours per day on weekdays will save you 65% – better than all but the most restrictive 3-year RIs!

Reserved Instances are very much a “use it or lose it” proposition. In other words, there are no rollover minutes – if you don’t use your reserved instances one month you don’t get extra time the next month. Here’s why they are like this:

  • The EC2 options available are specific to Region, Availability Zone, Instance Type (e.g. m5.large) with some exceptions, Platform Type (e.g. Linux or Windows), and Tenancy. AWS, behind the scenes, attempts to randomly match instances you launch to the Reserved Instance contracts you have in place, based on the specific criteria. When there is a match, the cost benefit is applied. It is not uncommon for people to believe they are launching instances that match all the criteria, when in fact they are not, so the contracts are under-utilized. And you won’t know what matches were made until you get your bill at the end of the month.
  • AWS decrements the contract amount for every hour when not used, meaning your return on investment diminishes. 
  • For every hour in your RI term, you pay the fee for hourly usage regardless of whether there has been any usage during that hour. 

Given all of the tradeoffs mentioned above, Reserved Instances make the most sense in a production environment, where instances need to always be “on.” 

How ParkMyCloud Can Help Manage Your Reserved Instances

ParkMyCloud is an easy to use platform that allows users to automatically identify and eliminate wasted cloud spend. You can use the ParkMyCloud platform to fully optimize your non-production instances without committing to an AWS EC2 RI term that will go underutilized. The platform does this by scheduling, rightsizing, and identifying idle instances. Recently, we added the ability to view all your existing Reserved Instances in the platform so you can better track what commitments you have already made, with more optimization functionality coming soon.

With ParkMyCloud, you can create parking schedules that automatically turn EC2 instances on and off according to your specifications. ParkMyCloud provides customized parking recommendations based on criteria provided by the user, which makes identifying “parkable” instances easier – and you can automatically accept these recommendations if you like. Turning this into an automated process cuts down on time and costs, thus further optimizing your cloud environments. Another perk of ParkMyCloud is that the platform tracks costs, projected 30-day savings, and actual savings for the current month – giving you better visibility. 

ParkMyCloud easily achieves EC2 savings of 50-73% with no annual commitment, upfront payment, or risk of instance termination or price cuts. In fact, we had a customer cancel a $10,000 order for AWS Reserved Instances in favor of EC2 instances that they could turn on and off after they found out just how easy and powerful this cost savings tool can be. Here are some of the advantages that come with using ParkMyCloud:

  • Better savings
  • No commitment or upfront payment
  • Price cut protection

Try out ParkMyCloud for yourself and get started parking your non-production systems and RightSizing your resources to ensure that your environments are running in the most efficient way possible.

The Three Core Components of Microsoft Azure Cost Management

The Three Core Components of Microsoft Azure Cost Management

Organizations that utilize Microsoft Azure as their cloud service provider have free access to Microsoft Azure Cost Management as a part of their subscription. Much of this originates from cloud monitoring and analytics tool, Cloudyn, which Microsoft acquired in July 2017. After the acquisition, Microsoft started migrating Cloudyn features into their Azure Cost Management portal and began offering it to their paying customers. The tool helps you monitor your cloud spending, increase your organizational accountability, and optimize your cloud efficiency. Let’s take a look at each of these features and see how well it performs in each.

Monitor Your Cloud Spending

The reports available in Microsoft Azure Cost Management help you view your past usage and costs while also allowing you to project your future spending. These costs can be viewed in daily, monthly, or yearly views, so you can see trends and anomalies across smaller or larger time frames. This data is pulled straight from Azure (or AWS, if you want to pay 1% of your AWS bill), so it helps for breaking down your raw cloud bill information.

Increase Your Organizational Accountability

Microsoft Azure Cost Management reports have the ability to be broken down in different ways by using “cost entities” to split resources into different buckets. These entities are often aligned with specific projects or departments within your organization, and can correlate with users or Azure subscriptions. Further, you can create “cost models” to split resources based on tags from your raw billing information.

Once the cost entities and cost models are in place, true accountability comes from having users log directly into Azure Cost Management to see and explore the costs associated with the teams and projects that they are a part of. On top of this, Azure Budgets can be set to alert or limit individuals or teams from overspending (or at least attempt to prevent it through warnings).

Optimize Your Cloud Efficiency

Even though this is a core tenant of Microsoft Azure Cost Management, optimization is one of the weakest features of the product. The essence of the documentation around this is that you should manually eliminate waste, without going into much detail about what is being wasted or how to eliminate it. Plus, this expects manual intervention and review of each resource without giving direct actions to eliminate the waste.

At ParkMyCloud, we believe that continuous cost control comes from actual action. We’ve created this for our customers through a simple UI (with full RBAC), smart recommendations with one-click remediation, and an automatic policy engine that can schedule your resources by default based on your tagging or naming conventions. Our multi-cloud platform will help you reduce cloud waste and maximize the value of your cloud.  Start a trial today to see the automation in action!

How to Value Azure Market Share When Placing Your Bets in the Cloud Race

How to Value Azure Market Share When Placing Your Bets in the Cloud Race

Azure market share appears to be growing within the cloud computing race – both at large and within our own customer base here at ParkMyCloud. 

As multi-cloud enthusiasts, we keenly observe the various commentator speculations about the winners and losers in the three-horse race between AWS, Azure and GCP that is the public cloud market. When quarterly results are reported, the tech news cycle buzzes for days, and what they choose to highlight can set the tone in the news. 

One of the side benefits of reviewing the utilization of our customers in the ParkMyCloud platform is to compare what we see to what the market sees. Our customer base is of course a non-random sample from the cloud IaaS market, but we definitely see a number of trend correlations which do seem to speak to changes in this highly competitive marketplace. 

Azure Market Share Among ParkMyCloud Users

One trend we recently spotted was an uptick in the relative proportion of Azure accounts and resources being managed within ParkMyCloud. Over the last six months or so, the proportion of customers using Azure exclusively has increased from roughly 10% to 20% – not to mention the handful using Azure in addition to one of the other major providers. Meanwhile, the proportion of our customers using solely AWS decreased slightly, while Google Cloud and the multi-cloud combinations remained roughly flat. 

Azure Market Share at Large

Is this growth reflected in the market at large? Last quarter’s earnings reports and market outlook align with what we observed in our small sample. According to a recent KeyBanc report, Amazon lost almost 6% stake, while Microsoft Azure went from 26% to 30% and Google successfully grew its share from 8% to 10% in the cloud business. As the report’s author stated:

“AWS has a formidable lead and first-mover advantage in IaaS and is maintaining AWS estimates for this year and next, but the slowdown warrants further investigation into multi-cloud competitive dynamics”.

 

(Source: BusinessQuant.com)

Still, Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing unit reported incredible revenue gains in their filings with its revenue increasing by 91% in FY18 and 72% in FY19. This growth has underpinned the overall performance of the entire Microsoft business and the consensus seems to be that Azure’s cloud momentum is still in its early days of playing out within the company’s massive install base. As shown in the chart above Azure’s growth has consistently been above the current 65% growth rate, and for much of the last five years has been close to doubling annually. Some have argued that the growth is slowing, which it is, but nevertheless it’s still at an impressive rate and even if it dropped to AWS levels would still be remarkable even by tech standards. After all, there is a key size after which the growth requires such a huge segment of the available market that it’s impossible to maintain early adoption rates. 

Another key indicator of growth is Microsoft’s stock price, which as of this week has nearly matched its all-time high. Many cite Azure as a key driver of this growth, also noting that Azure’s customer skew toward larger enterprises protect it from some of the market volatility that AWS and Google Cloud’s large proportion of startup customers leave them vulnerable to.

What’s Driving Azure’s Growth?

While AWS has long been seen as an innovator, Azure has the advantage of being the default option with the ability for large enterprises using other Microsoft products to roll Azure into existing contracts

However, we’re also seeing Azure as a component of more and more companies’ multi-cloud strategies, as well as more customers drawn to Azure’s now-mature feature set as market-leading on its own terms, taking advantage of offerings like Azure DevOps.

One interesting idea is whether Azure is growing its customer base at a risky rate compared to its infrastructure capacity. For example, we’ve seen anecdotal complaints regarding low availability of most sizes of low priority VMs, which may indicate a lack of excess capacity. On the other hand, we do not know of any widespread availability issues outside of this “spare capacity” offering, which indicates a razor’s edge balance of supply and demand thus far. 

Join us to Talk All Things Azure at Microsoft Ignite

If you enjoy discussing Azure market share and features, then come and discuss not only how to optimize your public cloud spend in Azure but also your own views on this fascinating market. You will find us at Microsoft Ignite in a few weeks. For Microsoft Ignite, November 4-8, 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.

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing

Are you looking for the cheapest cloud computing available? Depending on your current situation, there are a few ways you might find the least expensive cloud offering that fits your needs.

If you don’t currently use the public cloud, or if you’re willing to have infrastructure in multiple clouds, you’re probably looking for the cheapest cloud provider. If you have existing infrastructure, there are a few approaches you can take to minimize costs and ensure they don’t spiral out of control.

Find the Cloud Provider that Offers the Cheapest Cloud Computing for Your Needs

There are a variety of small cloud providers that attempt to compete by dropping their prices. If you work for a small business and prefer a no-frills experience, perhaps one of these is right for you.

However, there’s a reason that the “big three” cloud providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud dominate the market. They offer a wide range of product lines, and are continually innovating. They have a low frequency of outages, and their scale requires a straightforward onboarding process and plenty of documentation. 

Whatever provider you decide on, ensure that you’ll have access to all the services you need – is there a computing product, storage, databases? If you want to use containers or have the option for serverless, how do those products fit in? How good is the customer support? Does your company directly compete with the provider – for example, with Amazon’s retail arm? (You may not care, but some companies definitely do.) 

While there is no one “cheapest” cloud provider among the major options, you should still compare to ensure you’re getting the best cloud prices for the services you’ll use most. For more information about the three major providers’ pricing, please see the following cloud computing cost comparisons:

A note on the idea of vendor lock-in: if you are already purchasing cloud services from a cloud service provider, you may be worried that you’re “locked in” to that provider. What we see in practice is a little different: with on-demand flexibility and more opportunity than ever to practice multi-cloud, companies shouldn’t really worry about vendor lock-in when it comes to public cloud.

How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing from Your Current Provider

Of course, whether or not you’re concerned about vendor lock-in, you should ensure that you’re getting the most efficient cloud computing cost available to you. That means optimizing your options for the products you use most. 

Here’s a brief rundown of things you should do to ensure you’re getting the cheapest cloud computing possible from your current provider.

Use Reserved Instances for Production Environments

All of the major cloud providers offer a pricing option for Reserved Instances – that is, if you commit to use capacity over time, you can pay a discounted price.  Reserved instances can save money – as long as you use them the right way. It’s important to focus on workloads with 24×7 demand – i.e., production workloads – for Reserved Instances. You will get the best price for the longest commitment. Of course, each cloud provider structures this option differently. Here are our guides to each:

Only Pay for What You Actually Need

There are a few common ways that users inadvertently waste money and throw away the option for the cheapest public cloud bill, such as using larger instances than they need, and running development/testing instances 24/7 rather than only when they’re needed. To pay for what you need, ensure that all of your instances are “rightsized” to the size that best matches the workload. You should also use on/off schedules so your non-production resources used for development, testing, and staging are turned off nights and weekends. 

ParkMyCloud makes it easy to automated both of those things and reduce wasted cloud spend – try it out.

Take Advantage of Other Discounted Pricing Options

There are a number of other discounted pricing and purchasing options offered by the major cloud providers to help you get the cheapest cloud services. 

  • AWS Spot Instances – the best way to get the cheapest EC2 instance. This option offers heavy discounts for excess infrastructure, which can be reclaimed for other workloads at any time.
  • Azure Low Priority VMs – similar to AWS’s spot instances, although there is a fixed discount for Azure’s offering, and a few other operational differences.
  • Google Cloud Preemptible VMs – Google Cloud’s preemptible VMs are another similar option.
  • Google Cloud Sustained Use Discounts – this is a built-in pricing mechanism for Google users that discounts pricing the more you run each server.
  • Azure Dev/Test Pricing – a discounting option specifically for workloads used for development and testing. 

Ask

It never hurts to contact your provider and ask if there’s anything you could be doing to get a cheaper price. If you use Microsoft Azure, you may want to sign up for an Enterprise License Agreement, or if you’re on AWS, ask your rep about the Enterprise Discount Program. Or maybe you qualify for AWS startup credits

Get Credit for Your Efforts

While finding the cheapest cloud computing is, of course, beneficial to your organization’s common good, there’s no need to let your work in spending reduction go unnoticed. Make sure that you track your organization’s spending and show your team where you are reducing spend.

ParkMyCloud users have a straightforward way to do this. You can not only create and customize reports of your cloud spending and savings, but you can also schedule these reports to be emailed out. Users are already putting this to work by having savings reports automatically emailed to their bosses and department heads, to ensure that leadership is aware of the cost savings gained… and so users can get credit for their efforts.