Interview: QCentive Saves $25k/month on AWS while Enabling Cloud Computing in Healthcare

We talked with Bill Gullicksen, Director of IT at QCentive, about how his company is using ParkMyCloud to save money on their AWS costs while enabling cloud computing in healthcare.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you start by telling me about QCentive and how you are using the cloud?

We are a 2-year-old healthcare startup founded in Massachusetts. We build systems for the healthcare industry to help reduce costs in healthcare and provide efficiencies in contract and payment management for healthcare companies. We are actually the first vendor for our customer authorized to take private healthcare information and move it to the cloud.

What do you think made QCentive stand apart to your customer as the best option for moving their infrastructure to the cloud?

Healthcare has been very cloud-averse due to issues like security concerns. In order to prove the use case for cloud computing in healthcare, we needed to build out a prototype and go through many months of meeting with them to prove that we could move them to the cloud while being HIPAA compliant, high-tech compliant, and secure.

We’re currently in the process of building our first prototype application by taking years of patient and healthcare contract information, loading it all into AWS, and then putting our application on top of it. We’ll be able to go through all the contracts, healthcare records, emergency room visits, and more to quickly calculate how to get the best savings in those areas.

So as you’re helping healthcare companies transition to the cloud, how did you come to find ParkMyCloud as a useful tool for your mission?

We had a few architects just going to town on AWS for about the first year we were in business. They were building and building away, and then all of the sudden our monthly AWS costs soared up to $40k, then $50k, $60k, $70k – and we’re spending a lot of money on Amazon and we don’t even have a working application yet!

Last summer I was put in charge of all of our AWS operations and I immediately went into cost control mode. I asked, “what I can do to get some of these costs under control?” We started out with some rightsizing exercises and scaled some stuff back and that got us some savings. We found areas where we have had some stability and used Reserved Instances there, allowing us to get a 30-40% discount, but we didn’t want to do long-term commitments so we only did those for a year.

For the remaining instances, I realized that we pay by the minute and we really don’t need to be running instances 24/7. That’s that’s when I started thinking about how to schedule instances to shut down. I could do that and turn them off with AWS tools, but then telling an instance to turn itself back on at 6 in the morning – I didn’t have a way to do that. And that’s when I found out about ParkMyCloud and said this looks perfect – I can schedule instances to get them running 12 hours a day, 5 days a week instead of 24/7 and I’ll cut my costs in half.

Have you discovered any other benefits while using ParkMyCloud?

ParkMyCloud was the perfect tool for what I needed at the time and it also gave us a side benefit where we could give developers, QA people, and even data analysts and business folks the ability to turn an instance off when they’re done, or turn it on without having to write a bunch of complex policies within AWS.

Before, if I only wanted certain people to be able to manipulate a handful of instances, I had to put those instance IDs in the policies. Instance IDs frequently change, so running custom policies was taking a lot of overhead and we got the benefit from ParkMyCloud of just assigning them teams. Now, whether the instance IDs change or not, there’s no extra work for me.

That’s why we chose ParkMyCloud and why we’ve been using it for 6-7 months now. For me it was great, very simple to set up, simple to use, easy for non-technical users and with very little effort from me and my technical staff, so it’s been perfect.

Great. So it seems like you were using a good mix of different cost savings efforts between the reserved instances, the rightsizing, and ParkMyCloud. Is there anything else you’re doing to manage cloud re-infrastructure costs?

Those are the bulk of it. We have a CloudCheckr subscription that I use sometimes, it’s very simple but I just use it for looking at the daily spend, seeing if there’s any unexpected spikes, things like that. I can use it for finding resources that are no longer being used. It’s nice to have for identifying orphaned volumes and gives me a simple, easy way to clean some of that up, but we get our biggest use out of ParkMyCloud.

What percent of your resources are currently on ParkMyCloud schedules?

We’ve taken some schedules off just to keep some systems up for a while, but my rule of thumb has been to put a schedule and a team on everything. Even if a schedule is running 24/7/365, I want to at least have a schedule on it and know that it’s a conscious business decision we made to keep that up versus “it just slipped through the cracks and we never looked at it.”

About how many people in your team or organization are using ParkMyCloud?

Somewhere around 15-20 users, which is probably about 75% of our company at this point.

Where do those users sit within your organization?

I’m Director of IT and we’ve got a Director of DevOps and a DevOps engineer – we are the three technical resources around infrastructure. Then we’ve got around 12 software developers that all have access so they can spin up their dev environments and spin them down when they’re not working.

We have a very flexible schedule, 3 days in the office, 2 days working from home, and we’ve got software developers that do their best coding at 3 in the morning. If they get up with an idea and they want to code, they need the ability to start up instances, do what they need to do, and then turn them off when they’re done. So they’re all in there, our QA department is currently 4-5 people and they’re all using ParkMyCloud, and then we’ve got 4-5 business analysts that do a lot of data analysis and database querying also using ParkMyCloud.

That makes sense. So, how much are you saving on your AWS bills using ParkMyCloud?

We are consistently saving between $15-25k a month.

Costs are creeping up now because before we got close to release we had systems sized small. So at first we dropped from our high bill that got up to around $60k and then after I implemented all these changes and started with ParkMyCloud in the first month, I got the spend down to $17k. Now we’ve got the full load of customer data, we’ve had to upsize a lot of the instances for performance and costs are going up in that regard but even with a $40k monthly spend, if we weren’t using ParkMyCloud that would be $60 or $65k monthly.

We’ve got a lot of instances that we keep normally parked now and we only turn them on when there’s a workload to run. And then we’ve got probably another 40 or 50% of our instances that only run Monday through Friday, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, so we’re getting that savings there which to me is bigger savings than messing with Reserved Instances.

Things like Reserved Instances look great the day you buy them, but then the first time you have to change the size on something, all of the sudden you’ve got Reserved Instances that you’re not using anymore. With ParkMyCloud that never happens, it’s all savings.

How did you first hear about ParkMyCloud?

We were interviewing an external technology company last summer that was being brought in to jump start our CI/CD process. While they were in I asked, “hey, do you know any good methods for doing scheduling?” – and they said take a look at ParkMyCloud. G2 Technologies in Boston.

Any other feedback for us?

I was surprised how simple ParkMyCloud was to get up and running. It was a couple of hours from signing up for the trial to having most of the work done and realizing savings, which was great. The release of your mobile app has been fantastic because it’s nice if I need to turn something on for somebody that doesn’t have access on a Saturday when I’m 30 miles away from my computer. I can do it anywhere with the mobile app.

Glad to hear it! I think that wraps things up for now. Thank you Bill, I appreciate your time.

You’re welcome!

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