The Cloud Efficiency Guide

Building a Cloud Efficient Environment

There are numerous pieces to the Cloud Efficiency puzzle. Together we’ll tackle the ins and outs of what cloud efficiency really means and how to achieve it.

What is Cloud Efficiency?

Cloud efficiency is the ability to make the best possible use of cloud resources at the lowest cost with minimal waste and unnecessary effort.

Specific cloud efficiency yardsticks will vary from one organization to the next based on their individual requirements.

In general, cloud efficiency involves companies having the right people, processes, and technologies all aligned on getting maximum operational results from their cloud deployments while using the minimum resources required.

wasted in 2020 alone $17.6 Billion

Why Do We Need to Be Cloud Efficient in the First Place?

With the incredible potential of cloud computing, many companies are utilizing more resources than they actually need. That means you’re spending a lot of money you don’t need to be spending on your monthly cloud bill. As your teams grow, cloud deployments get more and more complicated to control cloud cost and determine what resources you actually need.

In 2020, companies wasted over $17 billion in cloud spend on idle resources. Data centers emit nearly 100 million metric tons of CO2 annually. This means there is an environmental impact of our collective cloud waste by unnecessarily over-provisioning cloud resources.

What Are the Main Components of Cloud Efficiency?

The most important components to cloud computing efficiency are application performance and resource utilization. Both application performance and resource utilization reflect the value that a company puts on an application and the business processes it supports. Is the app core to the business? Will an outage or performance slow down cause a major disruption? Or is the app less crucial to the business, and will an outage have less of an impact? The point being that people assign relative levels of importance to their cloud apps, then purchase cloud resources and provision them according to those priorities.

Until very recently, this was a lot of manual work for most developers to manually tune and provision each application. This consumed a lot of time for dev teams that could be working on other projects.

Thankfully today there are ways to handle these tasks using machine learning (ML) to intelligently automate Application Optimization and Performance Testing.

The Impact of Cloud Efficiency

What Are the Environmental Impacts of the Cloud?

Most people don’t realize it but the cloud industry is one of climate change’s biggest challenges and most overlooked contributors. Over the past few years, data centers became one of the largest annual energy consumers and emitters of carbon pollution, representing roughly 3% of the world’s total energy consumption and emitting nearly 100 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

That’s a lot of greenhouse gasses pushed into the atmosphere, a significant portion of which need not be produced or emitted because it’s essentially not needed. This overprovisioning and under-utilization of cloud resources is called ‘cloud waste’. By collectively reducing cloud waste, and avoiding the unnecessary generation of all that power, there would be significant positive impacts on the environment.

How Can Being Cloud Efficient Reduce My Cloud Cost?

Being cloud efficient essentially means ‘right-sizing’ an organization’s consumption of cloud services. That, of course means not under-provisioning apps. More important from a cloud cost perspective is that by honing in on what an organization really needs for cloud services, that organization will avoid over-provisioning their cloud apps, and avoid the run-up in cloud costs that come with over-provisioning.

What Are Other Impacts That Cloud Computing Has?

The potential impacts of cloud computing extend much further than the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and operational streamlining that dominate the discussion. When taking a broader view one can easily envision potential societal impacts that the cloud could create or accelerate. 

These include:

  • There are privacy concerns associated with the vast amounts of consumers’ personal data that is being captured by big cloud players – and questions about its use.
  • Speaking of large cloud players, will these household-name companies use their clout to do more to democratize all that goes on in the cloud, or will they grow increasingly monopolistic? 
  • As cloud-enabled everything becomes more of a reality, there are growing concerns about a skills divide. How will those with less cloud access and familiarity obtain the job skills they need to thrive in the future?

What are the Benefits of Cloud Efficiency?

Reduced Cloud Costs

Cloud-native apps all have settings that largely determine application performance, reliability, and costs. Reducing costs while maximizing performance and reliability is the big challenge. To achieve this, developers need to understand what’s going on inside their complex, containerized apps, and rapidly make the necessary adjustments to the settings.

This is do-able when you’re running just a few apps. But it gets increasingly difficult as the number of deployed apps grows, and pretty quickly goes beyond human capabilities.

That’s when developers and DevOps teams need to leverage machine learning-powered configuration optimization and performance testing. Only with intelligent automation intelligence, can teams balance reduce their cloud costs while maintaining the requisite  application performance and reliability.

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Avoid Developer Burnout

Ask a developer about working on cloud-native apps and you’re likely to get an answer along the lines of “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” That’s because up until now, most of a cloud app developer’s day involved doing manual, repetitive, and boring tasks. The job had few options for new and imaginative approaches or creative problem solving – the very things that engineers and developers thrive on. 

Now, with new, machine learning powered automation solutions for handling the repetitive day-to-day application management tasks, developers are getting freed up to do more of what they do best — innovate and solve problems.  

With intelligent automation always watching over applications – and automatically optimizing things like configuration settings and application performance testing, developers and engineers no longer have to spend their time with low-value activities like frustrating trial-and-error attempts to improve app performance and manual tuning app settings. With those boring and thankless tasks off their plates, developers get freed up to focus on more interesting, challenging, and strategic projects. That, in turn, helps them to avoid job burn-out.

What Do You Need to Achieve Cloud Efficiency?

01

Tracking & Monitoring

We can’t fully understand or improve what we can’t measure. So, Step 1 on the road to cloud efficiency is to institute a tracking and monitoring regiment. This should include clear definitions and close monitoring of all cloud infrastructure costs as well as their drivers. On the back end, tracking actual resource usage against what cloud resources were purchased.

02

Capacity Management

Put people in place who know which workloads are more critical than others, and what resources are required to run them properly. Develop policies around these parameters. When developers or teams want new or additional cloud resources, make it a requirement for them to build business cases for what they want, and ‘pitch’ it to the cloud capacity planning experts.

03

Storage Utilization

Not all data is created equal. Some data types are much more valuable than others. Working either in-house or with your cloud service provider to create storage tiers that reflect the value of the data stored within them, in terms of both storage characteristics and costs.

There are, of course, several other areas in which efficiency improvements can be made. But the two areas where the ‘rubber meets the road’ in cloud efficiency is in application performance and resource utilization. For most teams these days, that means bringing intelligent automation to the containerized applications they have running in Kubernetes.  

The good news is that DevOps and IT teams can set aside their manual efforts to handle these key tasks. New technologies and solutions designed to manage K8s applications and their resource consumption are now commercially available — and StormForge is a top provider.

How Do I Become Cloud Efficient?

Start by focusing on the problem or challenge: The need to become more cloud efficient presumes a certain level of cloud inefficiency. Next, begin digging deeper into your organization’s present status quo with your cloud services. Find out what the level of cloud services your organization is buying each month from its cloud services provider. Additionally, determine what level of services are being provisioned in your own data center. Figure out how much of those provisioned services are actually being consumed each month. The gap between the amount of services you’re buying and what is actually being used is your cloud efficiency target. After you’ve scoped the problem, you next have to make it a focal point for the organization. That means aligning your people, processes, and technologies behind it, and moving forward with a range of initiatives.

For ideas on what types of initiatives you should build out, read our blog, 10 Steps to Reduce Your Cloud Waste.

What’s next after achieving Cloud Efficiency?

The cloud is definitely the preferred IT environment for numerous businesses and organizations for the foreseeable future. However, due to its nature, cloud computing evolves more rapidly than previous computing methods and architectures.

Because of this continual and rapid evolution, pursuing cloud efficiency gains is a task that’s never fully complete. Rather, it’s an ongoing effort that will involve various roles, groups, and departments, including developers and engineers, DevOps management, Procurement, and Finance. 

What’s next in the pursuit of cloud efficiency is at least partially contingent on what developments and advances come next to the cloud. Whatever changes may come, the key is to be always assessing, and always adapting.

Improving & Automating Cloud Efficiency

How Do You Automate Cloud Efficiency?

There are three essential requirements in automating cloud efficiency.

  1. Understanding the complex and rapid interactions that take place between the various components of your cloud apps.
  2. Using that understanding to make necessary adjustments to application configuration settings.
  3. Knowing how your applications will perform under different workloads so you can anticipate the changes that will be required to maintain desired performance levels under those varying conditions. 

How Can AI Help Reduce Cloud Waste?

Cloud waste refers to cloud computing resources that are either provisioned in an organization’s own data center, or contracted for from a cloud services provider — but that go underutilized or unused. 

To reduce cloud waste, organizations need to close the gap between the cloud resources they’re buying or provisioning themselves, and the cloud services they actually need and use.

AI, and especially machine learning, are key to reducing cloud waste because the technology has the required capability to observe extremely high numbers of variables, and calculate the effects when changes are made to combinations of those variables. The other key ingredient of AI is speed: this technology can handle these complex calculations with lightning-fast speed – speed that’s needed to make the changes fast enough to make an appreciable difference, such as driving down cloud waste substantially. 

For a more detailed discussion of this topic, check out our blog, How Can AI Help Reduce Cloud Waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

While we can’t calculate your exact cloud savings amount we can definitely provide a range of how much you could be saving on your cloud computing bill every month by switching to ML-powered solutions based on cloud cost savings we’ve provided to our customers. For more information on these solutions check out our How StormForge Works page. To obtain an estimate on what you could be saving every month on your cloud bill check out our StormForge ROI Calculator.

The short answer to this question is ‘No’. But that’s not to say that organizations and teams can’t make significant improvements in cloud efficiency. They can, it’s just that enhancing a company’s cloud efficiency is an ongoing process, one with no finish line or end state. 

Why is that? It’s due to the fact that most cloud-related things don’t stay the same. Cloud technologies and cloud-native apps are always changing. Organizations tend to change faster now as well. As competitive landscapes and business conditions change, organizations’ cloud requirements change, too. That includes how they use the cloud and cloud apps to support employees, customers, partners, and others.  

Despite there being no finish line, technologies and solutions are now available that can help organizations to improve their cloud efficiency. Like everything else cloud-related, these tools and technologies are also evolving, a snapshot of some of the more effective options is offered below.

Improving cloud efficiency or simplifying the process really can’t be done effectively using a manual approach. This is due to a number of factors, including the fundamental characteristics of cloud-native apps with their distributed components, dynamic assembly, fast spin-up, and de-provisioning. 

Automation is required, and more specifically, AI and machine learning. Machine learning-powered systems have the requisite capabilities in areas including automated observation, ultra-fast multivariable calculation, experimentation, and continual, incremental improvements enabled by ‘learning’ behaviors and automatically improving them over time. 

StormForge is a leading provider of AI and machine learning-powered solutions for not only improving cloud efficiency, but ensuring the success of cloud-native application deployments.

Being cloud efficient basically means that an organization only uses, or contracts for, just the cloud resources it actually needs to run its operations. Its developers don’t sign up for 2x, 3x or 4x the cloud resources than they actually need and use. That places less energy demands on data centers. Less energy produced means less pollution entering the environment.

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Cloud Waste Pledge

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