AWS Morning Brief

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The latest in AWS news, sprinkled with snark. Posts about AWS come out over sixty times a day. We filter through it all to find the hidden gems, the community contributions--the stuff worth hearing about! Then we summarize it with snark and share it with you--minus the nonsense.
Cloud Cost Management Starter Kit
AWS Morning Brief
05.14.2021
17 Minutes
Transcript
Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by LaunchDarkly. Take a look at what it takes to get your code into production. I’m going to just guess that it’s awful because it’s always awful. No one loves their deployment process. What if launching new features didn’t require you to do a full-on code and possibly infrastructure deploy? What if you could test on a small subset of users and then roll it back immediately if results aren’t what you expect? LaunchDarkly does exactly this. To learn more, visit launchdarkly.com and tell them Corey sent you, and watch for the wince.

Jesse: Welcome to AWS Morning Brief: Fridays From the Field. I’m Jesse DeRose.

Amy: I’m Amy Negrette.

Jesse: This is the podcast within a podcast where we talk about all the ways we’ve seen AWS used and abused in the wild, with a healthy dose of complaining about AWS for good measure because I mean, who doesn’t love to complain about AWS? I feel like that’s always a good thing that we can talk about, no matter the topic. Today, we’re going to be talking about the ‘cloud cost management starter kit.’ So, the starter kit seems to be a big fad that’s going around. If you’re listening to this episode, you’re probably thinking, “It’s already done. It’s over.”

But I still want to talk about it. I think that this is a really relevant topic because I think a lot of companies are trying to get started, get their hands started in cloud cost management. So, I think this would be a great thing for us to talk about: what’s in our cloud cost management starter kit?

Amy: And it really will help answer that question that I get asked a lot on: what is even a cloud economist, and what do you do?

Jesse: Yeah, I mean, given the current timeframe, I haven’t gone to any parties recently to talk about what I do, but I do feel like anytime I try to explain to somebody what I do, there’s always that moment of, “Okay. Yes, I work with computers, and we’ll just leave it at that.”

Amy: It’s easier to just think about it as we look at receipts, and we kind of figure things out. But when you try to get into the nuts and bolts of it, it’s a very esoteric idea that we’re trying to explain. And no, I don’t know why this is a real job. And yet it is.

Jesse: This is one of the things that always fascinates me. I absolutely love the work that I do, and I definitely think that it is important work that needs to be done for any organization, to work on their cloud cost management best practices, but it also boggles my mind that AWS, Azure, GCP, haven’t figured out how to bake this in more clearly and easily to all of their workflows and all their services. It still boggles my mind that this is something that exists as—

Amy: As a thing we have to do.

Jesse: As a thing we have to do. Yeah, absolutely.

Amy: Well, the good news is, they’re going to change their practices once every six weeks, and we’ll have a new thing to figure it out. [laugh].

Jesse: [laugh]. So, let’s get started with the first item on our cloud cost management starter kit. This one is something that Amy is definitely passionate about; I am definitely passionate about, as well. Amy, what is it?

Amy: Turn on your CUR. Turn on your CUr. If you don’t know what it is, just Google AWS CUR. Turn it on. It will save you a headache, and it will save anyone you bring in to help you [laugh] [unintelligible 00:02:59] a huge headache. And it keeps us from having to yell at people, even though that’s the thing that if you pay us to do it, we will totally do it for you.

Jesse: If you take nothing away from this episode, go check out the AWS Cost and Usage Report—otherwise known as CUR—turn it on for your accounts, ideally enable it in Parquet format because that’s going to allow you to get all that sweet, sweet data in an optimized manner, living in your S3 bucket. It is a godsend. It gives you all the data from Cost Explorer, and then some. It allows you to do all sorts of really interesting business intelligence analytics on your billing data. It’s absolutely fantastic.

Amy: It’s like getting all of those juicy infrastructure metrics, except getting that with a dollar sign attached to it so you know what you actually doing with that money.

Jesse: Yeah, this definitely is, like, the first step towards doing any kind of showback models, or chargeback models, or even unit economics to figuring out where your spend is going. The Cost and Usage Report is going to be a huge first step in that direction.

Amy: Now, the reason why we yell at people about this—or at least I do—is because AWS will only show you the data from the time that it is turned on. They do have it for historical periods, but if you enable it at a specific point, all of your reports are going to start there. So, if you’re looking to do forecasting, or you want to be able to know what your usage is going to be looking like from this point on, turn it on as early as possible.

Jesse: Absolutely. If you are listening to this now and you don’t have the CUR enabled, definitely go pause this episode, enable it now, and come back and listen to the rest of the episode because the sooner you have the CUR enabled, the sooner you’ll be able to get those sweet, sweet metrics for all of your—

Amy: And it’s free.

Jesse: [laugh]. Yeah, that’s even the more important part. It’s free. There’s going to be a little bit of data storage costs if you send this data to S3, but overall, the amount of money that you spend on that storage is going to be optimized because you’re saving that CUR data in Parquet format. It’s absolutely worthwhile.

All right, so number two; the second item on our cloud cost management starter kit, is getting to know your AWS account manager and account team. This one, I feel like a lot of people don’t actually know that they have an AWS account manager. But let me tell you now: if you have an AWS account, you have an AWS account manager. Even if they haven’t reached out to you before they do exist, you have access to them, and you should absolutely start building a rapport with them.

Amy: Anytime you are paying for a support plan, you also have an account manager. This isn’t just true for AWS; I would be very surprised for any service that charged you for support but did not give you an account manager.

Jesse: So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with your account manager, they are generally somebody who will be able to help you navigate some of the more complex parts of AWS, especially when you have any kind of questions about your bill or about technical things using AWS. They will help you navigate those resources and make sure that your questions are getting to the teams that can actually answer them, and then make sure that those questions are actually getting answered. They are the best champion for you within AWS.

If you have more than a certain threshold of spend on AWS, if you’re paying for enterprise support, you likely also have a dedicated technical account manager as well, who will be basically your point person for any technical questions. They are a great resource for any technical questions, making sure that your technical questions are answered, making sure that any concerns that you have are addressed, and that they get to the right teams. They can give you some guidance on possibly how to set up new features, new architecture within AWS. They can give you some great, great guidance about the best ways to use AWS to accomplish whatever your use case is. So, in the cases where you’ve got a dedicated technical account manager as well, get to know them because again, they are going to be your champion. They are here to help you. Both your account manager and your technical account manager want to make sure that you are happy with AWS and continue to use AWS.

Amy: And the thing to know about the account manager is, like, if you ever run into that situation where, oh, something was left on erroneously and we ended up with a spike, or this is how I was understanding the service to work and it didn’t work that way, and now I have some weird spend, but I turned it off immediately, if you ever want to get a refund or a credit or anything, these are the people to talk to; they’re the ones who are going to help you out.

Jesse: Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s like, whenever you call into any kind of customer support center, if you treat the person who answers the phone with kindness, they are generally more likely to help you solve your problem, or generally more likely to go out of their way to help you solve your problem. Whereas if you just call in and yell at them, they have no interest in helping you. So—

Amy: You’ll never see that refund.

Jesse: Exactly. So, the more that you can create that rapport with your account manager—and your technical account manager if you have one—the better chances that they will fight for you internally to go above and beyond to make sure that you can get a refund if you accidentally left something running, or make sure that any billing issues are taken care of extremely fast because they ultimately have already built that rapport with you. They care about you and the way that you care about them and the way that you care about continuing to use AWS.

Amy: There’s another note about the technical managers where if you are very open with them on what your architecture plans are—“We’re going to move into this type of EKS deployment. This is the kind of traffic we think we’re going to run, and we think it’s going to be shaped this way”—they’ll help you out and build that in most efficient way possible because they also don’t want the resources out there either being overutilized or just being run poorly. They’ll help you out in trying to figure out the best way of building that. They’ll also—if AWS launches a new program and you spent a lot of money on AWS, maybe there’s a preview program that they think will help you solve a very edge case kind of issue that you didn’t think you had before.

Jesse: Absolutely.

Amy: Yeah. So, it’s a great way to get these paths and get these relationships because it helps both parties out.

Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by VM Ware. Because lets face it, the past year hasn’t been kind to our AWS bills or, honestly, any cloud bills. The pandemic had a bunch of impacts. It forced us to move workloads to the cloud sooner than we would otherwise. We saw strange patterns such as user traffic drops off but infrastructure spend doesn't. What do you do about it? Well, the CloudLive 2021 Virtual Conference is your chance to connect with people wrestling with the same type of thing. Be they practitioners, vendors in the space, leaders of thought—ahem, ahem. And get some behind the scenes look into the various ways different companies are handling this. Hosted by Cloudhealth by VM Ware on May 20th the CloudLive 2021 Conference will be 100% virtual and 100% free to attend. So you really have no excuses for missing out on this opportunity to deal with people who care about cloud bills. Vist cloudlive.com/corey to learn more and save your virtual seat today. Thats cloud l-i-v-e.com/corey c-o-r-e-y. Drop the “e,” we’re all in trouble. My thanks for VM Ware for sponsoring this ridiculous episode.

Jesse: So, the third item on our cloud cost management starter kit is identifying all of your contracts. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Well, wait. I’ve just got my AWS bill, what else should I be thinking about?” There’s other contracts that you might have with AWS. Now, you as the engineer may not know this, but there may be other agreements that your company has entered into with AWS: you might have an enterprise discount program agreement, you might have a private pricing addendum agreement, you might have an acceleration program—migration program—agreement. There’s multiple different contracts that your company might have with AWS, and you definitely want to make sure that you know about all of them.

Amy: If you’re ever in charge of an architecture, you’re going to want to know not just what your costs are at the end of the day, but also what they are before all your discounts because those discounts can maybe camouflage a heavy usage if you’re also getting that usage covered by refunds and discounts.

Jesse: Absolutely, totally agreed. Yeah, it’s really, really important to understand, not just your net spend at the end of the day, but your actual usage spend. And that’s a big one that I think a lot of people don’t think about regularly and is definitely important to think about when you’re looking at cloud cost management best practices and understanding how much your architecture is actually costing you on a team-by-team or product-by-product basis.

Amy: Also, make sure if you’re doing reservations that you know when those reservations and savings plans ent—

Jesse: Yes.

Amy: —because you don’t want to have to answer the question, “Why did all of your costs go up when you actually have made no changes in your infrastructure?”

Jesse: Yeah. Half the battle here is knowing that these contracts and reservations exist; the other half of the battle is knowing when they expire so that you can start having proactive conversations with teams about their usage patterns to make sure that they’re actually fully utilizing the reservations, and fully utilizing these discounts, and that they’re going to continue utilizing those discounts, continue utilizing those reservations so that you could ultimately end up purchasing the right reservations going forward, or ultimately end up renegotiating at the correct discount amount or commitment amount so that you are getting the best discount for how much money you’re actually spending.

So, the last item on our cloud cost management starter kit is thinking about the non-technical parts of projects. Amy, when you think about the non-technical parts of projects, what do you think about?

Amy: Non-technical always makes you think of people and process. So, this would be the leadership making the decisions on what those cost initiatives are. Maybe they want to push this down to the team lead level: it would include that. Or maybe they want to push it down to the engineering level, or the individual contributor level. There are some companies that are small enough that an engineer can be completely cognizant and responsible for the spend that they make.

Jesse: Yeah. I think that this is a really, really critical item to include in our starter kit because leadership needs to be bought into and back whatever work is being done, whatever cloud cost management work is being done. But also teams need to be empowered to make the changes that they want to make, make the changes that will ultimately provide those cloud cost management optimization opportunities and better cost visibility across teams. So, does everybody know what their teams are empowered to do, what their teams are capable of? Does everybody know what their teams are responsible for on the flip side? Do they ultimately know that they are responsible for managing their own spend, or do they think that the spend belongs to somebody else? Also, do they understand which resources are part of their budget or part of their spend?

Amy: It’s the idea that ownership of—whether it’s a bill, whether it’s a resource—comes down to communication, and level setting. Do we know who owns this? Do we know who’s paying for it? Do they know the information in the same way? Is there someone who’s outside who can figure out this information for themselves? Just making sure that it’s done in a clear enough way that everyone knows what’s going on.

Jesse: Absolutely. Well, that will do it for us this week. Those are our four main items for our cloud cost management starter kits. If you’ve got questions you’d like us to answer, please go to lastweekinaws.com/QA, fill out the fields and submit your questions.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review and give it a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you hated this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review, give it a five-star rating on your podcast platform of choice and tell us, what would you put in your ideal starter kit?

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
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TranscriptCorey: This episode is sponsored in part byLaunchDarkly. Take a look at what it takes to get your code into production. I’m going to just guess that it’s awful because it’s always awful. No one loves their deployment process. What if launching new features didn’t require you to do a full-on code and possibly infrastructure deploy? What if you could test on a small subset of users and then roll it back immediately if results aren’t what you expect? LaunchDarkly does exactly this. To learn more, visitlaunchdarkly.com and tell them Corey sent you, and watch for the wince.


Jesse: Today, on a very special episode of AWS Morning Brief: Fridays From the Field, we say our goodbyes to Pete Cheslock.

Amy: Oh, no. Did the ops bus finally get him?

Jesse: No. Wait, what? What? No. No, he’s not—

Amy: You know, the ops bus, the one that takes out all of the ops people, which is why you need data recovery plans.

Jesse: [laugh]. I mean, I have plans for other reasons, but no. No, Pete, Pete’s not dead. He’s just—I mean, he’s dead to me, but he’s just not going to be here anymore.

Amy: Only on the inside.

Jesse: Welcome to AWS Morning Brief: Fridays From the Field. I’m Jesse DeRose.

Amy: I’m Amy Arumbulo Negrette.

Pete: I am Pete Cheslock. I’m here for one last, beautiful, glorious time.

Jesse: I feel like this is going to be like Breakfast Club but in the data center server room.

Pete: Yeah. A little bit. I think so. We will all sit cross-legged on the floor in a circle, share our thoughts and feelings. And maybe some sushi. There were sushi in that movie. And that was, like, really advanced back then in the ’80s.

Jesse: Yeah, I like that. So Pete, you want to give us a little bit of background about why you will be moving on from this podcast?

Pete: Moving on to a whole new world. Yes. Sadly, I am not dead. The ops bus did not get me, and I was not eaten by my smoker, my meat smoker.


Jesse: [laugh]. Although at this point, it’s probably overdue.

Pete: You know, the odds of all three of those are pretty high out, to be really perfectly honest, given this pandemic and everything else going on in this world.

Amy: Isn’t that how it works? You eventually become the smoked meat.

Pete: Yeah, yeah.

Jesse: [laugh].

Pete: All the time. You know, you are what you eat. And if you eat junk and whatnot—so I eat smoked meats, eventually, I’m just going to become, you know, smoked meats, I guess. But no, I am moving on from The Duckbill Group. Just bittersweet is the best word I can come up with. Very sad, but also very excited.

I’m moving on to a new role at a new company that was just kind of an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. And I’m really excited for something new, but really sad because I don’t get to work with two of my three favorite cloud economists, Jesse, and Amy. Yeah, Corey is one, too, and yes, it’s fun to work with him. But it’s also fun to rag on him a little bit as well.

Jesse: I’m pretty sure you still have the opportunity to rag on him no matter where you go.

Pete: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, we’re Twitter connected. So, I can just slide into his DMs as needed. Yeah.

Amy: And really, what else is Twitter for—

Pete: Exactly.

Jesse: [laugh].

Amy: —than roasting former coworkers and bosses?

Pete: Yeah, I expect a constant stream of Twitter DMs every time you find something, some little fun nugget that I’ve left behind.

Jesse: I feel like that’s appropriate. So today, Pete, I have two questions for you now that you will be moving on from Duckbill Group, moving on from this podcast, I want to know, looking back at your time here working with Duckbill Group, what did you learn? What are the things that surprised you, that you didn’t expect? And what would you say to somebody who wanted to start working in this space, maybe start a career in cloud economics on their own?

Pete: Yeah, so this kind of feels like an exit interview a little bit.

Jesse: [laugh]. And a very public exit interview at that. So, make sure that we bleep all the swear words.

Pete: I think it’s in Duckbill fashion to do a public—a very public-facing exit interview, right? That is Duckbill in a nutshell.

Jesse: I think the only thing more public is if Corey asks you to hold the exit interview on Twitter.

Amy: Exactly.

Pete: [laugh]. I mean, we might have to do that, now. I like that idea. Yeah, so I think those are great questions, and I love the opportunity to talk about it. Because Duckbill is a fantastic company, and coming into Duckbill last year was totally by luck.

Not really—no, not—luck is maybe not the right word. But I had been doing some consulting on my own, and the pandemic and some other forces caused a bunch of my consulting work to dry up really quickly. And I was sitting at home and I’m like, “Wow, I should get a real job.” And I saw a tweet from Mike on Twitter that was like, “Oh, we’re growing The Duckbill Group.” And Mike and Corey and I have known each other for such a long time.

We’ve always said it’d be great to work together at some point in the future, but it’s so hard [laugh] to do. You know, to kind of work with your friends, and timing, and circumstance, and schedule, and everything else. And so when I saw that, I was like, wow, like that might be a lot of fun working with that crew. And I’ve got a lot of experience in AWS and I’ve—my title at one of my previous companies was Captain COGS—for Cost Of Goods Sold—because I was so diligent with the Amazon bill. So, it’s kind of one of those things where I felt like I could be useful and helpful to the organization, and talking with Mike and Corey, it just made a ton of sense.


And so, it was a lot of fun to come on board. So, but then once you’re kind of in, and you start doing this type of work—and you know, Amy and Jesse, you’ve both experienced this—I think no matter how much knowledge you have of Amazon, very, very quickly, you realize that you actually don’t know as much as you really think you did, right?


Jesse: Yeah.

Pete: Because it’s so—there’s just so much.


Amy: And it changes once every five minutes.


Pete: [laugh].


Jesse: Oh, yeah.


Amy: Literally if you—well, just keep an eye on that changelog, you can watch your day get ruined as time goes on.


Jesse: [laugh].


Pete: [laugh]. It’s—yeah, it’s a real-time day ruining. And that’s the new. It’s like Amazon Kinesis: It’s all real-time.

Jesse: [laugh].


Pete: Yeah, it’s so true. And I think the reason behind it is, you know, one of the first things I kind of realized is that when you are working inside of a business and you’re trying to understand, like, an Amazon service, you don’t necessarily go that deep because you’ve got a real job and other stuff to do. And when you’re finally, like—let’s say you’re in Cost Explorer; this is actually my favorite one because learning this took us a while. The documents aren’t very good. But in Cost Explorer, there’s a dropdown box that can show you your charges in different ways: unblended view, blended view, amortized view—if I’m saying that word really incorrectly—net-amortized view, net-unblended view. Like, what do all these mean?


Most people just are like, unblended, move on with their lives. But at some point, you kind of need to know and answer that question, and then understand the impact, and all those things, and spending more hours than I care to count trying to correlate the bill and Cost Explorer to look the same. Something that simple, why is that so hard? You know, it’s things like that.

Amy: Why is that so hard? I do not understand it. It is exhausting. [laugh].

Jesse: It drives me absolutely crazy, and it’s something that in previous roles, you could just say, “Well, this isn’t my responsibility, so I’m not going to worry about it.” But now we’ve got clients who are asking us these questions because it is our responsibility and we do need to worry about it.


Pete: Yeah, exactly. So, I think that’s just, kind of, one example. Now, there was a ton that I learned. I mean, just in how discounts might be applied when you look at charges in an account whether if you have an enterprise discount program, or private pricing in some way. I think one of my favorite ones—and this is actually something that catches a lot of people up—is especially in Cost Explorer, there’s kind of two ways that you can view a charge.

So, let’s say you’re looking at S3, and you are trying to find your usage by the usage type. Like, I want to compare standard storage to maybe data transfer or something like that. And you go and group by usage type, and they’ll show you, “Hey, for your S3 for this month or day or whatever, you’ll have some spend associated storage and data transfer,” and you’re like, “That’s neat.” And then you say to yourself, “Now, I want to look at it by API.” And maybe you’ll see, wow, there’s a ton of spend associated with GETs or PUTs.

And you’ll think that that is actually a request charge. And it’s totally not. It’s like, when you group by API, it’s the API that started the charge, not the charge itself. So, you could have a PUT that started the charge, but the charge itself is actually storage. It’s the little things like that, where you might glance at it in your account and go, “Oh, okay.” But then when you actually need to get down to the per penny on spend and share it with a client, you go even further down the rabbit hole.

Jesse: Because why would all of the billing information across different sources be accurate?

Amy: And also, why would things be named the same between the bill, and Cost Explorer, and the curve? Having those names be the same, that would just make it too easy, and just streamline the process too much, and be too logical. No, let’s work for it. We have to work for it. It’s a pillar of excellence; we have to work for it.


Pete: [laugh]. Exactly. So yeah, I think it’s those types of things that you just start seeing the edge cases. But because of, kind of, the work we do, we keep going. We’re not just, “Oh, wow. Haha, silly Amazon.”


But then we keep diving in deeper and deeper to figure out the why. And the reason for that really just comes down to the fact that we’ll need to communicate that in some effective way to the client to get them to understand it. And actually, that kind of leads me to the other thing that I think is probably the most important skill of being a cloud economist, of being in finops, is your ability to write long-form writing, being able to write clear, concise information explaining why the spend is what it is, explaining all of these edge cases, all these interesting parts of cloud cost management, and being able to write that down in such a way that anyone could read it; like a CFO could understand how the charges are happening, just like a head of engineering, who has maybe more impact to the spend.


Jesse: Being able to communicate, the differences between different AWS services, between different billing modes, to different audiences is so critical to the work that we do because we’re ultimately going to be working with different people with different backgrounds at every single client that we work with. So, we need to be able to speak the language of different audiences.

Amy: And it’s really different, how different C Suites, different departments, their goals are going to be different, too, because they have requirements that they have to fulfill. Finance is very concerned about the literal cost of things, while engineering is—they understand that their architecture comes at a price, and so long as they have the budget for it, they’re cool with it. And you just have to align what those goals are, and have that translate as like, into the document as, “They built it this way for this reason, which was fine at that stage. But as you grow, you need to make sure that it also fulfills these other external expectations.”


Corey: Let’s be honest—the past year has been a nightmare for cloud financial management. The pandemic forced us to move workloads to the cloud sooner than anticipated, and we all know what that means—surprises on the cloud bill and headaches for anyone trying to figure out what caused them. The CloudLIVE 2021 virtual conference is your chance to connect with FinOps and cloud financial management practitioners and get a behind-the-scenes look into proven strategies that have helped organizations like yours adapt to the realities of the past year. Hosted by CloudHealth by VMware on May 20th, the CloudLIVE 2021 conference will be 100% virtual and 100% free to attend, so you have no excuses for missing out on this opportunity to connect with the cloud management community. Visit cloudlive.com/corey to learn more and save your virtual seat today. That’s cloud-l-i-v-e.com/corey to register.


Pete: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, it’s just—and can you imagine, you have some knowledge you want to share around something as complex as the Amazon bill. I mean we ask for a PDF of your bill when you start working with Duckbill Group. That could be hundreds of pages long, and you’re trying to distill that down into something that, really, anyone can understand. It’s a true superpower to be able to write long-form content like that really well.


And I never used to like writing. I was never—never really enjoyed it that much and over the last year, that muscle that you’re working out, now, the ability to write many, many pages around this type of content, just it comes so much more easily. So, I think that’s another big aspect, right? The more you work on it, obviously the easier it gets.


Jesse: I don’t know about you, but now that I have focused more on flexing that writing and communication muscle, I’ve noticed it more in both everyone that I work with day-to-day with Duckbill Group and also in my daily life, just watching how people communicate with each other, and how effectively people communicate with each other; it’s both amazing and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

Pete: [laugh]. I know. And even—not to say that whenever we sit down to write our reports that we give to our clients, we don’t go through the wave of emotions between the back and forth of, like, “I don’t know what to write,” and then, “Oh, I know of a lot of stuff to write. Let me just get something down.” And then you can’t stop writing. It’s just—it’s this emotional roller coaster that I feel like no matter how many times we need to write a lot of detailed information down, everyone always goes through.

Amy: And we really do have a highly collaborative process here, too, where we’re all in the same document, writing, and the person who owns any given report will always have the same stage at the end when all of the sections are filled out, where they go to one of the other people on the team and go, “Every word I put down is absolute garbage. Please help me trim it down, take it out. I don’t even care anymore. Just look at it and tell me that I wrote down words that are in some kind of human language.” [laugh].


Jesse: [laugh].

Pete: [laugh]. Oh, the plight of the writer. It’s, like, the imposter syndrome that affects the writer. It’s like, “Okay. I wrote a bunch of stuff. I think it’s terrible.” And then you sleep on it, you come back the next day, and you’re like, “Actually, this is pretty good.” [laugh].

Amy: I explained concepts. It was fine. I didn’t use a single comma for three pages, but it’s probably fine. [laugh].

Jesse: [laugh].

Pete: You can take one of mine. Usually, all of my draft documents are commas and M-dashes, just all over the place. Yeah, so I think that’s honestly a big superpower. And I think the last two things that—this is actually something that I’ve looked for in people that I’ve wanted to work with, and people I was hiring, and I see it here as well as these, kind of, two concepts of intellectual curiosity and aptitude to learn, where if you have a base knowledge around Amazon and you have those other attributes—that curiosity and truly enjoying learning—you can accelerate your ability to understand this so incredibly quickly because there’s such a wealth of information out there, and there’s so many documents, there’s so much stuff. It just requires someone who really cares enough to dive in and really want to understand.

That’s something that I think we’ve seen here is that the folks who are most successful are just—they want to know why, and they’re not satisfied until they can explain it in a simple way to someone else. That’s the key, right? The attribute of a true expert is someone who can explain something very difficult in a simple way. And I think that’s something that would be critical if you were joining Duckbill, if you were building your own finops or cloud finance team, it is so complex. It’s the intersection of technical architecture and cost, and it touches almost the entire business. So, I think those are some other attributes that I think are just incredibly helpful.

Jesse: We’re also usually not entirely satisfied until we’ve either opened a support case with AWS, responded to one of their feedback icons in the AWS documentation—the public AWS documentation—or trolled somebody on Twitter saying, “Shame on you, AWS, for writing documentation that doesn’t make sense.”


Amy: It’ll be fine. Someone in your mentions will go, “Did you check the region?” And you would have, and then it’ll still be wrong.

Jesse: [laugh].


Amy: And it’ll be fine. [laugh]. Eventually, we’ll fix it.

Pete: That one—


Jesse: Too soon.

Pete: —that one still hurts, when we—oh, I’m just like, “Why do the numbers not line up?” And then someone was like—

Amy: It's a thing I check for, even if it’s like, “It’s a global resource.” I don’t care. Just tell me. Just tell me it’s fine. [laugh].

Pete: “Are you in the right region?” Like—“Dammit, no, I’m not. Oh.” [laugh]. Yeah, that happens to the best of us.

Amy: I did, unfortunately, burn so many hours, I think it was last week trying to find out where someone had put their resources. It’s like, “Oh, not us-west-2. It’s us-west-1. Of course.” [laugh].

Jesse: So, annoying. Well, I would just like to say, Pete, it has been a joy and a pleasure working with you, it has been a joy and a pleasure complaining about AWS with you, on this podcast, so thank you for your time. That sounded really… really, really standoffish. I didn’t mean it quite as bad as it came off there. [laugh].

Pete: Well, you know, I think we need to thank Corey for having a child and thus needing to offload some of his podcast duties over to us, and then the fact that we just never gave him the podcast back, and we just took it over.

Jesse: Well, if you’ve got questions that you’d like us to answer, you can go to lastweekinaws.com/QA. And if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review and give it a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you hated this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review, give it a five-star rating on your podcast platform of choice and tell us what qualities you’re looking for when building out your cloud finance team.

Pete: Thanks for coming in.


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Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by LaunchDarkly. Take a look at what it takes to get your code into production. I’m going to just guess that it’s awful because it’s always awful. No one loves their deployment process. What if launching new features didn’t require you to do a full-on code and possibly infrastructure deploy? What if you could test on a small subset of users and then roll it back immediately if results aren’t what you expect? LaunchDarkly does exactly this. To learn more, visit launchdarkly.com and tell them Corey sent you, and watch for the wince.


Pete: Hello, and welcome to the AWS Morning Brief: Fridays From the Field. I am Pete Cheslock.

Jesse: I’m Jesse DeRose.


Pete: Wow, we’re back again. And guess what? We have even more questions. I am… I am… I don’t even know. I have so many emotions right now that are conflicting between a pandemic and non-pandemic that I just—I’m just so happy. I’m just so happy that you listen, all of you out there, all you wonderful humans out there are listening. But more importantly, you are going into lastweekinaws.com/QA and you’re sending us some really great questions.

Jesse: Yeah.

Pete: And we’re going to answer some more questions today. We’re having so much fun with this, that we’re just going to keep the good times rolling. So, if you also want to keep these good times rolling, send us your questions, and we’ll just—yeah, we’ll just roll with it. Right, Jesse?

Jesse: Absolutely. We’re happy to answer more questions on air, happy to let you pick our brains.

Pete: All right. Well, we got a couple more questions. Let’s kick it off, Jesse.

Jesse: Yeah. So, the first question today is from Barry. Thank you, Barry. “New friend of the pod here.” Always happy to have friends of the pod. Although I do feel like that starts to get, like, Children of the Corn, kind of. I think we started that, and I also am excited about it, and also upset with myself for starting that.

Pete: That’s all right. Friend of the pod. Friend of the pod.

Jesse: “New friend of the pod here. I work in strategic sourcing and procurement and I was curious if there are any ways that you recommend to get up to speed with managing cloud spend. This is usually closely monitored by finance or different groups in product, but I can see a significant potential value for a sourcing professional to help, also.” And that’s from Barry, thank you, Barry.

Pete: Well, I’m struggling not to laugh. “This is usually closely monitored by finance or different groups in product.”

Jesse: Yeah…

Pete: But I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not monitored by anyone. It’s just running up a meter in a taxi going 100 miles an hour.

Jesse: Yeah, that’s the hardest part. I want everybody to be involved in the cloud cost management practice, but there’s that same idea of if it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility. And so this usually ends up at a point where you’ve got the CFO walking over to the head of engineering saying, “Why did the spend go up?” And that’s never a good conversation to have.

Pete: No, never a good one. Well, Barry because you’re a friend of the pod, we will answer this question for you. And honestly, I think it’s a great question, which is, we actually have been working with a lot of larger enterprises and these enterprises still have their classic sourcing and procurement teams. That’s not an expertise that is going away anytime soon, but like most teams within the company that are adopting cloud, it’s obviously going to evolve as people are moving away from, kind of, capital intensive purchases and into, honestly, more complex, multi-year OpEx style purchases, with cloud services and all the different vendors that come with it. It’s going to just get a lot harder.

I mean, it’s probably already a lot harder for those types of teams. And so there’s a bunch of places I think that you can go that can help level up your skills around cloud spend. And I would say the first place that I personally got to dive in a little bit more—I mean, my history has been using Amazon cloud and being a person who cared about how much my company spent on it, but when you—joining Duckbill, you need to dive into other areas around the FinOps world. And the book, the O’Reilly book, Cloud FinOps is actually a really great resource.

Yeah, I think it’s really well written and there’s a lot of great chapters within there that you can kind of pick and choose based on what you’re most interested in learning about. If you’re trying to learn more about unit economics, or you’re trying to learn more about how to monitor and track things like that, it’s a great book to dive into, and becomes a really great reference that you can leverage as you’re trying to level up this expertise within yourself or your team.

Jesse: It’s a really, really great resource. The other thing to think about is any kind of collaborative social spaces where you can be with like-minded individuals who also care about cloud costs. Now, there’s a number of meetups that exist under the FinOps title that may be worth looking into. Obviously, we’re recording this during the pandemic so I don’t recommend doing those in person. But as you are able to, there may be opportunities for in-person meetups and smaller local groups focusing on cloud cost management strategies together. But also check out the FinOps Foundation. They have a Slack space that I would love to tell you more about, but unfortunately, we’re not allowed to join. So—

Pete: Yep.

Jesse: —I can’t really say more about it than that. I would hope that you’re allowed to join, but they have some strict guidelines. So, I mean, the worst that can happen is they say no; it’s definitely worth signing up.

Pete: Yeah, and they have to us. [laugh].

Jesse: Yeah.

Pete: I think when you get into the FinOps Foundation, you should angrily say that we should have more FinOps experts in here like the great Jesse DeRose should be a member of this one because right now, he’s just framed his rejection notice from there, and—

Jesse: Oh, yeah.

Pete: —while it looks beautiful on the wall, while I’m on a Zoom with him, I want more for you, Jesse.

Jesse: I want more for me, too. I’m not going to lie.

Pete: So, I don’t know this might sound a little ridiculous that I’m going to say something nice about AWS, but they have a fantastic cost management blog. This is a really fantastic resource, really incredible resource, with a lot more content more recently. They seem to be doing some great work on the recruiting side and bringing on some real fantastic experts around cost management.

I mean, just recently within the past few months they talk about unit economics: How to select a unit metric that might support your business, talking more about unit metrics in practice. They start at the basics, too. I mean, obviously, we deal a lot in unit economics and unit metrics; they will start you off with something very basic and say, “Well, what even is this thing?” And talk to you more about cost reporting using AWS organizations for some of this. It’s a really fantastic resource.

It’s all free, too, which is—it’s weird to say that something from AWS is free. So, anytime that you can find a free resource from Amazon, I say, highly recommend it. But there are a lot of blogs on the AWS site, but again, the Cost Management Blog, great resource. I read it religiously; I think what they’re writing is some of, really, the best content on the blog in general.


Jesse: There’s one other book that I want to recommend called Mastering AWS Cost Optimization and we’ll throw links to all these in the [show notes 00:07:30], but I, unfortunately, have not read this book yet, so I can’t give strong recommendations for it, but it is very similar in style and vein to the Cloud FinOps book that we just mentioned, so might be another great resource to pick up to give you some spot learning of different components of the cloud cost management workflow and style.


Pete: Awesome. Yeah, definitely agree. I’d love to see, again, more content out here. There’s a lot of stuff that exists. And even A Cloud Guru has come up with cost management training sessions.


Again, we’d like to see more and more of this. I’d love to see more of this come from Amazon. I’d love to see—you know, they have a certification path in all these different areas; I’d love to see more of that in the cost management world because I think it’s going to become more complex, and having that knowledge, there is so much knowledge, it’s spread so far across AWS, helping more people get up to speed on it will be just critical for businesses who want to better understand what their spend is doing. So, really great question, Barry, friend of the pod. We should get some pins for that, right? Friend of the pod pins?


Jesse: Oh, yeah.

Pete: And yeah, really great question. Really appreciate you sending it and hopefully that helps you. And if not, guess what? You can go to lastweekinaws.com/QA, and just ask us a follow-up question, Barry. Because you’re a friend of the pod. So, we’ll hopefully hear from you again soon.

Jesse: Thanks, Barry.


Pete: Thanks.

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Pete: All right, we have one more question. Jesse, what is it?


Jesse: “All right, most tech execs I speak with have already chosen a destination hyperscaler of choice. They ask me to take them there. I can either print out a map they can follow, procedural style, or I can be their Uber driver. I could be declarative. I prefer the latter for flexibility reasons, but having said that, where does one actually start?


Do you start with Infrastructure as a Service and some RDS to rid them of that pesky expensive Oracle bill? Do we start with a greenfield? I mean, having a massive legacy footprint, it takes a while to move things over, and integrating becomes a costly affair. There’s definitely a chicken and egg scenario here. How do I ultimately find the best path forward?” That question is from Marsellus Wallace? Thank you, Marsellus.

Pete: Great question. And I’m not just saying that. I guess I have a question. Or at least, maybe we have different answers based on what this really looks like. Is this a legacy data center migration?


The solution here is basically lift-and-shift. Do it quickly. And most importantly, don’t forget to refactor and clean up after you shut down your old data center. Don’t leave old technical debt behind. And, yeah, you’re going to spend a lot, you’re going to look at your bill and go, “Holy hell, what just happened here?”


But it’s not going to stay that way. That’s probably—if you do it right—the highest your bill is going to be because lift-and-shift means basically just moving compute from one location to another. And if you’re—as we spoken about probably a million times, Jesse and I, if you just run everything on EC2 like a data center, it’s the most expensive way to do the cloud stuff. So, you’re going to then refactor and bring in ephemerality and tiering of data and all those fun things that we talk about. Now, is this a hybrid cloud world?

That’s a little bit different because that means you’re not technically going to get rid of, maybe, physical locations or physical data centers, so where do you start? It’s my personal opinion—and Jesse has his own opinion, too, and guess what it’s our podcast and we’re going to tell it like it is.


Jesse: [laugh].


Pete: [laugh]. You know, my belief is, starting with storage is honestly a great way to get into cloud. Specifically S3. Maybe even your corporate file systems, using a tool like FSX. It’s honestly why many businesses start their cloud journey, by moving corporate email and file systems into the cloud.

I mean, as a former Microsoft Exchange administrator, I am thoroughly happy that you don’t have to manage that, really, anymore and you can push that in the cloud. So, I think storage is honestly a great way to get started within there: Get S3 going, move your file systems in there, move your email in there if you haven’t yet. That’s a really great way to do it. Now, the next one that I would move probably just as aggressively into and, Marsellus, you mentioned it: RDS, right? “Should we move into RDS, get rid of expensive Oracle bills?”

Yeah, anytime you can pay ol’ Uncle Larry less money is better in my mindset. Databases are, again, another really great way of getting into AWS. They work so well, RDS is just such a great service, but don’t forget about DMS, the database migration service. This is the most underrated cloud service that Amazon has in there, it will help you migrate your workloads into RDS, into Amazon Aurora. But one thing I do want to call out before you start migrating data in there, talk to your account manager—you have one even if you don’t think you have one—before starting anything, and have them help you identify if there are any current programs that exist to help you migrate that data in.

Again, Amazon will incentivize you to do it, they will provide you credits, like map credits or other investment credits, maybe even professional services that can help you migrate this data from an on-premise Oracle into AWS, I think you will be very pleasantly surprised with how aggressive that they can be to help you get into there. The last thing that I would say is another great thing to move in our data projects. So, let’s say you want to do a greenfield one, greenfield type of project into Amazon, data projects are a really great way to move in there. I’m talking things like EMR, Databricks, Qubole, you get to take advantage of Spot Fleets with EMR, but also Databricks and Qubole can manage Spot infrastructure and really take advantage of cloud ephemerality. So if, like I said, you started by pushing all your data into S3, you’re already halfway there on a really solid data engineering project, and now you get to leverage a lot of these other ancillary services like Glue, Glue DataBrew, Athena, Redshift.

I mean, once the data is in S3, you have a lot of flexibility. So, that’s my personal opinion on where to get started there. But Jesse, I know you always have a different take on these, so where do you think that they should start?

Jesse: Yeah, I think all of the recommendations you just made are really, really great options. I always like to look at this from the perspective of the theory side or the strategy side. What ultimately do these tech execs want to accomplish? Is it getting out of data centers? Is it better cost visibility?

Is it optimizing spend? Is it better opportunity to move fast, get new R&D things that you can’t get in a data center? What do these tech execs ultimately want to accomplish? And ask them. Start by asking them.

Prioritize the work that they want to accomplish first, and work with teams to change their behaviors to accomplish their goals. One of the biggest themes that we see in the space moving from data centers into cloud providers or even just growing within a given cloud provider is cost visibility. Do teams know why their spend is what it is? Do they know why it went up or down month-over-month? Can they tell you the influences and the drivers that cause their spend to go up or down?

Can they specifically call out which teams or product usage increased or decreased, and what ultimately led to your spending changing? Make sure that every team has an architecture diagram and they can explain how they use AWS, how data moves from one service to another, both within their product and to other products. Because there’s definitely going to be sharp edges with data transfer between accounts. We’ve seen this happen to a number of clients before; I’ve gotten bit by this bullet. So, talk to your teams, or talk to your tech executives and have those tech executives talk to their teams to understand what do they ultimately want to accomplish?


Can they tie all of what they’re trying to accomplish back to business metrics? Maybe a spike in user logins generated more usage? If you’re a photo storage company, did a world event prompt a lot of users to upload photos prompting higher storage costs? Are you able to pull out these specific insights? That’s ultimately the big question here. Can you boil it down to a business KPI that changed, that ultimately impacted your AWS spend?


Pete: I think this is a scenario of where you get started. Why not both? Just maybe do both of these things that we’re saying.

Jesse: Yeah.


Pete: And honestly, I think you’ll end up in a pretty great place. So, let us know how that works out, Marsellus, and thank you for the question. Again, you also can send us your questions, and we will maybe answer these on a future episode; lastweekinaws.com/QA, drop a question in there, put your name, or not or a fake name, or even a joke. That’s fine, too. I don’t know what the text limit is on the name, Jesse. Can you put a joke there? I don’t know. You know what? Test that out for us. It’s not slash QA for nothing. So, give that a little QA, or a question and answer and [unintelligible 00:17:29]. All right. Well, thanks, Jesse, for helping me out answering more questions.

Jesse: Thanks, everybody for the awesome questions.


Pete: If you enjoyed this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review, give it a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you hated this podcast, please go to lastweekinaws.com/review and give it a five-star rating on your podcast platform of choice and tell us, what would be the last thing that you would move to AWS? It’s QuickSight, isn’t it?

Jesse: [laugh].


Pete: Thanks, everyone. Bye-bye.


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