Join Jesse and Amy as they about the four-item cloud cost management starter kit, how to explain being a cloud economist to someone else, why you should turn on the AWS Cost and Usage Report immediately, why you need to get to know your account manager and build rapport with them, how that relationship is designed to be mutually beneficial, how it’s important to know about the contracts and reservations that exist across your organization (not just in your department), why you need to think about the non-technical parts of cloud projects (e.g., people and process costs), and more.
Episode Show Notes & Transcript
Corey: 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: 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.
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—
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.
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