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Why CloudZero is the next step on my journey to empower developers.

|May 14, 2020|

Innovation drives success. And today more than ever, software drives innovation. No matter what product or service you offer, you’re a software company. You may not sell something called “software,” but successfully building, marketing, delivering, and supporting customers for any product today relies on software and technology. 

Innovation is what software developers do. And software developers are at the center of what CloudZero does. That’s why I’m so excited to join the team here; to help empower developers to innovate so their companies can succeed. 

That’s been at the heart of my work for my whole career; building products that help technical teams innovate. I’ve helped teams innovate faster by automating DevOps at XebiaLabs (now Digital.AI). I’ve helped teams innovate more collaboratively at Atlassian and Adobe. I’ve helped teams innovate more securely at Synopsis and Threat Stack. It’s all about reducing the time it takes for business value to make it into customers’ hands, and making sure that the end result is secure, stable, and high quality. 

But innovation comes at a cost. Literally. The cloud offers a vast array of infrastructure and services that can be leveraged to deliver incredible value to your customers, but it all gets billed through a complex utility-based pricing model that can be highly variable. The elasticity of cloud computing and features like autoscaling can result in surprising costs at the end of the month. And now, more than ever, these costs can be a barrier to innovation. Amidst global economic uncertainty and budget pressures, most engineering teams are being called on to cut costs - at the very time that they’re being asked to innovate more! But it makes sense: if you deliver an innovation that’s too expensive, it doesn’t serve the company or your customers. COGS may not be an exciting topic to consider when designing software, but it’s critical for a business to control COGS - whether it’s a boom time or bust. Adrian Cockroft, one of the best thinkers on cloud architecture, recently wrote about this very challenge of calculating AWS cost per unit of business. It’s difficult because the infrastructure-aligned billing doesn’t typically correspond to the business-aligned features that you actually build and operate to drive customer value. 

This friction between managing costs - typically driven by the finance team - and delivering value - driven by engineering - reminded me of the work I did in application security. For years, security teams working in isolation from engineers would test software late in the process, long after it was designed and built. Vulnerabilities in the software delayed releases, and this created friction between the teams - often resulting in software that was actually less secure. With the emergence of DevSecOps, we stopped trying to “bolt on” security after the fact. The best outcomes were achieved when security was integrated into the development process from the start with engineers empowered to understand and manage the security of their own software. This has become known as “Shift Left,” meaning shift awareness and some of the responsibility for security earlier in the software development lifecycle. It reduces friction between engineers and security professionals, provides a faster response time when security issues do arise, and generally leads to more secure software at a lower cost.

It feels like we’re at a point with cloud cost where we were with application security ten years ago; trying to “bolt on” cost control. Engineers build features without meaningful insight into their costs, and finance professionals try to understand costs when the bill comes at the end of the month without the context of how the services map to the actual features and value being delivered to customers. So we should learn from the lessons of AppSec, and think about how we can “Shift Cost Left” with an engineering-centric approach, to result in innovative software developed quickly with COGS that support the profitability goals of the business.

CloudZero customers are already making this shift, and that’s why I’m excited to be joining the company. I’m seeing our customers’ engineers collaborating in slack channels discussing cost, with data that’s relevant to their own features and services. CloudZero wasn’t just alerting them about potential cost overruns (although it was doing that too), it was transforming the way they thought about cost as they built their software and delivered value to their customers. I’m seeing whole new kinds of strategic discussions about profitability and pricing strategy and cost relative to business value - all happening where it belongs; with the teams who are designing and building the solutions.     

I look forward to meeting all of you - the innovators out there trying to deliver maximum value for minimal costs - and working together to find ways to manage the requirements of cost just like you’ve managed security, performance, scalability and other critical non-functional requirements of the solutions your customers love.  

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