Recent headlines surrounding big-name IPOs, such as that of Slack and Lyft, have highlighted the very real costs of operating in the cloud. Companies like these are on the hook to pay AWS and other public cloud vendors tens or hundreds of millions of dollars every year, just to run their services.

One of the reasons these price tags have garnered so much interest is that cloud costs often seem unpredictable, and for most businesses, out of their control. It’s a real challenge to get enough visibility into how day-to-day engineering and infrastructure decisions will ultimately impact cloud bills. We call this cloud cost blindness, and it’s a big problem for many businesses.

That said, today we want to talk about why cloud cost blindness isn’t just a problem when it comes to the dollars and cents. Cloud cost blindness doesn’t only impact the bottom line; it also slows down innovation for the business, meaning the true cost can be insidious and far-reaching. Let’s take a look at how this happens, and what you can do about it.

What is Cloud Cost Blindness?

First, let’s take a deeper look at what cloud cost blindness is and why it happens. Due to the consumption-based way public clouds operate today, there is little to no visibility into how specific decisions will impact the bottom line in real time. Bills arrive at the end of the month, long after engineering and infrastructure decisions have been made. Meanwhile, the meter has been running the whole time. If someone made a minor error that resulted in a cost spike, you often won’t know about it until serious dollars have already been spent.

Engineers don’t have visibility into how the choices they are making regarding architecture, services, and computing will impact cloud costs, so they make decisions based on what will provide the best end-user experience or the most horsepower—not what is best for the business. This doesn’t happen because they don’t care about the health of the business. It happens because they can’t see what’s driving the costs.

As you can imagine (or may very well know first-hand), this often leads to some friction between DevOps teams and finance. Finance will show up at the end of the month and demand to know why the AWS bill was so high; but DevOps doesn’t really have the direct visibility they need in order to explain it. Both teams are just doing their jobs the best they can, but cloud cost blindness trips everyone up.

How Cloud Cost Blindness Impacts Innovation

Imagine someone were to hand you a blank check and send you off to a tailor to design a custom suit for yourself. You would choose the highest-quality fabrics, the most complex details, the fanciest buttons money can buy—right? After all, the sky’s the limit.

Now, what if someone told you after the fact, that the blank check had to cover your entire wardrobe. Worse? The funds in the account it is drawing on are plentiful, but not infinite. You would probably still choose nice fabric, good tailoring, high-quality buttons. But you might not go for the very top of the line, keeping in mind that you’d need the rest of the cash for shirts and socks and shoes, too.

Similarly, spending wantonly on the cloud means that businesses are often wasting their finite reserves (however large those may be) on areas where they could potentially save money. Cloud cost blindness handicaps teams from making cost-benefit choices that would ultimately serve the business better. Additionally, when DevOps teams are asked to spend their time on retroactive budget sleuthing, it means they can’t be focused on doing their jobs and building great products that people love to use.

Here’s another way to think about it. Every dollar spent on the cloud is a dollar that can’t be spent on people. Talent is what truly drives innovation, and if money is being tied up in unnecessary cloud costs, then it can’t be spent on human resources that could drive innovation forward.

What You Can Do About Cloud Cost Blindness

The good news is this: Cloud cost blindness doesn’t have to be an accepted reality. Instead, focus on gathering the right data at the right time and putting it in the hands of those who make cloud decisions. DevOps teams will happily take cost into account when making engineering and infrastructure decisions if you put the right data in front of them when they need it. They are more than capable of weighing the pros and cons of various choices with cost in mind, as long as you empower them by removing cloud cost blind spots.

To learn more about how CloudZero can illuminate your cloud cost blind spots, get started here.



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