It can be a challenge to measure costs within a SaaS company. While a business with physical inventory can count the number of items sitting on the shelf and the money needed to create, store, and ship those items, operating within the cloud means SaaS companies have to measure their costs through a layer of abstraction.
The number of users a given product supports and the resources needed to keep that product up and running could change by the minute.
While Kubernetes helps engineers manage workloads and services with ease, it also adds yet another layer of obscurity between the finance department and the cost metrics they need to track.
Kubernetes provides fairly robust reporting when it comes to performance, but detailed cost reports are nowhere to be found. You could compare Kubernetes to an opaque, black box with all your spend data inside, just out of reach.
Unlocking the box and accessing your Kubernetes cost metrics would allow you to see how your COGS compares to your profit for each of the applications and products you run.
In turn, you can use that knowledge to guide decisions about which aspects to focus on, which should be trimmed or optimized, and what might need to be entirely restructured.
Let’s explore how to open the box and view the valuable cost data hidden inside.
How To Find And View Kubernetes Cost Metrics
Within Kubernetes, most of your costs come from compute, network usage, and storage. Since Kubernetes doesn’t offer anything close to useful cost reporting, a number of third-party cost tracking options have popped up to offer solutions.
Typically, using these cost trackers, you can see the raw dollar amount you’re spending on each cluster. This is more helpful than nothing, in that you can track your total spend and budget appropriately. More information is always better than less.
However, the usefulness stops there.
With the vast majority of Kubernetes cost trackers, you can’t break your costs down any further to view the individual impact of each contributing application. You wouldn’t be able to tell, for example, which applications use the most storage in a given month. Nor can you see the big picture of how these costs affect the bottom line for your company.
If you had to take plain cluster cost data and use it to make consequential decisions, you’d still be operating mostly in the dark.
If you want to be able to take Kubernetes cost data and translate it into metrics that make sense in the context of your business — such as cost per product or cost per application — you have two options:
The first option is to ask your engineers to build a custom engine to measure each business-related cost. Or, you could use an advanced cost tracking platform such as CloudZero.
How Does CloudZero Make Kubernetes Cost Tracking Easier?
CloudZero tracks costs according to your company’s unique needs. It’s not limited to simple cluster cost tracking. You can choose to measure costs per label, namespace, workload, cluster, or even some combination of all of the above.
Within the CloudZero platform, you can take a deep look into your Kubernetes costs using a Kubernetes-specific dashboard.
Think of it as a zoomed-in view of the details that helps you understand how every component contributes to the overall picture.
CloudZero also lets you distribute your Kubernetes costs into larger buckets that include cloud spend from other sources. You can assign these costs to specific products, features, customers, geographical locations, or anything else that makes sense for your business.
Each dashboard receives daily updates, allowing you to measure the impact of your cost-related decisions in close to real time. There’s no need to wait for a monthly bill to see how your cost-cutting or optimization efforts have played out.
Another feature unique to CloudZero is the ability to measure — and therefore optimize — your idle time. If your pods don’t consume every single resource at any given moment, some portion of your costs will inevitably go toward idle resources. If you don’t measure Kubernetes costs at all, or if you simply track cluster costs and nothing else, you won’t see what proportion of your spend is wasted on resources that aren’t even being used.
CloudZero tracks the performance metrics of each pod and compares it against the cost of the cluster to figure out how many idle resources are left over. Knowing your idle percentage can be very impactful, because you can actively work to lower that percentage.
You’ll never reach zero, because some portion of your resources will always be idle, but you could certainly make improvements over time. If you start with a cluster that’s 40% idle, reducing that number to 20% would be a great start. Take the same optimization actions with all your clusters, and you could see a huge increase in efficiency and a proportional reduction to your costs, without making any massive changes to your products or business model.
What Else Can You Do Once You Unlock Kubernetes Cost Information?
Finance employees use metrics like COGS and product revenue to find the margin of each individual product. Using these metrics in combination with other information, such as customer data, your finance and engineering teams can determine:
- Which products make the most money and should be emulated in future projects
- Which products have their revenue obliterated by high production costs
- Which customers cost the most or the least to support
- Which nodes could be adjusted to reduce the cost of expensive workloads
- Where to focus product optimization or cost-cutting efforts
- If a certain course of action would be financially worthwhile for the company
- If the budget should be restructured to accommodate high-cost products that bring in plenty of revenue
Put simply, finance experts can look at cost and customer data and put together predictions of how certain moves would affect the company. The more granular and detailed the data, the more accurate and useful the predictions. You can take almost any measurement and put it in context to your business.
On the other side of the spectrum, operating without visibility into your Kubernetes cost metrics means any decision you make will be based on little more than a guess.
You might take a look at your bill, decide it’s far too high, and slash costs on one of your largest projects to bring your total down.
This could work as you’d hoped, or it could undermine your top-performing product. Without knowing how that product directly impacts your bottom line, you won’t know how cutting costs could affect the outcome.
Clearly, keeping track of your Kubernetes cost metrics — and cloud costs in general — is crucial to ensuring your company’s success. Yet so many businesses shy away from advanced cost tracking because it seems like just one more complex thing to keep track of in a stack of already overwhelming business considerations.
CloudZero removes the complexities associated with tracking Kubernetes cost metrics.
Our experts can get you up and running seamlessly. And once you’ve configured your account, all you have to do is log in and take a look at the dashboards. All the tedious allocation and number-crunching happens behind the scenes.
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