Applause is the world leader in testing and digital quality. Brands today win or lose customers through digital interactions, and Applause alone can deliver authentic feedback on the quality of digital assets and experiences, provided by real users in real-world settings.
Applause needed to control and reduce their spending by decentralizing cost accountability to engineers. To do this, they needed complete cost allocation, a single pane of glass for 100% of their cloud spend, and a dedicated FinOps partnership.
Implemented CloudZero to boost spend allocation, identify savings opportunities, and give engineers relevant, timely data about the cost of their cloud infrastructure.
- Reduced annual cloud spend by 23%
- Decentralized cost accountability to engineers
- Gained a true FinOps partner
- Set the company up for efficient growth
If a product has any kind of digital component, chances are, it’s passed through Applause. Founded in 2007, Applause’s goal is to help their customers — which include Google, Microsoft, Uber, Spotify, and PayPal, just to name a few — deliver high-quality digital products, the first time.
“It’s easier to switch products than ever,” said Robert Mason, Applause’s CTO. “Products need to be tested by real audiences in the real world.”
That could mean testing a new cryptocurrency at digital terminals all over the world, ensuring that it doesn’t have limitations that would inhibit uptake in certain geographies. It could also mean using Uber in different regions of the world, and making sure the app functions the same in South Korea as it does in South Carolina. It’s a combination of automated and manual testing processes, all delivered through one central platform — which, when it comes to their cloud spending, leads to a great deal of complexity.
“When I got to Applause, I wanted to implement some of the overall cost management processes I’d gotten used to at my previous company,” Mason said. “But the tool we had in place was CloudHealth, which wasn’t giving us the visibility we needed to do that.”
This lack of visibility led to frustration on Mason’s part, and pressure from other organizations.
“It was obvious that we were overspending for what we were doing,” Mason said, “and our finance org was as aware of it as I was, but I was unable to meaningfully ask, let alone answer, the question, ‘Why?’”
Compounding the issue was that Applause was growing — fast. “We’re adding new customers, existing customers are growing, their demands are growing, and if you grow your costs linearly, the financials aren’t as appealing,” Mason said.
So, his cost challenges were several:
- Control and reduce spending. On a basic level, Mason was “looking for someone to help me understand and reduce my cloud costs” — to quantify and optimize his cloud efficiency.
- Get complete, real-time cost visibility. Mason needed a cost platform that could allocate all his cloud spend by custom views, including departments, teams, initiatives, products — and anything else.
- Set up a single pane of glass for all cloud spend. Applause uses a multi-cloud stack: AWS, GCP, and Snowflake. Mason needed a platform that could ingest 100% of his cloud spend, normalize it in a common data model, and present it all in a single, unified view.
- Get elite Kubernetes visibility. Applause has a high level of containerized spend in Kubernetes, so Mason needed a solution that could allocate 100% of his Kubernetes costs (including shared costs), unify it with the rest of his cloud spend, and present it at a level of hourly granularity.
- Drive cost-conscious engineering. Mason knew that the most effective way to control his cloud costs was to start at the source: his team of ~70 engineers. Mason needed a platform that would give them relevant, timely data about the cost to build and run their cloud infrastructure — and an easy workflow for identifying and remediating instances of overspending.
- FinOps partnership. To proactively manage his cloud costs, Mason knew that his cost management platform needed to include a true partnership. Of his previous solution, he said, “They were making a product and giving it to me to use. I was looking for a partner that would provide a platform but also help me find answers.”
After googling alternatives to his existing cost management platform, Mason came across CloudZero (along with several other platforms). As he drew up his shortlist, Mason’s evaluation process started from the first email.
“My first test was, after I reached out, how long did it take them to respond? How friendly were they?” In addition to bedside manner, Mason was looking for ease and efficacy. “I was looking for simplicity. How long does it take me to get to answers? How easy is it to drill into my cloud spending — narrowing the timeframe, getting to individual resources?”
The first thing Mason noticed was CloudZero’s ease of deployment. “CloudZero was the fastest product we tried … we were up and running within the same day, with all of our historical data already in the platform.” Right away, he found it simple to drill into his cloud spend data, quickly getting to the bottom of cost questions.
Mason also appreciated that CloudZero didn’t present any security concerns. Other platforms, he found, required him to install their software in his secure environment, which presented potential vulnerabilities — which could be very damaging, particularly given the types of customers that Applause serves, and would necessitate more hours spent on inspections. “CloudZero just pulled my billing data, and restated it to me in an intuitive interface — much better from a security perspective,” Mason said.
Once he was up and running, it was just a matter of finding savings and driving accountability.
23% reduction in annualized cloud spend
For Mason and Applause, cloud savings came through multiple of CloudZero’s features. The two main sources were Insights and Anomaly Detection, both of which identify savings opportunities and provide a workflow for realizing them. Mason also quickly became a heavy user of CloudZero’s Analytics feature, which let him set up automated, curated reporting channels for specific teams, features, initiatives, and more.
All of this enabled him to find more chances to save — and to engage more of his engineers in the savings project. The cumulative effect: Since they switched from CloudHealth to CloudZero, Applause has reduced their cloud spend by 23%.
Cost accountability decentralized to engineers
It was important to Mason to drive a philosophy of “continuous cost management” — making sure his engineers were always considering the cost impact of their cloud infrastructure, not just when it suddenly spiked. “Continuous cost management isn’t about pinching pennies — it’s good fiscal policy,” Mason said.
CloudZero’s platform provides a comprehensive solution for decentralized cost accountability. Explorer lets his engineers dive into spend in custom ways; Insights let them log and address savings opportunities; and Analytics gives them regular views of spend trends that are relevant to their work.
“My team, the one that’s responsible for maintaining our core platform, is much more involved,” Mason said. “They’re looking at numbers and making intelligent decisions about how to manage our costs.”
True FinOps partnership
In mid-2022, when Mason was first considering CloudZero, one of the things that gave him pause was the platform’s nascent reporting capabilities. He liked this feature in CloudHealth, and wanted to be sure that whatever platform he chose would be able to replicate it.
“You said you were working on it [Analytics], and you promised to deliver it,” Mason reflected. “And you did. You stepped up, delivered, and closed the gap, delivering full functionality to me exactly as I wanted — and then some.”
Mason reported feeling similarly about CloudZero’s full suite of FinOps support. “Working with the customer success team started in a good place, and has only gotten better,” he said. “They come to meetings having reviewed my spend, identified new insights, caught things that look abnormal. They help me proactively manage my spend beyond just showing me a screen with data.”
An engine of efficient growth
Long-term, Applause’s cost management goals have to do with one key objective: efficient growth.
“We’re growing, and our customers are growing, but that doesn’t mean our core platform has to grow at the same scale,” Mason said. “We’re trying to keep it as level as possible. To do that, we’re trying to make as many engineers as possible competent with CloudZero, so they can stay on top of all their cloud costs, all the time.”
The cloud cost goal couldn’t be more central to Applause’s success. “In my department, cloud cost is the largest expense we have outside of people. CloudZero helps me stay on top of it, simply, accessibly, and in a friendly way.”