Cloud adoption is on the rise. It’s pretty hard to refute that. You just have to look at the growth of AWS alone, now heading towards $9 billion in annual revenue. Although Microsoft Azure is in a distant second place, it is growing even faster, signing up new users at a clip of 100,000 every month. Google, while late to the party, is competing on price and further commoditizing storage, networking and compute infrastructure services — which is definitely getting the attention of many CIOs and CFOs.
As companies shift workloads from on-premises to the cloud, how are they tracking and monitoring exactly what is going on? We’ve heard horror stories around bill shock, where the CFO incredulously tries to understand the smoking crater in the IT budget. What cloud services were actually consumed, by whom, why, and, more importantly, where to allocate the cost and what to expect the following month.
David Linthicum, a well-known cloud computing and data integration expert, argues that it’s high time we turn our focus to just that: a new approach to integration that gets IT out of the way so we can get cloud cost and usage data and information into the hands of decision makers. As Linthicum points out, “you can use the data only as fast as you can integrate, wrangle or blend the data.” To keep up with the pace of the digital transformation of business, we need self-service access to cost and usage data, synchronized across multi-cloud environments and applications.
After many years in tech marketing, I’ve just recently gained a greater appreciation for the productivity boost created by apps and data working in unison. I can now ask my team unlimited questions and get data-driven answers very quickly. Proving marketing’s contribution to revenue has been a coveted goal for years, and it is now achievable. Much time has been invested in getting marketing and sales apps to “talk to each other”; when they do, it’s a beautiful thing. The data is all there, synchronized and readily available for reporting and analysis.
A recent Forbes article highlighted some interesting forecasts: By 2019, cloud apps will account for 90 percent of global mobile data traffic. The SaaS market is predicted to reach $67 billion in 2018, and IaaS spending will grow to $34 billion in the same period. To put it more succinctly, Gartner predicts that by 2018 more than half of all enterprise tech spend will be in the cloud.
As organizations shift away from the data center and move workloads to the cloud, they must rethink how to measure and monitor usage and spend. When it comes to making a successful move to the cloud, controlling cloud costs is a big part of the equation. In today’s multi-cloud environments, integrated data is essential to understanding consumption and total costs across all platforms. Business users must be accountable, so IT has to find the best approach to making this information easily accessible and digestible in order for those users to understand properly and change their behavior.
Data integration solutions normalize disparate data from multiple clouds or providers so you can apply your business logic and processes holistically across all of them for rich relevant reports. Most cloud providers allow you to tag resources so you can track and make sense of consumption when the bill needs to be paid. However, tagging is not only a technical tracking mechanism; it needs to follow internal policy rules so you get a clear, accurate picture.
Unified data enables big-picture visibility into cloud usage, which leads to better control and more granular reporting against KPIs. Even if you only use a single public cloud provider (e.g., AWS, Azure or Google), you will need to correlate consumption data with internal metrics and other enterprise management tools — and make it accessible to many internal stakeholders.
IT is taking on a much more collaborative role, which is necessary to support savvy business users that are self-servicing on all types of cloud services. Business users will not necessarily lead with a cloud tracking tool and it’s unfortunately left in the hands of IT and finance to implement a solution. Of course, business stakeholders want to see budget tracking, consumption costs and expenses — but they don’t necessarily want to roll out the app to manage it.
If data integration is required to realize the full value of cloud investments, it will need to be easy and fast. IT doesn’t have the bandwidth to integrate all the disparate cloud data. Many organizations have made the mistake of migrating to the cloud without considering the metering and tracking required. You can’t reliably save time and money, even in the cloud, without harnessing and taking advantage of consumption or usage reports. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Investing in systems that provide visibility, control and self-service access to unified data keeps enterprises future-flexible, as well. Agility isn’t only prized for what it empowers us to do in the present moment; it’s a way to stave off any unplanned events and unexpected moves from the competition.
IT staffing problems won’t be resolved anytime soon; solutions that can be administered with minimal technical expertise help IT stay focused on their core mission and enable business users to self-service and make decisions based on the intelligence at their fingertips. By democratizing access to cloud cost and usage information and distributing it out to the actual cloud consumers, changes in consumption can be made quickly by those best positioned to make them in the way that most benefits the business.
Controlling cloud costs is only the beginning. Imagine what you can achieve when you are operating at peak performance and have full visibility across the enterprise, powered by data-driven reports and analytics. With the agility, clarity and control provided by a proper cloud intelligence application, businesses will be able to ensure that they are using the right level of cloud resources, in the right way, for the right reasons. We know it’s a beautiful thing when it all works together. We’ve seen it.
I’ll leave you with one parting thought. Without the right data fully integrated, you won’t get past the first step of cloud clarity in order to gain full control.
Deirdre Mahon is CMO at Cloud Cruiser. She is a marketing veteran with experiences at fast growth startups that IPO-ed or were acquired by large public companies. Technologies span big data, data integration and cloud. She joined Cloud Cruiser after a four-year stint at RainStor, which was later acquired by Teradata. Previously she worked at GoldenGate Software and spent time at Oracle’s middleware division, post GoldenGate’s acquisition in 2009. Follow her on Twitter.