Cloud services sprawl poses problems for IT environments

As IT shops increasingly adopt more competent cloud services from Amazon and others, cloud services sprawl and its runaway cost has become a problem.

As IT shops accelerate their adoption of cloud services rolled out by Amazon and its major competitors, a growing number of shops say they are unable to effectively track the runaway costs of these services.

This lack of visibility into the financial aspect of cloud services has led to some shops not just overpaying but overprovisioning cloud services, thereby sucking away valuable computing resources that could be dedicated to other pursuits. Over the short term, it’s a problem that figures to get worse before it gets better.

“We started off rolling out just a couple of AWS [Amazon Web Services] things but we got a lot more aggressive over the past year, to where we have more than a few AWS [server] instances that are reaching a lot more users,” said Len Barney, a systems administrator with a Houston-based transportation company.  “We are now bordering on AWS sprawl.”

Some industry observers blame cloud services sprawl and its increasing costs, in part, on a lack of tools offering administrators better visibility into what they are spending on services and applications across their companies, particularly among those with public clouds.

Many organizations deploying services and applications on public clouds have been surprised with unexpectedly high bills. Unfortunately, cost calculators, monitoring tools and rigid spending controls fall short when it comes to balancing spending and performance.

Paul Burns, president of Neovise

“Many organizations deploying services and applications on public clouds have been surprised with unexpectedly high bills. Unfortunately, cost calculators, monitoring tools and rigid spending controls fall short when it comes to balancing spending and performance,” said Paul Burns, president of Neovise, an analyst firm focused on cloud computing.

That’s the bad news. The good news is Burns sees the emergence of some products that do a better job helping IT shops right-size their cloud services and applications. Some of these solutions provide “intelligent and actionable recommendations” through a stream of feedback to admins about where they need to balance and rebalance their cloud resources.

Tools to help prevent cloud services sprawl
One such company striving to assist with avoiding cloud services sprawl is Cloudyn, an Israeli-based startup, which recently launched a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution. Company officials said they believe the service not only gives administrators insight into cloud usage and spending, but also offers a customized, step-by-step plan to implement it.

“You can’t change what you can’t see, so visibility is the first step toward optimizing spending in the cloud,” said Sharon Wagner, Cloudyn’s CEO. “The dynamic nature of cloud costs, environments and application lifecycles makes it difficult for customers to do something about it without spending too many resources and entering a management nightmare.”

Administrators and external providers also have poor visibility into precisely who is using what services and how often, therefore administrators tend to overprovision many of them, significantly raising costs.

“Providers can’t get their arms around spending and costs, so to be on the safe side, they intentionally overprovision the cloud the first time,” Wagner said. “They need more visibility between the cost of the performance and the consumption.”

Consequently, administrators not only lose control of costs but the compute capacity in their cloud environments, and so they end up not using the cloud and cloud services where it is most necessary.

“Many users end up not only not tailoring services to their needs but missing out on a savings opportunity, which is the primary premise of the cloud,” Wagner said.

Providers can’t get their arms around spending and costs, so to be on the safe side, they intentionally overprovision the cloud the first time.

Sharon Wagner, CEO of Cloudyn

Cloudyn’s technology offers administrators personalized recommendations for existing and future cloud investments based on proprietary algorithms and event-driven engines. The technology currently is compatible with AWS compute and database services, although Cloudyn is working on adapting it to cloud environments offered by other brand-name providers.

Another company competing in this market is 6fusion, which debuted its Cloud Resource Meter for VMware’s vSphere at the Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week. The free cloud tool is designed to normalize the way cloud infrastructure is metered for both providers and consumers, reportedly making it easier for admins to compare the cost of running workloads internally with running them in the cloud.

The product’s dashboard federates private data center and third-party cloud operators which in turn provides a console that lets administrators access, meter and optimize hybrid cloud infrastructures.

 

Ed Scannell is the Senior Executive Editor for TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization group. Contact him at escannell@techtarget.com.

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