Cloud Workload Optimization – Cost and Performance?

I took inspiration to write this blog from the “Workload Optimization” section from the digital book “Cisco Intersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud Operations” – Please consider connecting and send a thank you to the hard-working authors of this fantastic book.

IT operations have one fundamental goal, to deliver performant applications at the lowest possible cost while maintaining compliance.

Because of this, organizations turn to cloud providers to achieve a lower variable cost compared to an on-premises data center, which is generally finite in scale and fixed in cost.

Cloud providers such as AWS can achieve higher economies of scale, which translates into lower pay-as-you-go prices and effectively infinite infrastructure.

Having a handle on which application requires which underlying resources, license constraints, and placement rules are beyond the scale of humans.

As a result, determining the placement of workloads minimizing cost while assuring workload performance becomes a guessing game.

Cost Optimization Pillar

According to AWS, a cost-optimized workload fully utilizes all resources, achieves an outcome at the lowest possible price point, and meets your functional requirements(AWS, n.d.).

Put another way, the Desired State is to assure workload performance and minimize spend in the public cloud (Intersight Handbook, 2021).

AWS provides a vast array of instance sizes to achieve optimized workloads and various ways to consume instances in an on-demand or via Reservice Instances (RI) which are heavily discounted for a specific term, generally one year or three years. Think of RIs as a billing discount applied to running On-Demand Instances. RIs are appropriate for consistent and predictable workloads.

The challenge with consuming RIs is that the public cloud consumers will pay for the RI whether they use them or not. RIs become more like “the sunk cost of a physical server on-premises than to the ongoing cost of an on-demand cloud instance (Intersight Handbook, 2021).” This consumption model can create behaviors that lend to horseshoeing application into an undersized instance or neglect to resize an instance when a workload outgrows its current resource needs.

“There are hundreds of different instance options in AWS and Azure, with new options and pricing emerging almost daily (Intersight Handbook, 2021).”

Automation to optimize costs

The lack of expertise and security is more critical at the beginning stages of cloud than managing cloud spending. However, as organizations mature their cloud practice, managing cloud spending becomes the number one issue, and they struggle to forecast cloud costs accurately.

An average of 24 percent of the organization reported that their cloud spend was over budget and expected to increase by 39 percent in the next twelve months (Flexera, 2021).

This issue is further compounded when you include more than one cloud provider and requires automation to decide on price and performance vs. price for performance.

Assuring applications performance while optimizing cost is precisely what Cisco’s Interisght Workload Optimizer SaaS will do. (Workload Optimizer is a separately licensed feature set within the Intersight platform)

Workload Optimizer is constantly receiving real-time data on consumption, pricing, and instance options from the cloud providers and combining such data with the knowledge of applicable customer-specific pricing and enterprise agreements to determine the best actions available at any given point in time.

It does this through direct API target integrations with the cloud provider in real-time to add value far beyond any cloud-specific or hypervisor-specific, point-in-time tools that may be available. Besides being multi-vendor, multi-cloud, and real-time by design, Workload Optimizer does not force administrators to choose between performance assurance and cost/resource optimization.

Wrapping up

The underlying resources, license constraints, and placement rules of running workloads in the public cloud are beyond what most organizations can handle. While the organization’s capability to use the cloud continues to grow, so does its need to forecast and manage cloud spending. The solution requires automation, real-time information, and optimization to make informed decisions. Cisco Workload Optimizer has the ability to do just that and a whole lot more. If you’re interested in understanding Intersight and the components that make up the hybrid-cloud tool, you can find the documentation here.

Mike

Baker, M., Beck, B., Chosnek, D., McGee, J., McKeown, S., TerEick, B., & Vaswani, M. (2021). Cisco Intersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud Operations. https://www.booksprints.net. 

Cost optimization pillar – AWS well-architected framework. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://docs.aws.amazon.com/wellarchitected/latest/cost-optimization-pillar/welcome.html 

Reserved instances – amazon elastic compute cloud. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/ec2-reserved-instances.html 

“2021 State of the Cloud Report.” Flexera, 2021, https://info.flexera.com/CM-REPORT-State-of-the-Cloud?dtid=oblgzzz001087. 

Cisco at AWS re:Invent 2021

Here is a summary of Cisco’s mentions and highlights at AWS re:Invent 2021!

Please note: each of these links require registering on the AWS re:Invent site.

Launches and Mentions

AWS GATEWAY LOAD BALANCER >> Now featuring Cisco Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

Learn more by reading Cisco’s blog

AWS MARKETPLACE LAUNCH >> Cisco Snort 3 Anywhere

Snort 3 Anywhere is a containerized form factor of the well-known, industry defacto standard standard IPS engine. With this latest offering now available in AWS Marketplace you can easily deploy Snort 3 in your EKS or on-premises container environment. Learn more in Cisco’s blog

AWS MARKETPLACE LAUNCH >> Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer SaaS

Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer is a real-time decision engine that drives continuous health of applications across on-premises and public cloud environments to analyze workload consumption, costs, and policy constraints across the full stack. Learn more via the new listing in AWS Marketplace and Cisco’s blog.

NEW AWS QUICK START >> Featuring Cisco Meraki Virtual MX

Customers can secure SD-WAN traffic between branch offices to resources on AWS with this new AWS Quick Start. Click to view and deploy.

Mike

AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam Review

The AWS Certified Cloud Practioner Exam (CLF-C01) is an entry-level exam, 65 questions of multiple-choice, multiple response questions. The test is intended for individuals who have basic knowledge of the AWS platform and the available services, conceptual AWS cloud architectural principles, security, common use cases, and compliance.

The exam includes four domains; Cloud Concepts, Security and Compliance, Technology, and Billing and Pricing. Each section of the domain has a specific weighting, so some sections have more questions than others.

Domain% of Examination
Domain 1: Cloud Concepts26%
Domain 2: Security and Compliance25%
Domain 3: Technology33%
Domain 4: Billing and Pricing16%
TOTAL100%
AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) content

I recently sat and passed the AWS Cloud Practioner Exam and wanted to provide an overview of the exam, share with you my study resources and the outlook on the certification. 

What to expect

The exam’s primary focus will be on identifying the AWS core services like EC2, connection methods like AWS Direct Connect, EBS, S3 and S3 classes, CloudWatch, Trusted Advisor. The previous isn’t a comprehensive list but indeed services you should know. You will be tested on your understanding and identifying AWS-specific services. It would be best to understand how they work at a high level rather than understanding how to configure or deploy the services. Although, this would be an added value if you did. 

You will want to know the advantages of cloud computing the way AWS defines it. AWS defines six advantages of cloud computing:

  1. Trade upfront expenses for variable expenses
  2. Stop spending money to run and maintain data centers
  3. Stop guessing capacity
  4. Benefit from massive economies of scale
  5. Increase speed and agility
  6. Go global in minutes

Lastly, I recommend understanding the shared responsibility model.

The shared responsibility model divides into customer responsibilities (commonly referred to as “security in the cloud”) and AWS responsibilities (commonly referred to as “security of the cloud”).

You can think of this model as being similar to the division of responsibilities between a homeowner and a homebuilder. The builder (AWS) is responsible for constructing your house and ensuring that it is solidly built. As the homeowner (the customer), it is your responsibility to secure everything in the house by ensuring that the doors are closed and locked.

Study resources

To help you prepare for AWS exams, AWS has a training and certification section. Fortunately, the training for the AWS practitioner exam is free, and it’s fantastic. The AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course is roughly six hours if you read and watch the videos without taking notes. It would be best if you had an Amazon.com account as it is required to access the material. With note-taking, it took me about 20 hours to complete the course.

The video content is incredible. It offers a video transcript so that you don’t have to constantly rewind the video as you take your notes because of something you’ve missed.

Although you can pass the exam with this resource alone, I recommend David Tucker’s course, “Understanding AWS Core Services” on Pluralsight. I like this course because it solidifies your understanding of the services exposed during the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials training. It also has a section for you to try practice questions to gauge your readiness. I would do this after completing the AWS training material.

Outlook on CLF-C01

Today’s applications use cloud resources to provide the best in bread user experience, data quality, and high-availability. For the same benefits that the applications leverage the cloud, so do organizations and enterprises. It’s essential for us as engineers to design well-architected networks both on-prem and in the cloud. The skills obtained from working through the AWS Cloud Practioner Exam won’t make you a cloud architect alone. However, it will enable you to be comfortable speaking on cloud-specific technologies, why they exist, and some of the benefits over traditional on-premise technology.

AWS Cloud practitioner provides a tremendous foundational approach to cloud and AWS-specific services and products. It is a test that I recommend to any engineer.

Mike

Certification:. (2005). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-cloud-practitioner/

Aws training and certification. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.aws.training/Details/eLearning?id=60697

Tucker, D. (2021, February 04). Understanding AWS core services. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/understanding-aws-core-services

AWS Well-Architected Framework

Businesses require more computing and networking resources to meet their current market and future growth trends than they may have anticipated only a few months ago. The lack of leasable space or the desire to build out existing data centers drive many to adopt a cloud or hybrid cloud deployment model. In fact, According to Amazon, one of the “Six Advantages of Cloud Computing” is to stop spending money running and maintaining data centers and focus on projects that differentiate your business (Sajee Mathew, 2014).

Unfortunately, overestimated cost-savings often overlook the value of cloud-accredited guidance. An enterprise must understand the associated trade-offs when architecting in the cloud. To assist in navigating these trade-offs, AWS has a Well-Architected Framework. 

Similar to Cisco Validated Design (CVD), AWS Well-Architected Framework is a set of best practices and strategies for architecting systems in the cloud. It emerged from AWS principal engineers working with customers during customer cloud architect reviews and defining best practices from those sessions. The Framework allows CTOs, architects, and developers to understand the trade-offs and risks when architecting in the cloud.

The Framework identifies a set of general design principles known as “pillars” and best practices to facilitate excellent design.   

The five pillars

  • Operational Excellence
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Performance
  • Cost Optimization

Each pillar has an associated white-paper that you can review in much more detail. I have mind mapped the AWS Well-Architected Framework and have made it available for your reference. 

If you need to understand how to align your engineering efforts with your business need or require a foundation of AWS best practices, I suggest starting with the Framework.

Amazon “AWS Architecture Center” (n.d), Retrieved From   https://aws.amazon.com/architecture/?nc1=f_cc

Sajee Mathew “Overview of Amazon Web Services” January 1, 2014, Retrieved From https://docs.aws.amazon.com/whitepapers/latest/aws-overview/six-advantages-of-cloud-computing.html

Mike