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. 

Canary in the Cloud

Now a cliche but once a reality, it turns out that the canaries, like other birds, are much more sensitive to poisonous gases than humans. The birds were brought down into the coal mine and acted as an indicator and early warning of possible danger to the British miners.

An electronic detection system later replaced the birds, but these birds served an essential role for decades.

The public cloud has changed the way organizations deliver, respond, and represent their customers, and organizations are building an early warning systems approach to their cloud. The teams and systems that make up this strategy are Cloud Center of Excellent (CoE), which provides centralized controls, tools, and best practices.

The purpose of these teams is to accelerate cloud adoption by centralizing expertise while reducing costs and risk (Flexera, 2021).

Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report

Unlike the canaries that provide chaotic monitoring of harmful gasses, enterprises have tools that offer next-level proactive and predictive monitoring. These systems allow organizations to understand the complexity of their cloud and oversee across multiple business units and functional areas.

Full-Stack Canary

Well, it’s not a cute bird, but it does overcome the spiraling complexity of cloud, hybrid cloud, and traditional IT. AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, and Intersight Workload Optimizer make up Cisco’s Full-Stack Observability platform. Connecting the dots up and down the “stack”-from the customer or employee-facing application, all the way down to the lowest level infrastructure (compute, storage, networking, and public internet).

Conclusion

When we consider the technical environment we live in, we recognize the need to monitor the entire IT estate. Like the canaries in the coal mine, the answer is to predict and identify an issue before it adversely affects customers and businesses.

Mike

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

Magazine, Smithsonian. “The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 30 Dec. 2016, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/story-real-canary-coal-mine-180961570/. 

Smith, Kiona N. “The Canary in the Coal Mine Isn’t Ancient History.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Jan. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kionasmith/2019/12/31/the-canary-in-the-coal-mine-isnt-ancient-history/?sh=1245d4244393. 

“Rise of Full-Stack Observability.” AppDynamics, AppDynamics, 13 July 2021, https://www.appdynamics.com/resources/reports/rise-of-full-stack-observability.