What Is Cloud Waste (And How Can You Prevent It)?

What Is Cloud Waste (And How Can You Prevent It)?

By Special Guest
Dale Wickizer, CTO of ParkMyCloud
  |  April 18, 2017

“Waste not, want not.” That was one of the quips of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. It couldn’t be more timely advice in today’s cloud computing world – especially given the reality of cloud waste. 

Organizations are moving to the cloud in droves. And why not? The elasticity, the reduced deployment times and faster time-to-market – what’s not to love? The good news: public cloud providers have made it easy to deploy their services. The bad news: public cloud providers have made it easy to deploy their services … maybe too easy. 

Over the past decade, this ease of use has led to a great increase in cloud waste. But just what is cloud waste? Where does it come from? What are the consequences? What can you do to reduce it? 

What is Cloud Waste? 

Cloud waste occurs when you consume more cloud resources than you actually need to run your business. This can take several forms. 

Most commonly it involves resources left running 24×7 in development, test, demo and training environments where they don’t need to be running all the time. I believe this is a bad habit that was reinforced by the previous era of on-premise data centers. The thinking: “It’s a sunk cost anyway, why bother turning it off?” Of course, it’s not a sunk cost anymore. 

This problem manifests itself in various ways: 

  • Instances or VMs which are left running, chewing up CPU costs and network charges 
  • Orphaned volumes which are not being used and incurring monthly charges 
  • Old snapshots of those or other volumes 
  • Old, out-of-date machine images 

However, cloud consumers are not the only ones to blame. The public cloud providers are also responsible when it comes to their PaaS (platform as a service) offerings for which there is no OFF switch (e.g., AWS’ RDS, Redshift, DynamoDB and others). If you deliver a PaaS offering, make sure it has an OFF switch! 

There is also the issue of resources that are larger than needed to do the job. Many developers don’t know what size instance to spin up to do their development work, so they will often spin up larger ones. The thinking? “Hey, if 1 core and 4 GB of RAM (News - Alert) is good, then 16 cores and 64 GB of RAM must be even better, right”? I think this habit also arose in the previous era of on-premise data centers: 

“We already paid for all this capacity anyway, so why not use it?” This, too, rears its ugly head in several ways: 

  • Instances or VMs which are much larger than they need to be 
  • Block volumes which are larger than they need to be 
  • Databases which are way over-provisioned compared to what their actual IOPS or sequential throughput requirements actually encompass. 

Who is Impacted by Cloud Waste? 

The consequences of cloud waste are quite apparent. It is killing everyone’s bottom line. For consumers, it erodes their return on assets, return on equity and net revenue. All of these ultimately impact earnings for investors. 

Believe it or not, it also hurts the public cloud providers and their bottom lines. Public cloud providers are most profitable when they can oversubscribe their data centers. Cloud waste forces them to build more expensive data centers than they need, killing their oversubscription rates and hurting their profitability as well. This is why you see cloud providers offering certain types of cost cutting solutions. For example, AWS offers Reserved Instances, where you can pay up front for a break in on-demand pricing. They also offer Spot Instances, Auto-Scaling Groups and Lambda. Azure also offers price breaks to their ELA customer and Scale Sets (the equivalent of ASGs). 

How to Prevent Cloud Waste 

So, what can you do to address this? Ultimately, the solution to this problem is mostly common sense. But it requires rethinking and viewing cloud computing in a different way. Here are some basic tips: 

  • When you turn on resources in non-production environments, turn on the minimum size needed to get the job done and only grudgingly move up to the next size. 
  • Turn stuff off in non-production environments when you are not using it. And for Pete’s sake, when it comes to compute time, don’t waste your time and money writing your own scripts. That just exacerbates the waste. Those DevOps people should spend that time on your bread and butter applications. Use an automated scheduling tool like ParkMyCloud instead! 
  • Clean up old volumes, snapshots and machine images. 
  • Buy Reserved Instances for your production environments, but make sure you manage them closely, so that they actually match what your users are provisioning, otherwise you could be double paying. 
  • Investigate Spot fleets for your production batch workloads that run at night. It could save you a bundle. 

These good habits, over time, can benefit everyone – cloud consumers and cloud producers alike. 

Edited by Alicia Young