Surveys conducted over the past several years by Flexera (formerly RightScale) show the average, overall waste in cloud costs is 35% - which in 2017 amounted to more than $10 billion. So, it’s not a big leap to assume that Sitecore cloud implementations, like any other platform, also leak money. Guidance for stopping the leaks includes:
- Selecting the appropriate services
- Navigating cloud pricing effectively
- Understanding how and when to scale
- Consistently monitoring cloud costs
While 58% of enterprise leaders say that optimizing cloud costs is their top initiative, doing so requires a combination of - or collaboration with - both cloud hosting and application level expertise. We’ll take a look at how this combination can help you save money on your Sitecore cloud hosting using an Azure Sitecore installation as our sample case for discussion.
SPINNING UP A VIRTUAL MACHINE FOR SITECORE IS EASY... SORT OF
A 2018 Forbes article speculates that some of the waste stems from the ease of spinning up a virtual machine - often a credit card and a push of the button - which sometimes lures business units or departments into working around IT governance and procurement processes and buying cloud resources for their own teams’ use. If it’s that easy, what harm can it do?
What isn’t as easy, even for those with IT expertise and especially for those without it, is understanding which virtual machine you need, which services to activate, and how to configure them efficiently and cost-effectively for your applications and storage needs.
For instance, if I do a search in the Azure dashboard for virtual machines, I’m presented with a crazy-long list of machine configurations. Unless I know the specific compatibilities and settings for the application I want to run on my new virtual machine, I pretty much have to guess which one to select. Here’s the rub: According to analyses by ParkMyCloud, selecting even one size too large can cost you two times more than you need to spend. Two sizes larger than you need can waste three times the money that right-sizing would have saved you.
Services are even more complex. I often ask questions like:
- Do you really need additional storage, or does your Sitecore platform have what you need? If you do need storage, how do you plan to use it? How much will you need?
- How much redundancy will serve your purposes? How often will you need to access storage volumes?
- Is it worth the money to add a search service, or is there a tool in Sitecore I can use?
As you can see, it would be easy to duplicate services or purchase options you simply don’t need. Your Sitecore platform might have tools you’re either unaware of or that haven’t yet been configured or optimized for changes in your business processes or requirements.
SELECTING A CLOUD PRICING MODEL TO FIT YOUR SITECORE NEEDS
Cloud pricing is incredibly complex, even without the added intricacies of how your instance will work with your applications. Without a deep understanding of how Sitecore uses cloud resources, those complexities can be daunting - and costly.
While cloud services can seem inexpensive at the outset, as your teams adopt them and increase their use over time, expenses quickly rise - especially when those enthusiastic users don’t know how to ensure they’re using the services efficiently. Many companies overestimate what they need - or, equally costly, underestimate - and end up with extra charges from their cloud provider because their usage falls outside of their agreement terms.
Compounding matters, individual business units and teams often lack direct visibility into costs, making tracking their spend difficult and reining in waste nearly impossible without specific intervention from (and research by) their IT departments.
Working with your IT department and a Sitecore expert to define your requirements and select a flexible, scalable pricing model for the platform can save you thousands of dollars.
SCALING SITECORE'S CLOUD NEEDS FOR FLUCTUATIONS IN USAGE
Sitecore automatically scales for times of heavy traffic, which is great! However, it does not scale back again, once traffic starts to settle back into its normal patterns. The reasons for this are simple: How would the platform know how far to scale back? Its original setting might be too far - or not far enough. The point here is that neither your cloud services nor your Sitecore configuration is “set-it-and-forget-it.” You need to make sure you’re keeping an eye on how they interact with one another, which settings affect which services - and vice-versa. Which leads us to our last observation.
CLOUD-BASED SERVICES, INCLUDING SITECORE, REQUIRE CONSISTENT, ACTIVE MONITORING
Probably the most common mistake I see is unattended cloud services. No matter who the provider and what the specifics of your agreement, you should be proactively and consistently monitoring your cloud costs. For instance, waiting until the holidays or a product release to adjust for anticipated increases in traffic is never a good strategy. By the time you adjust your contract, you could already be accruing fees for overages.
Providing regular reports to business units or teams is a good first step, but unless they know how to interpret them -- and what questions to ask their IT colleagues - reports will be of little use. Even quarterly meetings to analyze trends and do some forecasting for upcoming needs is better than nothing.
My best advice - self-serving as it is - is to work with a partner who knows not only cloud services, but also Sitecore so that you get the most cost-effective optimization you can for your money.