Today, we're going to look at a real-world case study that demonstrates how to roll out smarter resourcing for cloud-based apps and the impact this has on solving key challenges like cultural change and embracing automation.
At one of our recent Customer Advisory Board meetings, attendees shared their technology strategies, including a Director of Global Cloud Optimization and Adoption, who we'll interview below. To protect our customer’s identity, we've anonymized his answers and will refer to his organization as "Company X" in this article. Company X is one of the largest multinational professional services companies in the world.
Here's a summary of the Q&A we had with our customer.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you're trying to build at your company.
A: We've been using the Turbonomic product at our company for about a year and a half now. My role is twofold: One is leading cloud optimization for the company. We have about 45,000 workloads in the cloud right now and are growing. The second area is to add to that volume of workloads by helping to lead a global migration service to help various parts of our organization migrate applications from their data centers to the cloud.
Going into this, we've made a conscious decision. We had two paths in front of us. One path available was just to go in and solve this problem for our internal clients, the internal consumers of the cloud. Or, we could work with those internal consumers to help change the culture around costs.
The first path would have given us greater savings in a shorter period of time, but it would not be sustainable. So, we chose the second path.
We have built a customer-driven, application-centric approach to optimization. The first year of service has been to onboard the client team, get to the consumers, get them onto the platform, and show them where the inefficiencies are and where the optimization opportunities are both from an investment and a savings perspective.
Then, we can work with them to make them self-sufficient. Our goal is to "teach them to fish." We're not coming in and telling them what to do. We're showing them where the opportunity is.
Now, our focus has turned toward leadership. We've had them along for the ride from the beginning, in terms of investing in the Turbonomic product and showing them the work that we do. Now, we are engaging them directly, and we'll have them lean in on these conversations. We've proven that it's not magic and that there's real math and science behind what we do.
We now are getting leadership to rally around us. We have, for example, a program that's kicking off in Europe. The CIO of Europe asked us to come in and speak to his leadership team on how they can engage better with the service. So we're starting to expand in that venue, we've got the bottom-up approach, with the direct consumers, and top-down with leadership, including technology, leadership, and finance.
The goal around this was to ultimately say, "this is not a one-shot deal," – we're going to come in, and we'll help you optimize, but there's a need to maintain this optimization. So as we go forward, we will give them continuous insight into their environments.
We have many clients now that are self-sufficient, so we don't meet with them as regularly as we did when we started. However, they call on us when they have questions, and we come to them to show them new features and new capabilities as we start to bring them online. So the model is working, again, it's a longer road, but it's, over the long-term, a much more beneficial approach to cloud resourcing.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced along your journey?
Challenge #1 - Awareness
The first challenge is awareness: how do we get the message out across the firm? We've set up several marketing campaigns. We did technology news articles; we've heralded success stories. We did videos, live demonstrations, got out in front of the teams, and promoted Turbonomic internally to make sure they understood what it was and what it could do.
We also worked to find champions, and we've seen several early adopters who stepped up and provided a testimonial. They were our 'anchor clients' that we could reference as we approached other teams.
Challenge #2 - Taking Away Capacity is not a Priority
One of the other challenges is that we were talking to the consumer of the capacity because we started this bottom-up model. These are typically application teams, and for them, it's not always a priority to take away capacity. Meanwhile, everyone wants to save money. However, most of these teams are already getting woken up at 2 AM to deal with some functionality issue within their app, and they're not looking forward to now getting woken up at 4 AM to find out they don't have enough capacity to support their app. This was a challenging area because we had to build that trust and confidence, and that's where we brought in the focus around application performance. We started showing them where there were opportunities to save and where they needed to invest in optimizing their cloud resourcing to best serve their applications.
We had a number of situations where we brought an "invest" opportunity to a client, and they hadn't realized that they were having problems with their application. In fact, as they went back into their ticketing system and their monitoring tools, they realized that, in fact, we had uncovered capacity issues that were having a direct impact on their application.
In two cases, in particular, we caught this situation right before their busy season, and both teams recognized that had they gone into that busy season without seeing this capacity constraint, they would have certainly had production outages to be dealing with. So it goes a long way to building that confidence that we're not just here to take away capacity, but we're here to show them where there's a need to invest in maintaining and improving performance.
Challenge #3 - Understanding the Cloud Cost Structures
The other challenge (something we're still dealing with) is understanding the cloud cost structures. Our clients know the bill is big, but they don't really understand what it's all about. They got somebody down on the frontlines who's ordering services through the portal, and then someone else getting the bill 30 days later, without understanding what cloud resources and services have been provisioned and why.
It was part of our model to try to bring more transparency to that space, and we've engaged finance in the dialogue. We're not just meeting with technology leadership, we're meeting with finance leadership as well, and we're bringing together a more holistic story.
Challenge #4 – Treating Cloud like another Data Center
The fourth challenge is "treating cloud like another data center" and not recognizing that it is a utility, the capacity is elastic, and that you're a few keystrokes away from getting that next increment of capacity. Another part of this behavior and culture that we're trying to break down is that we cannot treat the cloud like we did legacy data centers because that's where a lot of these problems start. Our instincts are to throw more capacity at our applications because that's what we did in the data center, and in fact, in the data center, it almost didn't matter because if I turn the capacity off, I was still paying for that asset. It was still depreciating. I was still maintaining it. It was still consuming power and cooling. In the cloud, it's not. It's real green dollars out the door and real waste when we overprovision.
Challenge #5 - Staying Relevant
The last challenge is staying relevant. When we first start out with clients, we start with the basic stuff: Resizing your VMs and getting rid of abandoned storage. That's a way to "dip their toe in the water." It's very manual, we show them the reports, and then they decide what they're going to do. Then we begin down two paths. One is, as they get comfortable with those lower levels of functionality, we start to introduce higher levels – If they've started to optimize their VMs, we will start to talk to them about reserved instances, looking at PaaS optimization and storage tiering.
And as we go up the stack, we start to look at how we can automate. As they go through the first fifty to one hundred resizing actions in their dev and test environments, they start to feel comfortable, and they want to start to automate so they can now focus on the next frontier, the next level up in the stack. We're working through that process now of delivering more automation, letting the customer decide when they are comfortable enough to turn on automation so that they can then focus on a higher order of functions.
Q: What would you like to share with regards to the journey to automation?
People tend to wonder, "How do you manage through the traditional ITSMs' change processes and still get the velocity you need?" What worked with our change management team was to convert change types to make it easier for these changes to be taken. We're not bypassing or ignoring change management disciplines. We are proving that through automation, these changes that traditionally were standard are very safe. We do that through baselining efforts, doing it three, five, 10, 20 times, so we can prove to them that we don't break anything.
That class of changes (for example, the resizing of a VM) no longer need to go through standard change approval. Our teams now have the ability to do this straight-through processing. You're still going through ServiceNow, you're still opening your service requests, but it's an automatic execution of the change, you get the velocity that you need through automation while adhering to change management policy.
Q: What is your advice to our readers about how to roll out a successful cloud optimization program?
As I shared earlier, when we started the service, we worked bottom-up, collaborating with those consumption teams and building trust and confidence. We then pivoted to bring more attention to leadership because leadership was now seeing what we were doing, they heard about the success stories, and they asked, "how do we do this at scale?"
We've made a simple four-step program for our leadership.
First, you've got to make optimization a priority within the leadership team. If it's not a priority for you, it will not be a priority for your teams.
Second, assign an accountable owner across your team to lead this effort.
The third step is to engage your finance team. As we said, there's often a lot of ambiguity and misunderstanding of what's included in the costs on the bill. For example, sometimes, the costs that a team is incurring don't actually belong to them. This can happen because somewhere in finance, the wrong billing code has been entered. So even things as basic as making sure that costs are flowing to the right place is an important part of this overall conversation, as well as more strategic areas that finance can contribute to.
The last piece of advice that we've given to our leadership is to challenge your teams and recognize their successes because that's what's going to foster greater adoption and success going forward.
Q: How did Turbonomic help with your company's initiatives, and what were the business outcomes?
Here at Company X, we're a professional services firm. We're all about avoiding risks and counting the pennies – we are a bunch of auditors and accountants. Therefore, the numbers matter.
But with one of our more conservative lines of service, we were able to save quite a significant amount. They were very hesitant going in, and it took a while for us to break through. But then we started showing them the capacity and services they didn't even know they were paying for. There were large unused VMs with lots of storage, and somewhere back in time, someone turned them on, and they were left running, unused. So, with just that starting point, we were able to show them millions in annualized savings.
That was just the lead-in. Their reaction was, "This is great. We want to do more. How do we get to that next level?" This was one of those cases where we had technology leadership from the line of service and finance leadership engaged. We run a monthly program meeting where we talk about the achievements that were accomplished and what's on the table for the next month.
An application lead for one of the portfolios gave this direct comment: 'With Turbonomic, we gained visibility into our cloud ecosystem and identified cloud resources that were underutilized/abandoned yet we were still paying for."
Q: What's the value Company X has gained to date?
We've executed about 3,700 actions so far (as of December 2020). Within the first year, we've achieved a 26% ROI. Now what that means is the total cost of the product, all of the labor that we put into it, all the professional services that we drew in from Turbonomic, within the first year, we were running it at 26% return on investment. We still have another 30,000 actions outstanding across the estate. And like I said, clients are literally lining up at the door to work with us and get more involved to take these actions.
Want to gain the value Company X has realized?
Do you want to take action in your cloud estate to achieve smarter cloud resourcing? Do you want to assure the performance of your applications while reducing cloud waste – in a way that your teams will actually trust? We'd love to talk with you. Request your free consultation and demo here.