The higher education space can present serious cloud governance challenges for internal IT and finance teams. For a leading Ivy League institution like Cornell University, with over 70 AWS accounts across campus (and growing!), efficiently managing aspects of AWS like billing, inventory, and utilization relies upon leveraging the actionable insights and automation enabled by the CloudCheckr platform. We sat down with Sarah Christen and Nicole Rawleigh from Cornell’s thriving Cloudification Team to discuss how CloudCheckr has enabled them to unify visibility across accounts to dramatically simplify operations and save time.
CloudCheckr: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Sarah and Nicole! Since most people are probably familiar with Cornell University, let’s dive right into things—how is Cornell using the cloud to continue leading in the higher ed space?
Cornell University: With an institution the size of Cornell’s, the scale and scope of our data infrastructure is pretty expansive. Our university data and assets that are in the cloud are unified under one AWS contract, which helps us manage and optimize the individual needs and costs of our departments. Moving to the cloud was a strategic move to help us move faster, while saving money. Of course, ensuring we meet our security standards during and after the move was essential.
CC: And how would you say CloudCheckr has fit into that experience?
CU: CloudCheckr has been critical in our entire cloud journey, actually. We started the cloud initiative at Cornell about 2 years ago, quickly spending nearly $300,000 a year with AWS. When we realized how complex and wide-spread our cloud infrastructure would be and how much we were spending, we immediately knew we needed a solution like CloudCheckr to help us keep up with the growing number of accounts across campus.
CC: How do you mean?
CU: Not only can we quickly and easily set up our teams with accounts, but we heavily rely on CloudCheckr for keeping cost, inventory, and security insights centralized and under control. As we’ve transferred more services to the cloud under our master AWS contract, CloudCheckr enables us to recognizing savings while easily maintaining university compliance terms across the board.
CC: Speaking of savings—how has your Finance department leveraged the tool, and what was their experience like?
CU: The biggest thing for Finance has been the added visibility, and centralized insights. Now we can easily see where spending is happening, and how our resources are being used. Having historical data, as well as the integrated purchasing recommendations, helps us predict and purchase smarter. As we move more departments to the cloud, that data is instrumental in driving those discussions.
CC: Any best practices or advice around moving to the cloud that you’ve found to be helpful to your teams and would recommend to others in higher education ?
CU: We find the ability to implement tagging to be one of the most useful ways we’re able to understand individual usage and see a cost breakdown across the organization. We attach detailed CloudCheckr reports to add visibility for individual accounts so each department or team can understand how they’re using resources and instances.
CC: So now that you’ve begun to unify your AWS environment, how have your users responded?
CU: They are usually quite excited to see this level of detail about their AWS inventory, usage, and costs. Knowing security best practice checks are continuously monitored to meet Cornell’s university-wide standards is reassuring for everyone, as well. What’s been great is the level of customization we can achieve; people are able to see what they want, how they want to see it—whether that’s billing, Reserved Instance usage, security alerts, or cost savings. We always kick off accounts with an initial training session of crucial alerts and reports, but many people wind up figuring it out on their own—this tool is easy to use for our users across the spectrum. That was a big “A-ha!” moment for us: to see the true breadth, depth, and flexibility of how we could see and use such detailed information.
CloudCheckr for Higher Ed Leadership
As more of Cornell’s teams move services to the cloud, CloudCheckr will continue to be an integral piece for managing and optimizing their infrastructure. Having the unified visibility and actionable insights across all AWS accounts will enable teams to save money and innovate faster, while ensuring university information stays secure. With the right tools and expertise to make the most of their cloud investment, Cornell will continue its position as a leader in the higher education space.
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