When taking care of houseplants, you need to know exactly what they need—like the right amounts of water and sunlight—so that they can grow to their fullest potential. The same is true for cloud finances, says Benjamin van der Maas, Cloud Financial Management Practice Lead for Cloudar, a managed service provider (MSP). FinOps requires you to know exactly where to optimize your cloud costs, van der Maas says, so that you can sustain the “growth” of cloud transformation.
Many organizations turn to industry best practices to guide their FinOps journey. There are several different frameworks available to provide such guidance, like the FinOps Foundation’s six principles. But these guidelines are only part of the equation. “A framework is one thing,” van der Maas says. “How you bring FinOps into practice, that’s another thing.”
In addition to practicing FinOps with Cloudar, van der Maas is also the founder of the FinOps Alliance. The FinOps Alliance delivers original FinOps content and expertise “to collaborate with our audience and grow a library of functional and useful FinOps approaches that are a reflection of the current state of Cloud FinOps practices.” Van der Maas joined us for a webinar on best FinOps practices for MSPs and offered his recommendations for enterprises and MSPs that want to make the most of their FinOps resources.
How Cloudar Uses CloudCheckr Capabilities for FinOps
A cloud management platform is a critical component of a strong FinOps solution for enterprises and MSPs. In our webinar on the six principles of FinOps, van der Maas explained the CloudCheckr capabilities he uses on a daily basis to help customers meet their cost optimization and FinOps goals.
Analyzing Detailed Cloud Cost Trends
Van der Maas named the AWS Advanced Grouping report as his favorite feature. Advanced Grouping is a report in CloudCheckr CMx that lets you group costs by multiple categories so you can generate more detailed results on how AWS spreads cost across your organization. The Advanced Grouping report shows the user blended, unblended, and list costs; AWS credits and Marketplace charges; and costs for the entire Consolidated Billing family when viewing a Payer account.
Customers want to know about their cloud costs, van der Maas says. All of that information, says van der Maas, is “a few clicks away in Advanced Grouping” to help customers understand their bills. He can also help them go deeper in their cost management by looking at usage and comparing month-over-month spend. One of the advantages of this feature, says van der Maas, is that it’s “out-of-the-box” in CloudCheckr’s feature set versus MSPs like Cloudar having to build custom reports in AWS.
In addition to being an asset for MSPs, Advanced Grouping also enables enterprise users to search tags in multiple accounts, create chargebacks, and report on numerous business units.
Bringing Disparate Cloud Account into a Common View
CloudCheckr helps MSPs see multiple cloud accounts all at once. The Multiple-Account Views (MAVs) let you view the resources of multiple accounts in a single view. MSPs can use this feature to easily analyze some or all customer accounts and more easily aggregate their costs. For Cloudar, these views are linked with users and roles that CloudCheckr CMx filters.
Automating Customer-Centric Visibility and Reporting
To automate reporting, you can save filters in CloudCheckr, another feature that van der Maas points to when using MAVs. You can also save filters to link to the CloudCheckr API. This enables you to import that data into another platform or integrate it with other information from different tools. By using these features, van der Maas says that he can deliver reports to customer that combine several data points from their tooling to show a holistic view of what’s going on in their cloud. This feature, says van der Maas “saves us a lot of time and makes our customers really grateful.”
Tracking Resource Inventory…
One of the key features in CloudCheckr CMx is that the platform enables users like MSPs to see their resources and the related costs of those resources. One of the advantages that van der Maas points out is that resource inventory isn’t available in AWS.
One use case van der Maas points to is a customer who wanted to have reporting for each departments and provide showbacks for each department to help them better optimize their cloud costs. With the data from CloudCheckr, that customer was able to see that one particular department’s costs had doubled within a month.
Van der Maas showed the customer the data in CloudCheckr and easily discover that S3 costs were responsible for the spike. “There is no way to do that in the AWS Cost Explorer native setup,” van der Maas explains. While there are ways to load that data into an Amazon QuickSight dashboard, he says, that takes extra time and effort. CloudCheckr makes it easy to see the data right away and sort the S3 buckets by cost in “just a few clicks.” “Those functions are all you need to have a sensible conversation with your client,” he says.
… And Resource Utilization to Optimize Costs
Cloud cost optimization is a key task when it comes to FinOps. However, you need to be able to see what is and isn’t in use before you determine what cloud resources can be downsized or shut off. But van der Maas cautions shutting things off based on CPU alone. With CloudCheckr, he has a more holistic view of the customer’s usage. “The utilization reports and statistics that you can get out of that resource module in CloudCheckr are really useful to identify targets for optimization and conversation with customers,” he says.
Get More FinOps Resources
Watch the webinar for more recommendations about how to bring FinOps to your customers or check out the whole on-demand FinOps webinar series. And if you haven’t already, visit the FinOps Alliance website for FinOps content and resources.