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Microsoft’s Azure Announcements at Ignite 2018 Show Why You Need to Manage Cloud Costs

By Gavin Cahill on October 3, 2018
Microsoft Ignite had plenty of big announcements for Azure, many around new technologies like AI, IoT and serverless. These resource-heavy technologies make cloud cost management more important than ever.

Microsoft Ignite 2018 had a lot in store for Azure, with over 150 Azure releases covering from AI to Web and everything in-between. New technology saw more support with services built around AI, IoT, serverless and cloud native applications. On the other end of the spectrum, you had support for migrating existing Windows and SQL Server applications to Azure and hybrid applications.

Regardless of where your company currently stands, there was a common thread through all of the announcements and presentations: Azure is pushing to provide companies with a cloud infrastructure they can use to innovate.

But that innovation comes at a cost — literally. Increased cloud use drives your company forward, yet also drives up your cloud bill. The only way to embrace innovation and manage your cloud costs at the same time is to create a company-wide cost management culture, one where everyone is empowered to make decisions that lower costs and help you get the most from your Azure cloud.

Fortunately, the advancements announced for Azure at Ignite help pave the way for creating that culture. In this post, we’re going to go over some of the biggest announcements and how you can build cost management culture around them.

More Azure Cloud Migration Options Give Greater Cost Control

Massive data transfers have always been a major cloud expense, especially when migrating from data centers. The release of Azure Data Box, Data Box Edge, Data Box Gateway and Data Box heavy edition can help with capacities from 100 TB (Data Box) up to 1 PB (Data Box heavy edition). Data Boxes are shipped to you, loaded directly from your network, then shipped back to Azure for secure upload without going through the public internet. Microsoft also introduced both offline and online Azure Database Migration Service for SQL to Azure SQL Database.

These and other migration releases have the potential to make migration easier while taking the data transfer sting out of their costs. For example, the multiple Data Box sizes could have a major impact on both cost management and security management. Since products or teams can order the exact size Data Box they need, costs can be tied back to specific budgets and teams can control how much they spend on the transfer. Any migration plan to Azure should include an analysis of these new features in its budget model.

Expanded Azure SKUs Allow for More Precise Optimization

A big part of a cloud cost management culture is choosing the right cloud resources for the job. Cloud providers make it their mission to provide specialized options for every need, which also means there’s a lot of potential for wasted expense if you, say, use a high compute option for data streaming. At Ignite, Azure expanded their catalog with a lot of shiny new options:

All of these expanded offerings are very exciting, and they could be well worth it for the right use. For example, the Azure Standard SSDs are specifically designed to be a more low-cost option optimized for low IOPS and consistent performance, and they could be a game-changer in the right situation.

But that doesn’t mean you should jump into these blindly with both feet. As you integrate these new services or start experimenting with them in your company, it’s vital that you have a system in place that will give you visibility into their costs and usage. That way, you’ll be able to make any adjustments necessary to make sure you get the capacity you need without overpaying for unused resources.

How to Get the Most Out of New AI, Machine Learning, IoT and Container Offerings

Some of the biggest new technologies Azure announced center around AI, Machine Learning, IoT and Containers. Azure Databricks (an Apache Spark–based analytics service built for big data and AI) saw a whole slew of announcements. Microsoft R Server was re-christened Microsoft Machine Learning Server, and Speech Service became generally available.

There was also big news on the Internet of Things side with thirteen announcements, including the release of Azure IoT Central and several new releases for Azure Functions. Container support wasn’t far behind with twelve announcements. In addition to four brand new releases for Azure Container Registry (Azure’s Docker registry service), Microsoft also announced the public preview for Kubernetes support on Azure Stack utilizing Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). The increased offerings for both Docker and Kubernetes show Microsoft’s committment to container use on Azure.

All told, this is a very exciting time for technology, one that’s being enabled by the cloud. As Julia White, Corporate Vice President of Azure, put it in the Technology Keynote, “The cloud allows us to innovate and release new technologies faster than ever before — new technologies like IoT, AI, serverless computing, [and] quantum computing.”

The key is to balance innovation with cost management. Innovation, by definition, means you’re headed into new areas and doing new things. That includes building new resource architectures where you may not know all of the ins and outs needed to make sure they’re running as efficiently as possible. Unless you build that culture of cloud cost management, you risk losing huge chunks of your budget to inefficiency before you’ve had the chance to really explore the possibilities.

Without fail, one of the first actions you should do is make sure you have full visibility through a good cloud cost management platform. That way you’ll be able to get the data you need to react quickly and confidently. For example, allocating costs when using containers is particularly tricky due to the ephemeral nature of containers and the fact that clusters are often shared by multiple teams. We’ve solved this by allocating container costs at the node level, but this level of visibility wouldn’t be possible without a good cloud cost management platform.

Azure Cost Management Now in Public Preview

With the release of Azure Cost Management in the Azure portal, Microsoft is showing users just how important it is to make sure that every company using the cloud is managing their costs. While still in preview, the Azure Cost Management tool promises to help with cost analysis, budgets, alerts, recommendations and resource tags. We’ll be interested to see how this rolls out over the next year!

The important takeaway here is how important it is to make sure cloud cost management is part of the DNA of your cloud team and that they’re getting the cloud cost visibility they need to make it happen. The more integrated it is into your process, the more you’ll get from your Azure cloud.

Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Setups Are Still Very Common

In the Technology Keynote, Julia White (CVP Azure) and Scott Guthrie (EVP Cloud) also went over how to run effective hybrid clouds. More and more companies are migrating to the cloud, and, for a variety of reasons, many of those same companies are electing to run hybrid setups. At the same time, we’re also seeing companies that are building multi-cloud setups due to everything from personal team preferences to service options to existing application compatibility.

But whether you’re running a single cloud, hybrid or multi-cloud setup, one thing is always true: you need to create a company-wide cloud cost management culture. To do that, you need a single pane of glass where you can get full visibility into your costs. And that pane of glass needs to be able to be adjusted for each specific team.

All in all, we’re very excited to see the advancements coming out for Azure. We expect to see even more companies migrating to the cloud in the future and pushing the technology envelope.

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