Organizations have increasingly undertaken cloud migration initiatives, moving from on-premises data centers to adopting containers and Kubernetes to change their infrastructure and take advantage of these cloud native technologies. Kubernetes itself is complex, requiring new skills and increasing levels of maturity as you move from pre-production implementation to improving operations and optimizing environments. Further complicating the Kubernetes adoption process is the challenge of putting Kubernetes cost control strategies in place.
Calculating the total cost of ownership for running apps and services in the cloud is more challenging than simply buying a set amount of compute and storage and assigning that to a team. Cloud computing has given organizations on-demand access to compute resources, which makes understanding unit economics and overall cloud spend a much more dynamic problem to forecast and control and cloud financial management a challenge.
There are a variety of costs involved in hosting, integrating, running, managing, and securing cloud workloads over time, further complicated by multi-cloud environments. Some charges relate directly to compute consumption, data transfer, and storage requirements, while others — such as managing and securing workloads — introduce more complexity in terms of cloud spend. There are many security and management tools as well as integrations with other cloud services that must be part of the calculations on total cloud costs. While flexibility and scalability increase in the cloud, these factors also influence overall cloud spend, which can make cloud financial management more problematic.
It can also be difficult to track cloud spend when using containers (as most organizations do). Managing cost controls for Kubernetes, the de facto standard for container orchestration, can create added cloud financial management challenges since multiple applications can be “bin packed” and run on shared compute resources.
A review of the bill from your cloud provider will not supply needed visibility into which team’s workload or application is being run in each Kubernetes cluster, much less insight into how to optimize them. This lack of visibility leads to the perception of Kubernetes as a black hole when it comes to cloud cost management.
To gain a better understanding of your cloud spend, consider adopting a FinOps approach. The FinOps Foundation describes FinOps as a practice that enables teams to manage their cloud costs, one in which everyone takes ownership of their cloud usage. A centralized best practices group supports the FinOps practice, and you can apply these core principles to Kubernetes as well. Kubernetes service ownership, when DevOps gives developers the tools (and guardrails) they need to build, deploy, and own an application end to end, needs to include an understanding of overall cloud cost management because configuration and automation play such critical roles in managing Kubernetes costs.
When teams adopt a FinOps / service ownership model of Kubernetes, it is essential to get an understanding of the cost of a workload. To gain clarity into the usage of cloud resources, FinOps teams frequently use a Kubernetes governance platform. A governance platform can supply policy-based control for cloud environments, which enables stakeholders (specifically developers) the ability to better understand financial accountability and make data-driven decisions about the finances of Kubernetes by allowing them to understand and adopt these six Kubernetes cost control strategies:
1. Workload cost allocation
Without insight into workload allocations, it is difficult to align reports to business context. What are the KPIs? Are there trade-offs the teams need to be aware of? Allocating and grouping cost estimates by namespace or labeling provides that insight to help enable continuous improvement.
2. Kubernetes cost optimization
Ensure that you have the visibility necessary to evaluate applications and clusters to help you find ways to improve cost efficiency and reduce cloud computing costs without affecting performance.
3. Right-sizing advice
Find solutions that help you maximize the efficiency of your CPU and memory utilization on Kubernetes workloads through monitoring. Effective real-time monitoring solutions include advice on resource limits and requests, while Quality of Service recommendations can help you ensure that your apps scale as expected.
4. Kubernetes cost showback
Reporting is a critical aspect of Kubernetes cost control strategies, so make sure you can report your Kubernetes usage costs to the finance teams as well as distribute usage costs to developers so you can track metrics to demonstrate savings over time. Cross-functional teams help stakeholders to use metrics to make better business decisions and improve financial operations.
5. Multi-cluster cost and usage
One of the biggest challenges in optimizing Kubernetes costs relates to cluster capacity and usage. Make sure you can gather metrics about how much of your cost and usage is spent on idle capacity, shared vs. app-specific resources, and the effectiveness of node scaling. This lifecycle data can help you realize cost savings.6. Cloud billing integration
To get accurate, usage-based cost data across your business to share with procurement, integrate your cloud bill and related pricing (such as your AWS Cost and Usage Report) to break down cloud spend based on Kubernetes cluster, namespace, workload, and label. You can also use Azure’s pricing calculator to estimate hourly or monthly costs for using Azure. Other cloud providers, particularly public cloud providers, offer similar calculators to better understand usage in your cloud environment.
A K8s governance platform can deliver these insights, which in turn enables a Cloud FinOps approach to Kubernetes and Kubernetes cost control strategies. Using benchmarking data, organizations can better understand the business value of deployments, improve decision-making about cloud spend, and improve cloud cost optimization.
Cloud spend is complicated and Kubernetes can make gaining visibility into overall spend even more difficult. Adopting a FinOps framework can help platform engineering leaders dramatically increase their visibility into Kubernetes spend. The approach of making everyone involved become FinOps practitioners, coupled with the right solutions, can help your organization understand and check costs, optimize compute and workloads, perform cost allocations, and set and review CPU and memory allocations to ensure apps are properly provisioned based on actual usage. Instead of an information vacuum, finance teams improve financial operations because they can see how the budget is being allocated and spent — and how the engineering team has been able to identify savings and make their allocations more efficient over time. Adopting FinOps principles helps increase predictability, optimize costs, and reduce silos across, helping organizations improve their overall cloud strategy and set themselves up for success.