Cloudthread Y Combinator
November 30, 2023

Why Cloudthread Series: Part 5 – Distributed Cloud Cost Ownership Case Study

Interview summary and full transcript for Cloudthread LinkedIn Live event from Nov 15, 2023 – Ilia Semenov discussing the concept of Distributed Cloud Cost Ownership with Vitaly Belyasov, Head of FinOps at Align Technology.

Welcome back to our "Why Cloudthread" series, where we explore the transformative impact of Cloudthread's solutions in real-world scenarios. Today, we delve into a compelling success story centered around the Distributed Cloud Cost Ownership (DCCO) model, featuring insights from our recent video interview with Vitaly Belyasov, FinOps leader at Align Technology.

The Genesis: Identifying the Need for Change

Vitaly's path to DCCO began with a fundamental task: understanding Align Technology's cloud costs. As a solo cloud analyst, he embarked on this mission, quickly realizing the need for a systemic approach. Vitaly recalls, "The task was pretty simple: figure out what's happening with our cloud cost." This initial step led him to the FinOps framework, a discovery that would shape Align's future strategies.

Early Steps and Quick Wins

In the early stages, Vitaly found that engaging with engineering teams yielded immediate results, tackling low-hanging fruits and showcasing significant savings. "You're still dealing with low-hanging fruits, showing big numbers," he explains, emphasizing the initial ease of making impactful changes.

The Continuous Process and Emerging Challenges

However, Vitaly recognized that cloud cost optimization is not a one-off task but a continuous process. He highlights, "You need to find a way to do this at scale and repetitively." This realization brought to light the primary challenge: engineering action. The main obstacles were low engineering team engagement, lack of ownership due to legacy cloud workloads, and the absence of clear priorities for engineers in implementing recommendations.

Implementing DCCO with a Structured Approach

Addressing the challenges head-on, Vitaly's team at Align Technology devised a comprehensive strategy to establish the Distributed Cloud Cost Ownership model. This process was multifaceted, extending beyond the establishment of KPIs to include several key stages:

  1. Introducing the Virtual Cloud Cost Owner Role: A pivotal step was the introduction of the virtual cloud cost owner role within the organization. This role was critical in bridging the gap between FinOps and the engineering teams, ensuring that cloud costs were not just an abstract concept but a tangible part of everyday decision-making.
  2. Identifying Owners within Each Engineering Team: The next stage involved carefully selecting and identifying the right individuals within each engineering team to take on the role of cloud cost owners. This selection process was crucial as it required finding individuals who not only understood the technical aspects but were also capable of managing and optimizing cloud costs effectively.
  3. Training and Empowering Cloud Cost Owners: Once identified, these virtual cloud cost owners underwent specialized training to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge. This training was not just about understanding cloud costs but also about how to implement optimization strategies effectively and how to use tools like Cloudthread to their advantage.
  4. Establishing KPIs: With the roles defined and the owners trained, Vitaly's team then established key performance indicators. These KPIs, such as budget management and waste elimination, were essential in guiding the cloud cost owners' efforts and measuring the success of the DCCO model.

Through these stages, Vitaly and his team successfully implemented a DCCO model that not only addressed the immediate challenges but also set a sustainable framework for continuous cloud cost optimization at Align Technology.

Securing Leadership Buy-In and Navigating Challenges

Gaining leadership buy-in was the first step for Vitaly on the way to implement the approach described above. He used data-backed arguments to illustrate the necessity of this new approach, especially during 'spend panic moments.' This leadership support was essential in establishing and formalizing the DCCO process within the engineering teams.

Supporting DCCO with Robust Tool Set

In their endeavor to implement the Distributed Cloud Cost Ownership (DCCO) model effectively, Align Technology incorporated a variety of tools, with Cloudthread playing a central role. This strategic selection of tools, as described by Vitaly and Ilia, was crucial in optimizing each stage of the DCCO process - from discovery and delivery to tracking.

  • Discovery: Leveraging Cloud-Native Tools and Cloudthread. The discovery phase was heavily supported by cloud-native tools, as Vitaly points out: "We are heavily using cloud-native tools to discover things." This included using AWS services like Compute Optimizer and Cost Explorer, supplemented by CUDOS dashboards for deeper insights. Adding Cloudthread to the mix brought a significant enhancement to the discovery process, saving time to Vitaly's team and expanding on the opportunities being uncovered. As a result, Cloudthread's Opportunities Explorer dashboard became instrumental in this phase, aggregating data from various sources to provide a comprehensive view of optimization opportunities.
  • Delivery: Integrating with Communication and Project Management Platforms. For the delivery phase, Align Technology utilized a mix of communication channels and project management platforms: Slack, JIRA, email, MS Teams. This was not ideal, as this variety of channels required a significant focus. With Cloudthread's JIRA integration and Threads functionality things became quite easier: the optimization recommendations were efficiently communicated to the relevant engineering teams, facilitating swift and effective action.
  • Tracking: From Spreadsheets to Automated Dashboards. Traditionally, savings tracking was done using spreadsheets, a method that Vitaly found cumbersome: "Yes, tracking is in spreadsheets. That's been pretty annoying." To streamline this, Cloudthread's capabilities were extended to the tracking phase. Ilia describes the transition to a more automated and integrated system: "On the tracking side, we close this loop. We actually track how things are progressing, how those tickets created are progressing." This allowed for real-time monitoring of implementation and savings, making the tracking process more efficient and less reliant on manual input.

The Result: A Streamlined and Effective Process

Vitaly's journey culminated in a more streamlined and effective cloud cost management process. By prioritizing tasks and establishing a routine, the process became less overwhelming and more integrated into the engineering teams' workflows. The implementation of DCCO at Align Technology stands as a testament to the transformative power of strategic planning, leadership buy-in, and the right toolset in optimizing cloud costs.

Setting a New Standard in Cloud Usage Optimization

Vitaly's journey in implementing DCCO at Align Technology is a compelling narrative that sets a new standard in cloud cost management. It showcases the importance of continuous optimization, strategic implementation, and the synergy between FinOps teams and engineering groups in achieving effective cloud cost management.

Stay tuned for more in our "Why Cloudthread" series, where we explore innovative approaches and success stories in cloud cost management.

The full transcript of the discussion

Make cloud costs a first class metric for your engineering organization.
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Copyright © 2024 CloudThread Inc. All rights reserved