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Cloud storage TCO: Key pitfalls and how to prevent them

Clouds flexibility is section of the attraction, nonetheless it may also result in costs that spiral. We look at important elements in cloud TCO and how exactly to intelligently utilize the cloud

Stephen Pritchard


Published: 24 Aug 2022

Cost is usually the main factor with regards to moving IT to the cloud. Used, working out the price of moving a workload or business process to the cloud is complex.

And, just like on-premise hardware, there’s more to the full total cost of ownership of cloud systems compared to the ticket price alone. Cloud computings flexibility and consumption-based pricing models makes it hard to predict the lifetime cost of a project or perhaps a system. You can easily add capacity or performance, nonetheless it is also an easy task to incur additional costs.

In a few areas, however, costs have grown to be more predictable because the industry has matured. Egress costs to take data out of cloud storage is frequently regarded as a concealed cost of cloud, and certainly one which is disliked by chief information officers and service users.

But, used, cloud providers are open about such costs. They may be planned for, and service consumption made to minimise them. Firms have grown to be more mature within their usage of the cloud and so are better in a position to utilize it in probably the most efficient way. Which includes using cold storage for long-term archiving, however, not for data that’s frequently re-accessed. Or, by using the clouds unique features, instead of shifting existing workloads to the cloud wholesale.

Enterprises currently run 30% to 40% of these workloads in the cloud, says Adrian Bradley, head of cloud transformation at KPMG but he describes their journey as far as relatively messy.

When people visit the cloud, it really is tempting to control migrations based on throughputs instead of quality, he says. Throughput is nice and an easy task to measure, however when you can the cloud, youre more likely to ask questions around whether youre getting value from it.

Instead, firms are searching for a greater amount of IT transformation through the cloud, which is prompting them to check again at the full total cost of ownership.

TCO, cloud and on-premise costs

Total cost of ownership (TCO) in the cloud includes all operational costs from the task or business process.

At one level, a simple cost figure for the cloud is not at all hard to calculate. Cloud companies list their charges for storage, compute along with other core costs. They are an all-in price.

Customers that buy cloud capacity don’t need to factor in the price of labour, security, IT systems management, or power, cooling and property costs. They are all budget items which need to be considered for on-premise systems and so are rolled in to the per-unit cost.

Importantly, firms also steer clear of the dependence on capital shelling out for hardware, and so are instead in a position to charge cloud consumption fees to the operational, or Opex, budget. This removes financing costs and frees up capital to be invested elsewhere.

They are all positives, however, not all costs could be eliminated entirely. IT departments still need staff to use and manage the cloud environment. As KPMGs Bradley highlights, cloud operations tend to be run by more very skilled, more expensive staff than on-premise operations, and cloud specialists are less inclined to be offshore.

Customers need tools to control their cloud estate. Security and backup and recovery may also be needed. The majority of those costs will undoubtedly be distributed to on-premise systems, and could fall because the percentage of cloud systems increases.

Nonetheless it is wrong to believe the cloud will eliminate all on-premise costs, especially labour. Actually, organisations might face higher costs in a few areas, particularly if they have to hire people who have specialist cloud expertise that commands reduced. Its very difficult to obtain granular breakdowns on who spends just how much time performing a function, and who that needs to be charged to, cautions Tony Lock of analyst Freeform Dynamics.

Furthermore, firms have to enable migration costs. Applications may need different licences for cloud use, and could need modification, rewriting or perhaps a ground-up redesign. This can increase labour costs, either directly or by way of a systems integrator, consulting firm, or the cloud or software companys own professional services.

Lastly, hidden cloud costs haven’t completely gone away. Costs such as for example data egress, where firms pay to retrieve, repatriate as well as simply copy data to some other application, are far better known than these were. But they remain one factor.

So too are data duplication costs, particularly if the business must keep multiple copies of data or run compute in various availability zones that could vary in expense for exactly the same services.

Cloud services may also offer variable pricing, with discounts for pre-booked capacity (instead of on-demand usage) and discounts for off-peak usage.

Providers also typically offer their finest pricing to customers who consent to have a fixed level of services up-front. This is often significantly cheaper than spot charges, nonetheless it makes TCO harder to calculate, and will encourage the over-provisioning of cloud services.

Ingress and egress costs are essential, but generally, I believe theyre quite nicely understood, says KPMGs Bradley. But what we often see is that enterprises who use cloud consume greater than they expect.

Planning cloud costs

Cost is not any longer the primary driver for moving to the cloud, if it ever was.

Cost can be an essential aspect, but its not usually the principal reason behind doing anything, says Freeform Dynamics Lock. And, he says, it has been the case for 10 to 15 years now. That saving costs thing is definitely hype.

But if firms are searching for value from the cloud, they have to understand its lifetime costs.

Over-provisioning, or over-consumption, is just about the greatest financial threat of moving to the cloud due to the capability to scale.

Research by HashiCorp, a software supplier, discovered that 20% to 40% of organisations cloud spend is on over-provisioned, unused and orphaned infrastructure, due to the fact it really is so easy to go workloads and data to the cloud.

A clearer knowledge of the full total costs of cloud technology, and how that compares with on-premise systems with almost all their (unavoidable) overheads is vital in order to avoid waste and take full advantage of the cloud.

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