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Best Practices for Optimizing Cloud Usage and Costs: Part 2

This is Part 2 of our 3-Part series on Best Practices for Cloud Management.

Our last blog post provided detailed insight on five tips for reducing your overall Azure spend. What’s clear is that gaining visibility across your entire organization’s cloud spend is imperative to making sure you get the most out of your cloud investment. Ongoing management, governance, and automation best practices will then help you achieve true cost savings—on average twenty to thirty percent, and in some cases much more.

Here are five additional tips to help you in your journey to cloud cost optimization and management.

Rightsize Disk Storage

With Disk Storage, the critical factors to consider are capacity, IOPS, and throughput. Removing unattached disks is one way to reduce the cost associated with Disk Storage.

Another approach is to evaluate which disks are over-provisioned and can be modified for potential cost savings.

Microsoft offers two types of storage for VMs: a standard storage performance tier, which can be purchased in three different levels of redundancy, and a premium storage performance tier, which is offered in three different sizes. The price difference between standard and premium disks can be as high as 3x, so pick the right storage for each workload.

Xgility Pro TipPremium storage is billed based on the total disk size, regardless of consumption. Keep a close eye on utilization of Premium storage to minimize wasted cost.

Rightsize SQL Databases

Like rightsizing your IaaS, you also need to rightsize your Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Azure SQL Database is a PaaS offering that is used by many developers to manage their applications.

Evaluate how well your SQL Databases are being utilized in terms of their workloads. The key factors to take into consideration are Database Transaction Units (DTU), Database Size, and Capacity.

SQL Databases are purchased through a DTU-based model, which combines compute, memory, and IO resources. There are three service tiers:  Basic, Standard, and Premium. The Basic tier is primarily used for development and testing. The Standard tier is suitable for applications with multiple real-time users. The Premium tier is for high-performance applications and many simultaneous requests. There is a price difference for the three tiers, and the database sizes within those tiers.

The key is to rightsize to the lowest cost SQL Database that meets your performance requirements.

Xgility Pro TipNormally you will not need to rightsize Basic SQL Databases because they are already competitively priced and mainly used for development or testing.

Stop and Start VMs on a Schedule – Park your VMs

Azure will bill for a VM as long as a VM is running. If a VM is in a stopped state, there is no charge. For VMs that are running 24/7, Microsoft will bill for 672 to 744 hours per VM, depending on the month. If a VM is turned off between 5pm and 9am on weekdays and stopped weekends and holidays, then total billable hours per month would range from 152 to 184 hours per VM. This would save 488 to 592 VM hours per month.

This is a bit of an extreme example, since flexible work weeks and global teams VMs aren’t powered down outside normal working hours. However, outside of production, you are still likely to find that many VMs that do not need to run 24/7/365.

The most cost-efficient environments stop and start VMs based on a set schedule. Each cluster of VMs can be treated a different way.

Xgility Pro TipSet a target for weekly hours that non-production systems should run.

Buy Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances and Optimize

Purchasing Microsoft’s Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances (RIs) is an effective cost-saving technique.

Azure RIs allow you to make a 1- or 3-year upfront commitment to Microsoft to utilize specific virtual machine instance types for a discount on your compute costs and prioritized capacity. RIs can save you up to 72% compared to pay-as-you-go pricing.

Microsoft allows customers to modify reservations in the following ways:

  • Changing the Scope from Single Subscription to Shared, or vice versa.
  • Exchanging Azure RIs across any region and series.
  • Canceling your Azure RIs at any time for an adjusted refund.

Purchasing Azure RIs and continuously modify them helps provide you the most value. If RI is idle or underutilized, modification means the RI can cover on-demand usage to a greater degree. This ensures that RIs are operating efficiently and that savings opportunities are being maximized.

Xgility Pro TipMicrosoft allows you to achieve a greater cost savings (up to 72%) by leveraging Azure RIs combined with the Azure Hybrid Benefit. The Azure Hybrid Benefit covers the cost of the Windows OS on up to two virtual machines per license.

Move Object Data to Lower-Cost Tiers

Microsoft offers several tiers of Storage at different price points and performance levels.

It’s best to move data between the tiers of storage depending on usage. There are two ways to adjust your Azure storage: by redundancy (how many copies are stored across how many locations), and by access tier (how often data is accessed).

Microsoft allows four redundancy options and three access tier options to create the right solution.  For example, Cold Locally Redundant Storage (LRS) is ideal for long term storage, backups, and disaster recovery content, while Cold Geographically Redundant Storage (GRS) is best suited for archival.

Any objects residing in a Hot tier that are older than 30 days should be converted to a Cool tier. Depending on redundancy levels, the Hot tier is based on the amount of content stored starting at $0.0184 per GB per month. The Cool tier prices are a flat price of $0.01 per GB per month and the Archive tier is available at $0.002 per GB per month.

Xgility Pro TipAny objects residing in a Hot tier that are older than 30 days should be converted to a Cool tier.

In the last of our blog series, we’ll explore some customer success and what analysts are saying about the best tools to tackle cloud sprawl.

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Source: CloudHealth, 10 Best Practices for Reducing Spend in Azure, 2018