Case Study: How 605 Leveraged CloudForecast to Monitor Unexpected AWS Cost Overruns
“The benefit 605 receives by not employing a cloud accountant on staff to go through this every day more than pays for the CloudForecast service cost.” - Jared Williams, Director of DevOps
605, LLC, headquartered in New York City, offers advanced audience measurement, analytics and attribution for TV viewership and advertising. Their solution, the 605 PLATF0RM, has access to 21M real, known households and uses viewership data from set-top boxes, Smart TVs and digital data sources, which provides a high-confidence representation of the entire U.S. TV viewing population.
605 also offers advanced attribution via 605 IMP4CT, through which brands, advertisers and agencies can measure the impact of their advertising on influencing consumer behaviors. A third solution, 605 DR1VE, helps MVPDs with audience-driven ad sales by targeting specific consumer segments to create real-time ad plans.
Recently, we interviewed Jared Williams, 605’s Director of DevOps. In that role, he leads multiple teams of DevOps engineers in the DevOps process — automation of the CI/CD pipeline and deployments. His responsibility includes managing the AWS infrastructure for the entire company, including forecasting, budgeting and pricing.
605 manages some of their compute-intensive tasks using Amazon EMR to manage the workload on EC2 instances. In particular, they use X1e instance types suitable for high-performance, memory-intensive enterprise applications. They have many thousands of EC2 instances running simultaneously over multiple sub-accounts for different environments.
Some of these X1e instances also happen to be one of the most expensive to use. One of Jared’s concerns was the need to spend resources to actively monitor thousands of instances for any unexpected cost overruns. Such unanticipated events are bound to happen from time to time with a fast growing engineering team building automated and scalable solutions, and these cost overruns would possibly not be apparent until the invoice arrived at the end of the month.
While such incidents might have been the trigger to consider an automated tool for managing runaway infrastructure costs, Jared also wanted a better understanding of and visibility into the rise in costs month-over-month. After all, one of his responsibilities is reporting bi-weekly to the 605 executive team on ongoing costs versus the budget, and forecasting changes.
Options and Success with CloudForecast
Like so many other managers of cloud computing resources, he found that AWS’s Cost Explorer did not offer the granularity and features he required. It would have required intensive investigative hours and analysis work to get the relevant data he needed. It was simply not possible with the other responsibilities on his plate. This lack of a more detailed insight into infrastructure costs led Jared to evaluate several cost management tools before he settled on CloudForecast.
Monthly AWS Cost Visibility with the Monthly Financial Report
Jared’s meetings with the 605 executive team are now backed up by financial data from CloudForecast’s AWS Monthly Financial Report. He is no longer restricted by the high-level view offered by AWS’s Cost Explorer. By suitably tagging every AWS usage, he is able to drill down to details showing areas where costs could be lowered.
Jared helps the rest of the 605 team understand the overall aspects of these monthly financial reports, from which the executive team derives his general budget and answers to the board of directors on costs, especially those for AWS. Typical discussions include answering questions such as:
- What caused an increase (or decrease) in a specific service usage?
- Which service usage might go up based on the needs of a certain planned project?
- How does the cost for a project compare with the estimate?
CloudForecast's Monthly Financial Report
The ability to easily find and associate an actual number to a specific cost makes Jared’s job easier. Without the CloudForecast tool, Jared estimates that he’d be spending hours every two weeks preparing answers for such questions - and estimating a lot!
“My whole job is around automation”, he says, “Any time saved for my team is the salary of those engineers saved for the company.”
Organization-wide Responsibility with the Daily Cost Reports via Slack
Jared sends out an overall Daily Cost Report to his entire team via Slack. The reports include the total cost as well as cost monitoring per sub-account. In addition, Jared also sends out separate cost reports that include specific sub-accounts that each team lead is financially responsible for. By doing so, this made AWS cost an organization-wide responsibility rather than just the DevOps team’s job. He particularly likes the “weather emojis” in the subject line — the stormy emoji (cost anomaly) vs sunny emoji (cost is flat) — which immediately alerts him to a spike in usage and any unexpected cost increase for a specific service or AWS cost allocation tag.
Jared also praised the speed with which CloudForecast was able to implement 605’s feature requests and suggested tweaks.
CloudForecast's Daily AWS Cost Report via Slack
There are common themes that run through all our customer usage scenarios, and Jared’s experience at 605 fits that pattern. These include making sure that they are not wasting any of the company’s money on cloud infrastructure they don’t need, as well as being able to identify exactly where the ongoing costs are. As Jared puts it,
“The benefit 605 receives by not employing a cloud accountant on staff to go through this every day more than pays for the CloudForecast service cost.”
Jared estimates savings of almost 35% since 605 started using CloudForecast. In turn, these infrastructure cost reductions can be funneled towards more productive ends, such as new hires or other improvements.
And speaking of his personal experience with CloudForecast’s Slack integration and the daily and monthly financial reports, he observes:
“Just the time I and others save is well worth the value that we are getting from CloudForecast.”