Reduced cost is one of the most common reasons for using the cloud. However, simply switching to a cloud environment won’t automatically save you money. You must take extra steps to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck, on any cloud provider.
Toward that end, this article discusses strategies for optimizing costs and avoiding unnecessary expenses on Microsoft Azure, one of the most popular cloud-computing platforms today.
1. Resize your VMs
Azure Virtual Machines has numerous options to choose from, and the number keeps growing each year. The pricing depends on how much compute power and memory each VM offers. To optimize costs for VMs, you need to run them at almost full capacity most of the time. Through the day, usage keeps fluctuating, but you can easily identify usage patterns by looking at your Azure Monitor metrics.
The best way to keep pace with traffic demand is to leverage Autoscaling. This feature of Azure automatically scales the number of virtual machines up or down according to traffic. You’ll still need to monitor the way the system scales regularly to avoid surprises, but Autoscaling has the dual benefits of ensuring your system is always available during peak traffic, and conserving resources during low-traffic hours.
The type of VM you use matters. It helps to keep trying different VMs for the same workload to see which delivers the required performance at the lowest budget. Each year, Azure announces new VMs and pricing changes for existing VMs at their annual Microsoft Ignite conference. (Keep an eye out for these announcements and how they could affect your billing.)
2. Select the right pricing option
Azure prices VMs differently based on how long you rent them. The price goes down significantly (over 50%) if you reserve a VM for a long time, such as one year, or three years. After choosing the right VM size, it’s important to select the reserved pricing for it. This is the way to go for mission-critical applications that you’re sure you’ll be using for years to come.
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3. Shift workloads to containers
VMs are the most popular compute option in Azure, but they aren’t the only one. Containers are more lightweight than VMs, and they provide lower costs because of the lesser footprint and faster operability they bring. Almost every organization is considering ways to move from VMs to containers for this reason.
Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is a fully managed container hosting platform. Kubernetes has become the de-facto choice for managing cloud-native infrastructure. However, installing, updating, and maintaining a Kubernetes instance on your own is not for the faint-hearted. AKS is a great way to operate containers without the management overhead. AKS has features like one-click updates, wizard-based resource management, role-based access controls (RBAC), integration with Active Directory, built-in monitoring, and more. If you’re going the container way, (and just about every organization is), Azure AKS is one of the best options out there.
4. Shift workloads to serverless
Serverless computing has also been sweeping the world of computing due to the need for easier management of IT resources. Azure Functions is a serverless computing solution that lets you run code as functions without the need to provision or manage any servers.
Azure Functions is ideal for burst workloads where resources need to be spun up and retired in a matter of seconds. In these cases, a VM would be overkill because of its footprint. Containers are better, but serverless is just right, as all you need to do is define how much compute, memory, and storage your code needs to run successfully, and Azure Functions does the rest automatically.
By paying only for the resources you actually use, you avoid all the costs of renting or reserving VMs. When comparing the cost of VMs, containers and serverless, consider the maintenance overhead of maintaining the solution. Also, a solution that helps you move faster delivers in terms of opportunity cost. Bringing applications and features to market faster or being able to fix issues faster has a direct bearing on your organization’s bottom line.
5. Archive data and use long-term storage
Apart from compute, Azure Storage is a vital service used to store all of your application data. Here, there is scope for optimization if you can find data that can be moved to cheaper storage options available within Azure.
Azure Blob Storage has options to store data as premium, hot, cold or archive. As the naming suggests, the more frequently you access the data, the more the storage tier costs. (Beware that for long-term storage options, the price to access the data is higher, so you’ll want to choose carefully based on your usage of the data.)
6. Partner with the right cloud managed services provider
Finally, once you’ve exhausted all the options to save money through your own efforts, it makes sense to partner with a Cloud Managed Services (CMS) provider, preferably an Azure-certified partner, to review your Azure usage and suggest cost optimizations.
The ideal cloud managed services provider can enable optimization deep dives to help you find opportunities to reduce app footprint, optimize storage usage, identify security vulnerabilities, gain visibility into unused instances and get more out of your Azure spend.
This is where we can help. NetEnrich, a Microsoft Azure Gold partner, provides reliable and effective monitoring services using our platform to monitor cloud instances, network, storage, applications and workloads on both IaaS and PaaS environments. With our experience managing cloud for multiple clients, we consistently verify the health on the cloud environment, optimize it, generate reports and proactively mitigate risks thus avoiding any outages.
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