Last updated on July 27th, 2023 at 10:00am
Kion has been helping teams use the cloud more efficiently since 2018, and we recently joined the FinOps Foundation as a member. What we love about the FinOps Foundation is that it gives all public cloud users a common vocabulary, community of practice, and discipline centered on using the cloud better. To help jumpstart our FinOps community engagement, Tara Urso and I were in San Diego for the second FinOps X Summit — the FinOps Foundation’s annual conference. In between tacos, coffee, and a party on an aircraft carrier, we listened to sessions, met with other community members, and participated in chalk talks.
Here are our big takeaways around:
- The excitement around the FinOps Foundation’s open data standard initiative called FOCUS
- Common FinOps challenges and solutions
- The rise of GreenOps
- The parallels between FinOps, Product, and Design
Rallying Around FOCUS
We heard from Udam Dewaraja (previously AWS and Citi), the current chairperson of the FOCUS project. FOCUS is an initiative by the FinOps foundation to create an open data standard for cloud financials that provides transparency and trust through a clear schema definition and FinOps-aligned terminology. Udam shared that cost and usage data is the foundation that FinOps is built on but the datasets out there today aren’t great for FinOps because it’s not possible to have all stakeholders understand the data.
“FOCUS will be a game changer for FinOps.”
– Udam Dewaraja, Chairperson of FOCUS
FOCUS will make cloud billing data easier to understand and work with, saving cloud customers time and money. The recently released v0.5 includes 25 commonly used dimensions, metrics, and attributes, with plans to expand to cover SaaS, licensing, and private cloud in version 1.0.
FOCUS is set to become a defining project for the FinOps Foundation and the plan is to create open-source data converters for all major public cloud providers to ensure widespread adoption. Focus version 1.0 is slated for later this year, with more information planned for the upcoming Google Next and AWS re:Invent conferences.
Common FinOps Challenges + Solutions
Throughout the week, we gleaned insights about some of the challenges that FinOps teams are facing. It was interesting to hear varied perspectives and solutions across different industries - and enlightening to see the common patterns and anti-patterns in making FinOps evolution successful.
We heard from Amy Ashby, the FinOps lead at Under Armour. In her breakout session, “Strategies for Troubleshooting Cost Anomalies and Trends,” Amy touched on the fact that not every anomaly is a bad thing, noting it’s important to zoom out to understand frequency patterns and seasonality. Amy talked about instances when you should question the ROI to troubleshoot and whether the associated cost of the anomaly is even worth the investigation.
Amy also talked a lot about the importance of relationships. After you use the tools and get the data you need, the next step is to take action and begin investigating and troubleshooting. Having solid relationships with people really helps make this step successful.
Getting Engineers Engaged and Excited about FinOps
Biba Helou, Managing Director, Cloud Enablement & Execution at JPMorgan Chase, talked about engaging engineers and incentivizing them to adopt FinOps best practices. Biba noted that engineers want to know the impact that they’re making and FinOps is a way to help them understand context and be part of the solutions instead of receiving requirements to lower costs. She also discussed how FinOps isn’t just about focusing on cost optimization, it’s also about tradeoffs.
In addition to understanding where and how to spend less, FinOps is also about being able to make the decision to spend more because something is really important and it’s worth spending more. Just focusing on optimization “sucks the energy out of the teams.” To incentivize, Biba suggests making it fun: establish leaderboards and highlight achievements and the ideas that engineers come up with. After all, they often have better ideas and insights on how to cut costs than anyone else in the org.
“[Engineers say] just tell me what my budget is and give me the power to make the tradeoffs.”
– Biba Helou, Managing Director, Cloud Enablement & Execution at JPMorgan Chase
Improving the User Experience of FinOps
FinOps analyst Kate Ferguson shared how her team helped improve the user experience of FinOps for engineers, product owners, and executives at Liberty Mutual. In her breakout session “Putting Reporting in the Path of Different Personas,” Kate touched on how providing right-sizing recommendations directly within engineers' typical workflows and allowing for easy implementation with a push-button change helped teams be more successful at taking advantage of savings opportunities. For product owners, putting costs, cost avoidance, and optimization recommendations in monthly emails helped make these important metrics more visible and usable. For executives, showing realized year-to-date, realized vs. target, as well as new FinOps initiatives and strategy updates helped keep executives in the loop.
The State of GreenOps
GreenOps, the efforts around creating sustainable cloud practices that include reducing power usage and carbon intensity, is a rising topic in the FinOps community. Coming away from AWS re:Inforce, we also noted that sustainability is a key part of the AWS CloudOps competency — showing the relationship between FinOps and CloudOps more broadly.
We heard from Paul Guarino, the Director of Cloud Economics at Fidelity, on the topic of GreenOps and how the region and the time of day where usage occurs can impact carbon intensity (the rate per unit of activity). Paul discussed sites like cloudcarbonfootprint.org and Climatiq which provide information for sustainability reporting, but not necessarily action you can take to be more sustainable.
While sustainability came up often at FinOps X, there were few concrete solutions. The interest is there, but it’s unclear if the lack of progress or adoption is rooted in market demand or data availability. For now, it’s clear that more efficient use of the cloud - and avoiding waste - is the best first step we can take to making public cloud more sustainable.
Shared Methods in FinOps and Product
After listening to talks from industry leaders on their FinOps challenges and solutions, a key takeaway was the centrality of product and design thinking in the way we approach cloud value in FinOps. In many ways, FinOps is comparable to how product operates: FinOps has defined stages of maturity and customers are working to implement a response to that. FinOps practitioners build (or buy) something to solve a problem. They have ideas, those ideas fail, they implement new ideas.
Both FinOps and product involve a design thinking approach, which includes cycles of discovery, design, experimentation, analysis and data-driven decision making, iteration, continuous improvement, and risk management:
- Discovery and design: Both disciplines gain a deep understanding of the problem space and ideate possible solutions.
- Experimentation: Both FinOps and product test and experiment to validate ideas and optimize approaches.
- Analysis and data-driven decision making: Both rely on data analysis and evidence-based insights to make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.
- Iteration and continuous improvement: Both disciplines embrace continuous learning and improvement, refining strategies and methods over time to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness.
- Risk management: Both FinOps and product perform risk management by identifying potential risks, assessing their impact, and implementing strategies to mitigate or address them.
Design thinking methods and deeply understanding FinOps problems lead to more successful outcomes. By ensuring that cloud operations align with the needs of both internal stakeholders and end users, organizations can ultimately drive greater value and efficiency in the cloud.
With the insights gained about FOCUS, GreenOps, FinOps challenges, and parallels between FinOps and product, we’re excited to take the customer use cases we heard and continue building out and improving our FinOps offerings here at Kion. Until next year, San Diego!