Enterprises are moving to multicloud in droves. Why? The key drivers most often cited by cloud adopters are speed, agility, platform flexibility, and reduced costs—or at least more predictable costs. It’s ironic then that say that runaway cloud costs are their biggest postmigration pain point. 

How can we get cloud budgets under control? First we need to understand what we’re working with. But when costs are accruing from multiple teams, using multiple accounts, involving multiple products across multiple geographies on multiple cloud platforms, getting a clear picture can be a nearly impossible task. For that reason, infrastructure and operations teams often turn to cloud and cost management solutions to gain better visibility.  

Resource tagging: An incomplete answer

One common way teams and cost management solutions have tried to increase visibility is through the use of tags. Tagging is essentially the process of assigning names to infrastructure (servers, databases, storage volumes, etc.) and in some cases applications or projects. Tags might include useful information like geographic region, department, environment, the purpose of the server, or even the name of the person who provisioned the server. For example, I might provision a database in the Northern Virginia region of AWS and tag it like this:

evan-mysql-us-east-1

. The teams create best practices and guidelines for tags to include the data they’ll need to keep track of everything going on in the environment.

But there’s an inherent problem with this approach: It neglects to consider the reason shadow IT started in the first place, which was to avoid the processes put in place by IT. Tagging can only be successful if IT can be sure that every tag is correct and follows guidelines 100 percent of the time. With teams spanning different locations and resourcing multiple private and public cloud platforms, that quickly becomes unlikely.

Here’s a case in point. Across three different teams, three nearly identical databases provisioned in the Northern Virginia region of AWS may follow IT’s guidelines but end up with wildly different names:

evan-mysql-us-east-1
jose:database:east
rhdbva

, a multicloud management platform relied upon by NASA, Expedia, Samsung, and many others. Stadil is also the founder of SVCCG, Silicon Valley’s second largest user group, and a guest lecturer at Carnegie Mellon on entrepreneurship. He sits on the cloud advisory boards at Google and Microsoft. He has been developing products and services that leverage AWS and other cloud providers since 2004.

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