How to Get the Most out of your Amazon Web Services (AWS) Environment

I’ve worked with Cloudreach for the past four years, and I’ve used AWS even longer, and in that time I’ve witnessed a serious shift in perceptions. The cloud was once this niche concept that large enterprises left startups to play with, but now even the biggest businesses have woken up to the massive opportunity the cloud presents.

Adoption of AWS in particular has grown massively, but there’s a catch: not everyone is maximising the potential of their cloud investment. AWS offers an incredibly powerful set of tools for a full cloud setup, but it requires careful optimisation to be used to its full potential. The cloud demands a new approach, one that can be broken down into four key requirements:

  1. DevOps - get the right mindset, culture and approach to deployment.

'DevOps' is one of those terms that has been endlessly hyped, so you’re probably sick of hearing it by now, but it remains a vital part of running a successful AWS platform. The traditional separation of  development and operations leads to inefficiency, resulting in production platforms which need costly support functions, frustration and clunky time consuming processes to run. Having the right tooling, skills and collaborative culture is key to getting this right, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands on upskilling your own staff. The cloud demands a whole new mindset, not just new skills. Outsourcing your DevOps requirement on an as-and-when basis can ensure that you have the right talent to hand at those critical times, but also that you’re not paying for it when the requirement isn’t there.

  1. FinOps - a data-driven optimisation process. Back in the days of having your own data centre, there was a clear process for the management of your IT systems: procurement would be in charge of software and hardware acquisition. Purchasing was a sequential and systematic process, based around upgrade cycles that were static. The cloud is different. The dynamic nature of cloud platforms means that this traditional system no longer applies, so you need to apply new thinking and new approaches to managing your spend. AWS gives you the opportunity to resize your instances based upon performance data, tagging meta-data and lifecycle knowledge to ensure you purchase and size the right products and Reserved Instances. .
  2. SecOps - take responsibility. When Cloudreach started work six years ago, there were still pretty serious objections to the cloud. How can we ensure our data is secure if we hand it over to the public cloud? Times may have changed, and AWS is a fantastically secure platform in itself, but as part of the well-documented AWS Shared Security Model it is vital to take your share of responsibility. We can offer practical help for all this under our SecOps banner and have teamed up with companies like Alert Logic are doing with their advanced threat management technologies.
  3. CorOps - manage it well. I know what you’re thinking: this is just a nicer way of saying 'get break/fix support'. That may have been enough back in the day, but with AWS comes the opportunity for a wholly different management system. In Cloudreach’s case, we group this under the title 'CorOps' and include integration with AWS Support, cloudy-ready monitoring, regular and emergency patching, platform nurturing and, yes, break/fix. Often, and especially when migrating a traditional data center to the cloud, companies are tempted to approach the management aspect in a similarly traditional way. The cloud is a transformation, not an iteration, and needs to be treated as such. AWS and other cloud services are based on the use of APIs and therefore require a whole new approach, even if 'old' processes like ITIL are still valid.

We’re so convinced of the necessity of these four areas that we’ve launched the Cloudreach Cloud Disciplines© as an industry standard for the optimisation of cloud platforms. Our flywheel is a great at-a-glance framework for seeing where improvements can be made in your business’s approach to the cloud.