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Strategies for Azure cost optimization

While the advantages of the cloud are plentiful, unmanaged cloud spending can escalate rapidly. Taking a proactive and continuous approach to cloud cost optimization is crucial, allowing organizations to significantly reduce cloud spending without compromising service performance and reliability.

In this article, we explore strategies to optimize your cloud costs using Microsoft Azure, a leading hyperscaler cloud. We provide insights into making informed investments in Azure services and offer guidance on aligning your cloud strategy with business goals. Additionally, gain insight into hidden Azure costs, and alternative cost-efficient cloud providers like DigitalOcean that enable businesses to harness the full potential of the cloud for innovation, growth, and success.

Looking beyond Microsoft Azure? Switch to DigitalOcean, a streamlined cloud platform designed to improve developer and SMB productivity. Simplify your cloud strategy with transparent pricing, robust support, and purpose-built functionality tailored to your needs.

Discover how DigitalOcean can empower your business and streamline development workflows, whether complementing or replacing Azure.

What is Azure cost optimization?

Azure cost optimization is a strategic approach to managing and minimizing expenses within the Azure cloud platform. The objective is to maximize the utility of cloud capabilities while avoiding unnecessary expenditures. This approach entails employing various techniques and best practices to align Azure usage with specific business goals, ensuring optimal value for your investment.

Integral to Azure cost optimization is the continuous monitoring, analysis, and adjustment of Azure resources. Vigilant observation of the Azure environment facilitates the identification of potential cost-saving opportunities, including underused resources and inefficient configurations. Systematic analysis can reveal usage patterns and trends, allowing for informed decision-making about your company’s cloud expenditure.

Azure cost optimization isn’t solely about cost reduction; it’s about achieving an equilibrium between cost and performance. The focus is on extracting the most value from Azure resources, using the right resources at the right time and price.

Why is Azure cost optimization important?

According to DigitalOcean’s cloud optimization report, over 53% of businesses have taken active measures to optimize their cloud spend. Here are three key reasons why Azure cloud cost optimization is crucial:

1. Maximize ROI and control spending

  • Reduce wasted resources: Azure offers a variety of resources, but underutilized ones can inflate your bill. Optimization helps you identify and right-size instances, shut down unused resources, and negotiate better pricing for predictable workloads. This frees up the budget for innovation and expansion.

  • Prevent bill shock: With pay-as-you-go pricing, it’s easy to lose track of costs. Optimization tools provide granular cost visibility, alerts for anomalies, and budget management features. This helps keep your spending under control and avoids unexpected spikes.

  • Improve resource utilization: Optimizing resource allocation ensures you’re using the right instances for the job. This leads to better performance, faster processing times, and reduced costs compared to over-provisioned or under-provisioned resources.

2. Enhance operational efficiency and sustainability

  • Automate resource management: Manually managing resources can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Optimization tools automate tasks like scaling, scheduling, and shutdown based on usage patterns. This saves time, reduces human error, and optimizes resource usage.

  • Promote sustainable cloud practices: By reducing unused resources and optimizing energy consumption, Azure cost optimization fosters a more environmentally friendly cloud strategy. This aligns with sustainability goals and contributes to responsible resource management.

  • Increase agility and responsiveness: Optimized environments are adaptable and can handle fluctuating workloads efficiently. This allows you to respond quickly to changing business needs, scale resources up or down as required, and avoid performance bottlenecks.

3. Gain cost transparency and efficient governance

  • Enhanced decision-making: Cost transparency gives you insights into resource usage and spending patterns. This allows for informed decisions about optimizing your cloud infrastructure and allocating resources based on business needs and ROI.

  • Improve cost awareness and accountability: By assigning costs to specific teams or projects, you foster a culture of cost awareness and accountability. This encourages responsible resource usage and prevents wasteful spending across departments.

  • Strengthen cloud governance: Implementing cost optimization best practices and leveraging Azure policies enables you to set spending limits, enforce usage guidelines, and prevent unauthorized resources from incurring unforeseen costs. This strengthens your overall cloud governance framework.

10 cost optimization strategies for Azure

Microsoft Azure’s Well-Architected Framework, a set of guiding principles that you can use to improve the quality of your industry cloud workloads, emphasizes early generation of incremental business value. The five pillars of architecture efficiency include- reliability, security, cost optimization, operational excellence, and performance. In this section, we provide cost optimization strategies for Azure, offering techniques for making strategic investments in the right Azure services and tools.

1. Leverage Azure cost management tools

Effectively managing cloud costs is a complex task, and Microsoft Azure offers a suite of tools to address this challenge. The Azure portal features Cost Management, a free tool that tracks spending across individual Azure services, provides future bill forecasts, and issues alerts for budget overruns. Additionally, Azure provides tools like Azure Advisor, Azure Cost Management + Billing, Cost Calculator, Cost Analysis, Azure Budgets, and Cloudyn. These resources facilitate cost planning and optimization, allowing users to analyze data, save costs on Azure services, and track resource usage and expenditure for Azure and other cloud platforms.

2. Shift workloads to containers

If your current applications are hosted on VMs, transitioning to containers can result in cost savings for cloud hosting. Containers are more efficient in resource utilization compared to VMs, as they incur less overhead from virtualization, though they can be complex to set up and require knowledge of systems such as Docker and Kubernetes. This efficiency allows for the deployment of more containers on a single host.

For instance, consider a workload consisting of 12 servers, each running on a distinct Azure VM. By adopting containers through the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), you can consolidate these servers onto 3-4 VMs, leading to a reduction in costs.

The pricing structure for AKS per host server aligns with standard Azure VM pricing, resulting in potential savings of up to 75% on hosting expenses. Note: opting for an uptime Service Level Agreement (SLA) incurs an additional cost of $0.10 per hour.

Additional tip: B-Series VMs on Azure, designed for applications with intermittent usage patterns, provide cost savings ranging from 15–55% compared to equivalent VMs. To optimize costs, assess workloads that require periodic high performance or throughput and can be migrated to B-Series VMs. These VMs operate at a low, baseline level of CPU power, allowing users to accumulate credits during periods of low demand. These credits can then be utilized during peak periods, enabling efficient cost management.

3. Manage bandwidth pricing

Limiting data transfer fees across private endpoints can be a good strategy to optimize Azure egress costs. Minimizing the count of Public IPs in an architecture offers benefits in both cost and security. Grouping systems that engage in substantial data exchanges within the same cloud region is key. Start with an evaluation of the cloud provider’s transfer fees, and subsequently adjust the architecture to reduce necessary data transfers.

For instance, relocate on-premises applications frequently accessing cloud-hosted data to the cloud, eliminating unnecessary hops. Transfers from Azure services to Azure CDN incur no charges, making Azure CDN a viable option for applications with high outbound data transfer needs, such as streaming services. Implementing rules or metrics, such as restricting data transfer expenditure to no more than 15% of overall cloud spending, can further optimize cost management.

4. Identify hidden Azure costs

Microsoft Azure costs are not uniform, contingent on specific services and resource consumption. Pricing varies based on selected services, usage patterns, and pricing models. Refer to Microsoft’s product pricing page for the latest pricing information in your country’s currency.

Hidden costs may arise with Azure services; charges for storage or data transfer can apply even when services are inactive. Additionally, default automated scaling in Azure may incur extra charges for unused resources.

Microsoft provides a calculator for estimating Azure service costs, but it may not cover all scenarios, leading to unforeseen business costs. Learn how to identify and avoid Azure hidden costs to prevent unexpected charges.

5. Harness serverless computing

Deploying software as a serverless function allows it to run on-demand, triggered by user-defined events. With this approach, charges are incurred only during the actual execution of the software. Serverless computing is particularly advantageous for handling intermittently occurring compute-intensive workloads. It is often more cost-effective than hosting the service on a VM, where charges are typically tied to the continuous running of the VM, regardless of its utilization. This approach is especially beneficial for scenarios involving sporadic and resource-intensive computational tasks.

However, since shifting to serverless might incur additional costs, setting up autoscaling enables your applications to adjust their capacity based on workload demand. With autoscaling, Azure can automatically add or remove resources such as VMs based on predefined rules and metrics. For instance, you can set rules to increase the number of virtual machines when CPU usage exceeds a certain threshold and decrease them during periods of low activity.

6. Organize Azure resources with tags

Resource tagging is valuable for identifying and managing cloud resources. Tags can include information such as the user profile and the organizational cost center to which it is assigned. Administrators can easily list and search for resources based on these tags, facilitating efficient resource management. This strategy helps track active resources and pinpoint workloads that can be deactivated to minimize costs.

For instance, consider tagging VMs designated for development and testing purposes. During periods like company-wide holidays, administrators can swiftly identify and shut down resources with this specific tag, providing cost savings during periods of reduced utilization.

7. Make use of development and testing pricing

Azure provides discounts for running your workloads if they are used for development and testing, achieving potential savings of up to 57% for a typical web app dev/test environment running SQL Database and App Service. Utilize the software included in your Visual Studio subscription for dev/test activities on Azure Virtual Machines at no additional cost. Provide user acceptance testers with free access to dev/test environments, even without Visual Studio subscriptions.

To further reduce costs for dev/test workloads, consider opting for one- or three-year plans. One-year reservations offer significant savings, such as running Windows and SQL Server VMs without incurring charges for Microsoft software (same price as Linux instances). Additionally, realize savings of up to 65% on Azure SQL Managed Instance business-critical tier, covering eight virtual core managed instances, elastic pools, and single databases.

8. Leverage storage tiering

Azure Blob Storage pricing provides various tiers, including Premium, Hot, Cool, and Archive, each offering distinct cost structures per gigabyte-month. Additionally, users can choose from multiple redundancy options, with lower redundancy levels translating to reduced storage costs.

To economize, consider relocating less sensitive or infrequently accessed data to a lower-cost tier or opting for a less redundant storage configuration. This strategic move allows for significant cost savings. Implementing storage tiering automation directly into your applications ensures that data less frequently accessed is automatically migrated to a more cost-efficient storage tier.

To optimize costs, customers must grasp the genuine expenses associated with traditional storage and utilize Azure storage for increased efficiency. Azure file storage, for instance, can slash Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by up to 70% when compared to conventional storage solutions. This article provides insights into the actual costs of traditional storage and elucidates how Azure File storage can yield substantial savings of up to 70%.

9. Right-size resources and services

Optimizing Azure resource deployment involves precisely aligning cloud resources on the Microsoft Azure platform with the specific needs of your applications and workloads. This process, known as rightsizing, focuses on adjusting the size and configuration of virtual machines, storage, and other Azure services to improve performance, cost-effectiveness, and overall resource utilization. By thoroughly understanding factors like demand patterns and seasonality, organizations can effectively employ techniques and tools to forecast and manage cloud expenditures.

10. Choose the right Azure service plan

Achieving significant expense reductions involves choosing and implementing the right Azure savings plan for cloud computing. According to Microsoft, this plan helps organizations decrease spending on selected services by up to 65%. Notably, the plan can be customized to align with specific project requirements, offering the flexibility of choosing between one-year or three-year term versions. Moreover, If your infrastructure relies on Windows Server, and SQL Servers, or includes a Linux subscription, you can save money by utilizing Azure Hybrid Benefit. By tailoring the plan to meet specific project needs, cost data, and selecting an appropriate term duration, businesses can achieve substantial savings in their cloud computing expenses.

While all of these tools can help mitigate high costs from Microsoft Azure, implementing them will take time and resources, and larger companies may even dedicate specific employees to Azure cost management. Another option is exploring the many Azure alternatives available to cloud users, including DigitalOcean.

Optimize your cloud costs with DigitalOcean: A reliable Azure alternative

DigitalOcean stands as a cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Azure, particularly appealing to small to medium-sized businesses. Our pricing transparency and consistent, competitively priced bandwidth options across regions make it an advantageous choice for companies with global operations or those engaged in bandwidth-intensive activities such as streaming or gaming applications.

Choosing simplicity and cost-effectiveness, DigitalOcean offers a diverse array of services designed to significantly reduce monthly expenses without requiring intricate cost-saving strategies.

  • Transparent pricing model: DigitalOcean adopts a straightforward pricing structure, charging a flat rate of $0.01 per GB for data transfer. This clarity enhances budgeting, providing a more predictable cost landscape.

  • Generous bandwidth allowances: Depending on the selected Droplet plan, businesses can avail themselves of monthly outbound bandwidth allowances ranging from 500 GiB to 11,000 GiB. Bandwidth is also pooled between Droplets, accommodating businesses of varying sizes with distinct requirements.

  • Competitive overage rates: In instances where data transfer needs surpass the allowances, DigitalOcean imposes a flat rate of $0.01 per GiB for additional outbound data transfer over the public network.

  • Mitigation of vendor lock-in: DigitalOcean addresses the challenge of high egress fees associated with vendor lock-in. By offering low and predictable egress pricing, DigitalOcean facilitates seamless data transfer and provider switching without incurring exorbitant costs.

  • Bandwidth pooling: Through the operation of multiple Droplets, DigitalOcean consolidates bandwidth allowances. This means that deploying more VMs increases the collective bandwidth cap, providing greater flexibility and potential cost savings.

  • Free internal data transfer: Internal data transfers between DigitalOcean Droplets via a virtual private network do not impact bandwidth allowances or result in additional charges. This feature is particularly beneficial for businesses with substantial internal data traffic.

  • Advanced offerings: Beyond standard Droplet VMs, DigitalOcean offers Premium CPU-Optimized virtual machines tailored for CPU-intensive applications, Managed Kubernetes, Managed Databases, and diverse storage options—all competitively priced.

  • Support and resources: DigitalOcean offers SMB-friendly customer support, extensive documentation, and tutorials. This user-friendly approach simplifies navigation, especially for those new to cloud computing.

Experience the simplicity of billing and predictable costs with DigitalOcean in comparison to Azure. Bid farewell to the complexity and unexpected charges.

Sign up for DigitalOcean today.

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