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Cutting down AWS Costs - The Trek10 Way

How Trek10 is helping our clients optimize on costs without sacrificing efficiency and productivity.
Tony Reyes Trek10
Tony Reyes | Apr 02 2020

We’re living in unprecedented times at the moment and our country, indeed our world is facing some serious issues and challenges. Obviously, businesses are organisms that are now feeling the pain, and many are reacting. Every organization, now, if a humane one, is:

  • First ensuring that their people are safe and healthy
  • The next thing is that they are looking at is how they can help combat COVID-19 using their skills and resources
  • The third step, however, is realizing they are still a business and they are looking at how to continue bringing in revenue while also optimizing on costs without sacrificing efficiency and productivity

Trek10 is experiencing this “business ask” through our customer base, and this post has been created to demonstrate how impactful our experts are at reducing an Amazon Web Services bill, while at the same time, maintaining, or even upgrading performance. Like everything Trek10 does, it's through a combination of custom work and deep Amazon Web Services experience. This post digs deeper into the Trek10 ethos and how it is combined with the five pillars of the Amazon Web Services Well Architected Framework. We additionally share a couple of specific examples of how we leverage who we are, some of the tooling that we’ve built, how we operate, and what we believe in, into real cost savings for our customers. One specific example stands out, providing insight into savings just in the last few weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trek10 has always specialized 100% on Amazon Web Services (AWS), building a globally recognized brand around our expertise on the popular public cloud. We are a group that is mostly known for innovation on the platform. A few examples:

  • We believe we were one of the first (if not THE first) AWS Consulting partners to put a Lambda powered Serverless back-end environment into production for a Fortune 1000 company. In doing so, we provided a cost savings shift from costly cap-ex investments to an extremely surprisingly low op-ex cost modern AWS environment. The new environment also introduced efficient lifecycle management of our customer’s most valuable assets and a “re-usable” platform extendable to new lines of business
  • We helped GIA modernize its gem and diamond grading infrastructure which produced a much more efficient and agile back-end environment than ever before. This new environment demands a whole whopping number of zero dedicated engineers as the platform “largely self-monitors and self-heals”
  • We also are known for building extensible and scalable Internet of Things platforms that can be leveraged across different lines of business providing “digital connectivity” and simplifying data exchange between “things” and business processes, as explained by Jeff Garascia, Chief Innovation Officer at Marmon Group, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, at an AWS Summit

Everything we build is in the spirit of our Trek10 values, with one of those values being: “Be Practical and Efficient.” We are committed to building practical solutions quickly and efficiently, we are also ruthless about costs. We avoid building technical debt on “day one” so that we don’t spend time “figuring out” how and when to cut costs on “day two.” After all, the real value in giving the public cloud your “undifferentiated workloads” is that you can now spend time on innovating and creating new value to the business and customers. Spending too much time on cost optimization is unnecessary. It has to be done for any environment on an ongoing basis, but the more you do it, the higher the opportunity cost for the real stuff: the actual work that makes your business stand out.

While most of our initial engagements when we started the business six years ago were greenfield or new environment builds, over the course of the years, we’ve taken on many legacy systems. (Yes if you have not optimized your AWS environment in the last 12 months, you have a legacy AWS environment.) Once we took on these “legacy” customers, we heard this type of feedback consistently:

  • Customers were taking on the constant AWS innovation by themselves, and with so many releases, it's hard to keep up! Not only were their heads spinning, the natural reaction would be to go “back to what they know” or figured their time was better spent building value elsewhere
  • Customers were having a hard time procuring talent in a tight labor market and they could not train their staff fast enough on the paradigm shift to the cloud. While their talent valiantly worked to keep the current system up and running, the opportunity cost was a lack of time to advance into the new way of doing things in AWS. This was only exacerbated by continuous AWS innovation. Trek10 has recognized that this particular pain point needed further focus and has released our proven training program Trek10 Launch. Trek10 Launch focuses on a structured process with the goal being that cohort members earn their AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, one of the most coveted certifications in the public cloud industry
  • Their current vendors could not deliver value for a variety of reasons, and the “number of bodies being thrown at the problem” was not adding up to value delivered compared to the cost of those multiple “bodies.” In short, they were not getting what they desired from their “traditional System Integrator” vendors

When we took on these legacy systems, customers were delighted to learn that we not only had the chops to consult on a more “legacy type of build,” but we could also provide the consulting help they and their teams needed to modernize their infrastructure. Additionally, through our CloudOps practice (Trek10 calls “Managed Services,” CloudOps and is a certified AWS MSP partner), we could become their team to monitor and continually innovate their environment for them.

Inevitably, however, at some point in time after we would begin to engage, and after we fixed some of the egregious mistakes, the most glaring issue became cost and an overall lack of efficiency.

The AWS service provider market, especially when it comes to cost-cutting, is a unique business, mostly made up of consulting partners leveraging third party tooling that isn’t bad, but it’s not optimal either. Sometimes the tooling and what it promises, doesn’t match up to the reality of the workload demands for the business case. The net is that most consulting partners in the ecosystem are relying on tooling that can fail to deliver meaningful insight. Combine that sub-par tooling with a lack of multi-year experience on the AWS platform and the resultant cost-cutting is sub-optimal. Yes, some savings occur, but, oftentimes, overprovisioning for the sake of “playing it safe” is the norm. This is exactly the “value gap” where Trek10 has shown it can help and is helping today. Trek10 takes a custom approach with scripts developed over the years developing on the AWS platform to help provide meaningful insight and results quickly. These scripts and methods cover a variety of AWS products and services, and given these socio-economic times, Trek10 would like to share some recent results with customers for two customers.

Client 1: EBS Snapshot & AMI Triage

  1. By understanding the amount of IOPS provisioned vs. the amount of IOPS used, we were able to right-size the EBS volumes and reduce cost.
  2. Cost analysis: Have reduced the customer’s bill by an average of $9,650 per month in savings.
  3. Trek10 is consulting to reduce the cost in real-time during this critical period of the economic downturn: below is a visual that shows a reduction from $3,546 per day to $2,226 per day from 03/18/20 to 03/24/20; over the course of a week Trek10 cut down costs by $1,340 per day (38% savings).

Client 2: S3 Lifecycle Management Cost Savings

  1. Total cost for S3 was growing slowly and had just surpassed $2,000/month in February ‘20.
  2. Trek10 used its proprietary tooling and worked with the client to identify objects across buckets that no longer required Standard Storage. Trek10 then implemented lifecycle policies to transition these objects to Standard IA after 30 days and delete the objects after 6 months.
  3. The daily cost of S3 was $61 and is now steady at around $41 for daily savings of $20 or $7,200 yearly; this compounds to monthly savings of $600 and savings of $6,000 for the remainder of 2020 and total cost for end of March was $1,446 - our changes produced a 25% decrease in overall S3 costs from one month to the next.

Yet another very recent example of an IoT startup customer can be found here via this LinkedIn post, focused on compute by our fellow colleague, Nessan Harpur, providing further insight that Trek10 is attuned to the current economic situation.

The other main driver for providing these cost savings anchors another of our principles: “Don’t be satisfied with the state of the art.” We comprehensively believe that if we are building value for the customer, we are doing the right thing and establishing a long term mutually beneficial relationship. We do not worry if doing something of value to the customer reduces our job or gives us less to do. The simple fact that AWS continues to innovate will give us plenty to do, and we will be ready to provide value to the customer based on that fact alone. Additionally, helping a customer save some money allows them to reinvest in their business, providing more operational capital to use wisely for growth endeavors or investing in productivity or in times like these, marshaling resources to take care of their employees and help the greater good. We instead adopt an “infinite mindset” in understanding what is best for all of us and helping our customers innovate. That produces trust, the most valuable trading currency even also before COVID-19.

Let’s continue to be connected through communication with an “empathy first” and “infinite mindset” approach. We need that now more than ever, even if it’s just business and cloud chatter.

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