Leading Insurance & Financial Services Provider Drives Enterprise-Wide Accountability in the Cloud

Cloudability Visibility

“The bill, what they actually get charged, matches to the penny with Cloudability. So that’s never a discussion. It’s more of: Where did this charge come from? Who generated it? How can we stop it? How can we lower it? Our team helps track those down.”

Executive Summary

Amid an enterprise-level cloud migration befitting a Fortune 500 company, a leading insurance and financial services provider looks to Apptio Cloudability to give them the accountability and transparency for complete chargeback. Fueled by Cloudability’s machine learning-based recommendations and customized views, they’ve created a FinOps culture that’s led them to a 70% RI coverage rate and annual savings of 30%.

The Challenge

Finding the Right Tool for a Fortune 500 Cloud Migration

A Fortune 500 insurance and financial services provider with a 5,000-strong technology team spread out across the globe (with massive supporting infrastructure) is, like many enterprise companies, in the process of migrating to the cloud to increase development speed and drive innovation, such as being able to take an on-prem procurement process from 6-8 weeks to less than two hours on the cloud.

A migration of that magnitude involves multiple variables and processes that need to be accounted for in order to build the dependable architecture necessary to run vital systems. Migrations of this size routinely take 3-5 years—even longer if an organization doesn’t have a solid FinOps practice in place for cloud financial management.

That is precisely why they took the time to set up that practice and find the right tool at the beginning of their journey. Their first approach was to evaluate the native tools from AWS and Azure, but there were some key complications:

  1. By their nature, vendor-native tools are not multi-cloud, forcing the team to switch between tools and spend time reconciling the two.
  2. Native tools lacked the ability to customize mapping to fit their organization, making it impossible for development teams and business units to see only their spend.
  3. They were unable to use the native tools to successfully allocate 100% of cloud costs to the development teams and business units to achieve chargeback.

The Solution

After evaluating multiple tools, the team chose Apptio Cloudability, citing these specific advantages:

  • Total Cost of Cloud from a single pane of glass that includes all cloud vendors.
  • Tag & Business Mappings to reach 100% allocation and seamless chargeback of cloud costs.
  • Flexible Reports & Role-Based Views to ensure every team gets complete visibility into their spend—and only their spend.
  • Machine Learning RI Recommendations to give visibility, control, and options to explore and capitalize on savings.

Driven by Cloudability power-users and major contributors to the non-profit FinOps Foundation, this FinOps team continuously proves the value of cloud investment at their organization.

Viewing the Total Cost of Cloud

Apptio Cloudability ingests the provider’s cost and usage data directly from AWS and Azure. Based on per-second billing of thousands of resources, these massive billing files are impossible to wade through on a spreadsheet. Utilizing FinOps best practices, the provider’s team created a comprehensive tagging strategy early in the process, an essential step due to the fact that tagging isn’t retroactive. By making sure every last cost is tagged from the beginning, the team ensures the integrity of their cloud spend provenance.

To ensure the adoption of that tagging strategy, they once again turned to the best practices of FinOps to create a culture throughout their engineering team. Utilizing a combination of automation, cultural pressure, and Tag Mapping (an Apptio Cloudability feature), the team ensured that every possible resource was correctly tagged. And a big part of that was education.

“We have a resource on our team dedicated to training and education on the tool. She put together a ton of training material about the reports and how to use widgets. She spent literally three months going door to door to every application area, scheduling an hour, and walking all their people through the tool. It was a massive widespread rollout,”— Cloud Optimization Consultant

By combining FinOps with Apptio Cloudability, they ensured all of their cloud was visible in a single pane of glass.

Using Flexible Reports & Mappings for Chargeback

The provider utilizes a chargeback model where teams are presented with a report of their cloud spend which is then sent on to the IT Finance department. The goal is to make sure that every last penny spent on the cloud is correctly allocated and charged back to the right department, business unit, or team — and that includes shared services.

To accomplish this, the team turned to Apptio Cloudability’s Business Mapping feature to map the resources more directly to their organizational structure, regardless of the source. Using user-defined rules, Business Mapping can map resources from multiple clouds—including untaggable resources—into the correct reports or buckets.

But how to find the costs that aren’t mapped or tagged? That’s where the team turned to features like Apptio Cloudability’s Cost Explorer and Tag Explorer. These features map costs by tags and business mappings, including flagging costs that aren’t allocated to specific buckets or are untagged. Using this report, the FinOps team could go back to the Technology team to figure out the best way to get those resources tagged.

Once everything was correctly mapped and tagged, chargeback is as simple as running a report in Apptio Cloudability, enabling them to achieve 100% cloud cost allocation.

The Results

Giving Teams What They Need with Role-Based Views

The provider has 500+ Apptio Cloudability users, which translates to a wide variety of teams who need to see a wide variety of data. The FinOps team kept teams focused by using Apptio Cloudability’s Views feature, which allows admins to define specific dashboards and access based on roles or teams. With these defined Views, the Technology teams only see the budgets and costs they can control, as well as directly see the results their actions have on their spend. This kind of enablement is essential to FinOps best practices, and it helps drive accountability to the edges of the organization.

By combining Views with the 100% allocation and chargeback, the teams not only have complete visibility into their spend—they’re able to take action to avoid costs and free up investment for innovation.

Buying RIs with Recommendations Backed by Machine Learning

Purchasing Reserved Instances (RIs) is a tricky business based on predicting future usage to lock in lower rates. Trained by $11 billion of managed spend, the RI Planner feature in Apptio Cloudability uses machine learning to analyze current usage, predict future usage, and recommend RI purchases.

When the provider’s team first started with Apptio Cloudability, they hadn’t really made RI purchases. Following FinOps best practices, they started small, utilizing the RI Planner for a few strategic purchases. Those purchases worked out perfectly. Following FinOps best practices again, they expanded the program.

“I started looking at it once a month, but now I do it about once a week. I really dive in hard, not only at the recommendation, but also looking at the actual details in Cloudability.”— Cloud Optimization Consultant

Before long, they achieved an RI coverage rate of 70%. Even better, those RIs are 99% utilized, meaning there’s no waste from RIs being bought that were never used.

By using Apptio Cloudability and FinOps, the provider saved 30% of their annual cloud costs

At the time of writing, much of the migration was smaller applications, innovations, and greenfield projects. But now that the cloud program is successful, the migration team is building out budgets and forecasts for bigger initiatives and system-critical applications.

By using Apptio Cloudability, the FinOps team is accelerating the provider’s migration into the cloud, fueling innovation and driving optimization.

Additional Resources