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3 Things Your FinOps Strategy for Controlling Kubernetes Costs Requires

People, processes, and technology are the crucial factors that determine an organization's ability to curtail unnecessary spending within their Kubernetes deployments.

5 Min Read
Kubernetes containers

As enterprises scale their use of Kubernetes (and with it, their Kubernetes-related cloud bills), operational efficiency and cost reduction quickly become top priorities. Those that have modernized their infrastructure and proven the value of their Kubernetes deployments are now pursuing FinOps optimization to get a grip on immediate and long-term overspending — but need to do so without sacrificing application performance. It can be a tricky line to toe.

The recently released 2023 State of FinOps survey from the FinOps Foundation sheds new light on the top challenges that teams face right now. The survey's findings showed that people, processes, and technology are the crucial factors that determine an organization's ability to curtail unnecessary spending within their Kubernetes deployments. Teams seeking to optimize their Kubernetes costs should aim to address each of these variables as part of their FinOps strategy — particularly at scale.

Effective FinOps Begins with People

Before an enterprise can benefit from more efficient processes and technology, Kubernetes cost optimization has to begin with cultural change. From management teams to ICs, commitment to — and trust in — FinOps execution is foundational to the program's success.

Related:How FinOps Can Help Optimize Cloud Spending

Building that trust doesn't always come easy. In the FinOps Foundation survey, 28% of respondents cited organizational adoption of FinOps itself as a challenge, matching the previous year's survey and indicating just how slow progress has been on this front. Leadership buy-in of FinOps also made respondents' list of top issues. To overcome these challenges, organizations must be careful to introduce FinOps in a way that makes each team's cost responsibilities unquestionably accurate, transparent, and fair.

In practice, that means equipping teams with easily accessible cost-monitoring data and insights that help them understand exactly when and how their activities produce wasteful costs. In other words, they should feel fully empowered to rein in those costs. When teams and leaders are informed and in control of their Kubernetes-related cloud spending, they're in a better position to accept their duties within a broader culture of cost responsibility — and more motivated to achieve meaningful reductions.

Carefully Introduce Fair and Effective FinOps Processes

Leading the way among the challenges identified in the State of FinOps survey was motivating teams to take action—nearly one-third of all respondents said it was difficult to empower engineering teams to take the necessary steps to meet FinOps goals. Introducing unit economics was the second-most cited FinOps challenge (28%), as teams work to accurately analyze and allocate costs and ROI across cloud infrastructure. In the same vein, the challenge of implementing FinOps governance and policies at scale was highlighted by 27% of respondents.

Related:4 Reasons Why Kubernetes Is So Popular

To achieve effective cost controls and win trust, enterprises should follow these FinOps best practices. First, build up to a chargeback strategy by beginning with a showback approach. Showbacks that provide each team with accurate and transparent reporting on the cloud and Kubernetes costs they're responsible for will help them appreciate their role in the organization's mission of improved cost efficiency.

Starting with showbacks can also mitigate the risk of sticker shock — the first time a team leader sees their team's Kubernetes spending report is often a negative experience. Telling team leaders that they need to foot the bill out of their own budgets from the outset is a recipe for anxiety, and could lead them to reject the process. Instead, give teams time to understand their costs and put their houses in order. Once teams and managers are fully on board, introduce chargebacks and tie them to performance metrics to incentivize teams to maintain efficiency and reinforce your cost-responsible culture.

Simplify Cost Optimization with the Right Technology Strategy

Speaking directly to cloud cost efficiency, State of FinOps survey respondents reported facing difficult challenges when it comes to reducing waste or unused resources (28%), accurate spend forecasting (24%), and full allocation of cloud spending (19%). Specific technology challenges such as enabling automation (18%) and container cost reporting (13%) are also top of mind right now on the FinOps front.

While Kubernetes itself makes it difficult to accurately allocate costs to teams, the right technology can bring spending into granular focus, and enable cost auditing and verification. Teams should have easy visibility into their cloud and Kubernetes usage and costs, all the way down to the level of CPU, RAM, GPU, storage, and network resources. Technology strategies should also define the owner of each deployment, namespace, and cluster, using labels enforced by an Open Policy Agent or admission controller webhook. When an issue arises, those labels make it clear which team owns it and needs to respond.

Actionable allocation data is essential, empowering teams to take clear-eyed steps to eliminate wasteful spending. For example, cost insights should light a path to right-sizing workloads and harnessing savings opportunities via reserved instances, optimized persistent storage, cluster pause and resume, and more. The right tools and technology should also expedite regular spending reviews, and provide automated alerting when they detect large or unexpected spikes in resource usage to facilitate timely action.

Overcome Kubernetes Cost Optimization Challenges with a Holistic Strategy

Putting Kubernetes-related cloud costs in check across an organization won't happen in a day. FinOps initiatives that focus on processes or technology alone often fail. But, by instead pursuing a holistic strategy that starts with people and trust — and then adds the right cost control processes and technology to support teams' needs — enterprises are better set up for near- and long-term cost optimization. The result? The ability to scale your Kubernetes implementation with the confidence that teams aren't paying higher cloud bills than they need to be.

Stacy Tumarkin is the CFO at Kubecost.

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