AWS FinOps – Saving Money or Making Money?

How to regain financial and operational control and ensure a fully optimized AWS cloud environment (including insights on AWS gp3)

We’re working in an era where business moves at lightening speeds. Technology has drastically increased our ability to innovate, our speed to market, and the ease with which we can scale up or down in response to ever-changing needs. But with this enhanced agility and on-demand performance comes big tradeoffs in the form of financial accountability and corporate governance. Gone are the days when a staff member would fill out a purchase order, submit it to accounting for approval, and wait days (or even weeks) for the greenlight to make the purchase. Our on-demand expectations have phased out the spending analysis step from the procurement model.

In few places is this truer than cloud environments. All too often, inefficiencies are not uncovered until after the damage has been done and we’ve wasted significant portions of our -cloud budget on needless overspending. And let’s be clear:  wasting money means you’re not making money. This is why there is so much buzz surrounding FinOps these days. Short for financial optimization, FinOps is the practice of bringing financial accountability to the variable spend model of cloud, enabling distributed teams to make business trade-offs between speed, cost and quality. There are a variety of ways to optimize cloud spending, such as contracting and other savings programs, reserved instances and infrastructure add-ons that can boost efficiencies.

Optimizing AWS Cloud Performance

AWS is one cloud provider that consistently launches new technologies to increase the cost effectiveness of its cloud environments. The R&D teams at AWS are always looking for new ways to make their tools more functional and less costly. One of the most recent products is gp3, a new type of solid-state drive (SSD) Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume that lets you provision performance independent of storage capacity and offers a 20% lower price than existing gp2 volume types. The new gp3 volume type is designed for use with Amazon EC2 instances, an elastic compute cloud where virtual servers are procured as either dedicated servers or as part of a physical server. With gp3 volumes, customers can scale IOPS (input/output operations per second) and throughput without having to provision additional block storage capacity. This means customers only pay for the storage they need.

We find that most users are spending two-thirds of their budget on their EC2 product, and within that, about 40% of the spend is EBS related. The first step in optimizing this spend is to gain visibility across your entire environment and identify areas of high or rapid growth, then use best practices to optimize and contain your costs. Some ways to do this are by deleting or converting unattached disk storage, deleting old snapshots and terminating unused assets. Once you have done this initial analysis and clean-up, you can start taking advantage of savings programs. Based on your historical cost and usage data, AWS can recommend savings plan types, terms and payment options.

While it’s true that AWS and other cloud providers offer many ways for customers to save, it’s not always easy and can be quite time consuming to achieve results. Organizations often find that they don’t have the manpower to stay on top of cloud-cost management.

To help reduce the complexity of financial optimization, Lightstream offers a proprietary tool called Lightstream Connect that provides a holistic view of your technology spend and network through a single pane of glass. Lightstream Connect is not a new offering, however it was recently enhanced in early 2021 in response to AWS’s gp3 release. The first to market this type of functionality, Lightstream’s automated tool analyzes usage patterns and drives to gather statistics and generate a concise report of recommendations for infrastructure modifications that can increase savings.

Realizing Your Potential Savings

Most organizational leaders aren’t aware of just how much they can save by -optimizing their cloud environments. In fact, it’s not uncommon for businesses to cut as much as 20% of their monthly spend without jeopardizing security or performance. Financial and IT professionals who either aren’t sure how to go about taking advantage of these savings or don’t have time to devote to it should find a partner like Lightstream that is an AWS Advanced Consulting and Microsoft Gold Partner and invests in the tools and talent necessary to secure and optimize cloud environments. Lightstream helps customers re-incorporate financial, technology, operational and security accountability -back into cloud spending either by making it easier for them to monitor and assess their own environments, or by removing the burden entirely and doing it for them.

Lightstream has helped many customers to achieve -cloud optimization. With ongoing management of their cloud environments, on finance alone we save our customers millions of dollars every year. One customer was spending $1.2 million per month in AWS. Their IT team didn’t have the time, resources or visibility they needed to understand exactly where that money was being spent. Upon assessing their environments, Lightstream discovered that they lacked tags and partitions. So, we assisted them in a tagging strategy and determined that they were actually losing money on one of their products. Our Cloud Managed Services (CMS) team optimized the product to -improve its performance and make it profitable, ultimately saving the corporation over $1.5 million annually.

Lightstream offers a free assessment to identify which EBS workloads you should migrate to gp3 volumes and calculate your potential savings using our proprietary EBS optimization analytics application. To speak with a representative about having your environment assessed at no cost to you, contact us today.

Software Company Achieves International Growth and Ongoing Innovation with Help from Lightstream and AWS

Lightstream Cloud Managed Services gives Entrata the tools to successfully migrate to the cloud and optimize the operational, security and financial aspects of its environment

Business Challenge

Since its inception in 2003, Entrata has prided itself on developing innovative solutions for the property management industry. That innovation is what allows the company to deliver on its pledge to make life easier for property owners, managers and residents. From property management software that simplifies accounting and purchasing to complete automation that enables remote lighting, locks, thermostats, Entrata’s suite of products is as comprehensive as it is state of the art.

Entrata first connected with Lightstream in 2011 as the company’s IT leaders sought to upgrade network connectivity and performance while reducing costs. In the years that followed, Entrata’s IT team came to rely on Lightstream for help overcoming technological challenges and improving the efficiency, reliability and security of their IT operations. As the company expanded and technology evolved, it became evident that moving certain applications and resources to the cloud would be beneficial to the organization and its customers. Migrating from on-premises to the cloud would allow the company to innovate faster and at a global scale.

Once again, Entrata turned to long-time partner Lightstream for assistance with this migration. After selecting AWS as its cloud service provider (CSP), the next step was ensuring that the best practices, tools, expertise, financial incentives and partner ecosystem offered by AWS were implemented to make cloud adoption easier. Lightstream’s extensive experience with the AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP) – a comprehensive and proven cloud migration program – enabled its engineers to provide Entrata with expert guidance through the often-complicated process. MAP consists of a three-phase journey that helps customers leverage the performance, security and reliability of the cloud while reducing complexity and costs.

The migration was a success, and Entrata quickly saw the enhanced innovation, elevated customer experience and digital transformation possible within the cloud. Before long Entrata’s director of engineering knew the time was right to migrate even more applications and resources to the cloud. Upon discussing this with his Lightstream representatives, he also understood that there was an opportunity to optimize the financial, technical, security and operational aspects of their current environment.

Solution

As a platinum-level Lightstream Cloud Managed Services customer, Entrata began taking advantage of the tools that ensure the ideal management and optimization of its cloud environment. This comprehensive advisory service also lifts some of the burden off of the internal IT department, as Lightstream’s partnership with AWS and its AWS Advance Consulting certification assists the organization in determining the ideal migration path for its additional infrastructure and applications.

To maximize Entrata’s savings with AWS, Lightstream assisted with the negotiation and management of the company’s contracting for AWS Enterprise Discount Plan (EDP). Additionally, Lightstream adjusted Entrata’s Elastic Block Store (EBS) Provisioned IOPS and EBS-Optimized instances to optimize its storage within Amazon EC2. Provisioned IOPS are an EBS volume type designed to deliver predictable, high performance for I/O intensive workloads, such as database applications, that rely on consistent and fast response times. Ongoing management assures that the IOPS are periodically adjusted according to the organization’s actual needs and avoids overprovisioning.

Business Outcomes

The ongoing optimization of the operational, security and financial aspects of Entrata’s cloud environment is currently saving the company approximately 20% of their total AWS spend per month. Quarterly meetings between Lightstream and Entrata allow the teams to come together to review infrastructure performance and provides the company with ongoing recommendations on what actions can be taken to continue to save money and enhance efficiency and security.

Entrata has steadily grown from a software development startup to a successful user experience organization offering a full suite of services that takes the complexity out of property management. Throughout the years, the company’s relationship with Lightstream has evolved from that of a basic vendor/client exchange to a true technology partnership.

Entrata is currently expanding into international territories, a growth strategy that has been made possible due to its cloud infrastructure. Despite the economic downturn of 2020-2021, Entrata has continued to flourish and increase business. One opportunity the organization may want to consider in the near future is to migrate its gp2 volumes to Amazon’s new gp3 volumes, which are the next-generation general purpose SSD volumes for EBS that would enable Entrata to provision performance independent of storage capacity and take advantage of up to 20% lower price-point per GB than its existing gp2 volumes. As the organization moves forward in its cloud journey, Lightstream is standing by to help the company achieve continued innovation and growth.

Award-Winning California School District Provides Students and Families with Continuous Access to School Resources in Azure

Lightstream helps Twin Rivers Unified School District implement the power of Azure cloud computing for its parent portal

Business Challenge

Twin Rivers Unified School District is the 27th largest public K-12 school system in California, serving nearly 27,000 students in northern Sacramento County at 52 school sites. With a long list of honors and accomplishments for its students, teachers, staff, schools and programs, Twin Rivers prides itself on an unwavering commitment to its community.

One of the primary methods of communication between the district and the families it serves is its parent portal. The Aeries Parent Portal is a website and app where parents and guardians can track student assignments, see grades, exchange information and messages with their student’s teachers and school, and make payments to their child’s in-school meal account. Parents need access to this portal on a daily basis, but when internet access or power went down at Twin Rivers’ main site, portal access would also be suspended.

The administrators at Twin Rivers understood that they had to find a way to ensure uninterrupted portal access to families. The district’s manager of network and systems operations knew the answer was in the cloud, so he attended Microsoft Azure’s Cloud Foundation Workshop hosted by Lightstream engineers and architects. There he gained a fundamental understanding and best practices for deploying and managing applications and services in the cloud as well as insight into the valuable solutions and tool sets available to Twin Rivers.

Solution

Lightstream’s extensive experience providing educational institutions with the tools they need to keep their systems up, running and secure regardless of external factors proved valuable to Twin Rivers. The district held follow-up consultations with their Lightstream team to discuss the deployment of Active Directory Federation Servers (AD FS) within Microsoft Azure. AD FS provides simplified, secured identity federation and Web single sign-on (SSO) capabilities. A global load balancing service could seamlessly reroute portal traffic through MS Azure in any instances where traffic is not able to pass through on-premises servers.

This would enable users of the parent portal to login using on-premises credentials and access all resources in cloud – even if power or internet access is lost at Twin Rivers’ main site.

Business Outcomes

Since early 2020, Twin Rivers’ highly available AD FS infrastructure has ensured uninterrupted access to portal resources and services both on-premises and in the cloud. The solution is easily scalable, so should Twin Rivers require additional performance, it can migrate to more powerful machines with just a few clicks in Azure. Moreover, Azure’s simplified infrastructure management options provide the district’s manager of network and systems operations with an easy and hassle-free method for maintaining solution redundancy.

Twin Rivers is realizing the benefits of cloud computing and its ability to help the district deliver on its mission to facilitate effective and powerful communication practices that build trust and support for its students, families, teachers and staff. The AD FS cloud infrastructure offered a relatively easy solution to Twin Rivers’ portal access challenge, but as the K-12 industry is evolving to become more collaborative, student-centric and data-driven, the district may soon find itself in need of more extensive optimization of its IT systems and platforms.

As the district moves forward in an ever-evolving industry, Lightstream is prepared to draw on its broad educational technology expertise to ensure that Twin Rivers doesn’t just survive but thrives with the support it needs for future innovation and transformation.

Contact Information

To learn more about how Lightstream can help you identify, understand and implement the optimal solutions you need to modernize operations and build your institution’s roadmap to the future, visit www.lightstream.tech.

 

Worldwide Medical Corporation Achieves Significant Growth, Advances in Technology and Cost Savings in AWS

Lightstream becomes an extension of the IT team, delivering ongoing support, savings and optimization of its AWS cloud environment

Business Challenge

This medical corporation is a global developer and marketer of medical devices and software solutions that help advance emergency care and save lives, while increasing clinical and operational efficiencies. At the core of the company’s mission is the commitment to grow by remaining focused, building on their technology leadership and providing unique high-quality products through worldwide distribution.

The company’s IT leadership became aware in 2015 that migrating to a cloud environment would give them the agility and innovation they needed to carry out that mission well into the future. So, they partnered with Lightstream to design and implement their first AWS infrastructure. Soon thereafter the company designated Lightstream as its AWS reseller in order to take advantage of additional discounts the provider was able to obtain for them. For the next four years the company relied on Lightstream to perform quarterly analyses of the company’s cloud performance and provide advice on its technical optimization strategy.

By early 2020, the company’s IT team had become overburdened with the day-to-day management of its cloud environment. Their hands-on approach had become cumbersome and was pulling the team’s focus away from their core mission to build on their technology leadership. On top of that, cloud spending had become exorbitant and they lacked the internal resources to uncover and remedy inefficiencies. The IT management team knew it was time for a change, so they once again turned to Lightstream for help finding ways to overcome these challenges.

Solution

Lightstream’s first recommendation was to enter into to an AWS Enterprise Discount Program (EDP) contract to allow the company to take advantage of additional savings. The next step would be to start utilizing Lightstream’s Cloud Managed Services (CMS) to capitalize on the ongoing optimization of the financial, security, technological and operational aspects of its cloud environment. Entrusting Lightstream to procure cloud services on its behalf and relying on the provider to do some of the heavy lifting in terms of engineering and professional services would free up the IT team to focus on its core competencies. And the recommended Platinum service level contract would essentially add a certified Lightstream cloud engineer to the company’s workforce.

Lightstream created and manages the company’s cloud environment using best practices provided by AWS Control Tower. This ensures a well-architected multi-account environment and the tools to govern AWS workloads with rules for security, operations and internal compliance. Lightstream works with AWS to ensure that the company receives the ideal storage performance and cost, which is currently EC2 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud – a level that gives the company the ability to rent virtual computers on which to run apps.

Lightstream’s CMS ensures maintenance of cloud-native security controls and provides guidance on overall security as well as comprehensive visibility across its cloud infrastructure. This enables protection for state and activity monitoring, turning insight to action while meeting compliance demands.

Business Outcomes

Ongoing Cloud Optimization

The company’s procurement of Lightstream CMS has allowed it to return its focus back to advancing the company’s technology leadership. Weekly meetings between the company’s IT professionals and its dedicated Lightstream team provide insight into the ongoing optimization of the financial, technical and operational aspects of its cloud environment.

Cloud Cost Savings and GP3 Migration

By entering into an AWS EDP contract, the company saved nearly $200,000.00 in cloud expenses in 2020. Lightstream is currently working with the company to iron out the terms of its upcoming contract renewal, which promises even greater savings for the medical device company in the coming months and years. Lightstream is also upgrading the company to Amazon’s newly introduced GP3 storage volume in order to take advantage of higher volumes at a 20% lower cost.

Supporting Business Growth

The company has achieved exponential growth in the last several years, most recently expanding into Europe and Asia. As it continues to build on its technology leadership and accomplish worldwide distribution of its life-saving products, Lightstream will be there to support the company every step of the way.

Lightstream Launches the Complification Podcast Series

Salt Lake City, UT, February 10, 2021 – Lightstream, a leader in cloud security, network transformation, and managed services, today announced the launch of its new podcast series: Complification. The series streams on Apple and Spotify and is available on Lightstream’s website.

Complification is defined in the Urban Dictionary as complicating an issue that has a simple solution. The Lightstream Complification Podcast Series sheds light on that notion for Information Technology (IT) professionals. It features experts and thought leaders in cloud, security, and networking and dives into how organizations are adding complexity to their IT, and what to do about it. The first four episodes include:

So Many Tools, So Little Time

  • More than ever, IT departments are being burdened by securing and retaining talent, procuring and maintaining toolsets, and overcoming budgetary constraints. Lightstream’s Mark Feil discusses why IT leaders should be rethinking deployment of best-of-breed management tools and pushing back on Managed Service Providers to deliver better value despite these constraints.

The Top Three Security Mistakes You’re Making in Microsoft Azure

  • With its scalable structure, pay-as-you-go pricing and 99.95% SLAs, it’s no wonder Microsoft Azure is a long-time leader in the IaaS space. With all of this flexibility and reliability comes responsibility, especially around security. Lightstream’s Ty Annen shares three common Azure security mistakes and what to do about them.

Got SD-WAN? Great! Now Let’s Talk About How to Secure It

  • SD-WAN is fueling the customer experience and transforming modern networking. It is also pushing distributed Internet connectivity, which introduces security vulnerabilities if not addressed properly. Lightstream’s Kurt Richter and Rafal Los combine their deep networking and security expertise into a powerful podcast on the intricacies of SD-WAN security and a 360-degree view of how to address it.

Bringing Cloud Security and Application Modernization Together

  • Modernizing your applications has many roadblocks, not least of which is the simple mental roadblock of getting the job done. Lightstream’s Ty Annen offers clear insight on how to break down the task while ensuring that cloud security remains an essential piece of the puzzle. Hint: there’s no need to surf eBay for network cards.

About Lightstream

Lightstream provides full-service cloud, connectivity, and security solutions to enterprises worldwide with a focus on managed services for all three, as well as cloud infrastructure implementation, security, and support.

Lightstream is an AWS Security Competency Partner, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, a Microsoft Cloud Platform Gold Partner with Security Competency, and was named Palo Alto Networks Public Cloud Partner of the Year in 2018 and 2019. Visit us at http://www.lightstream.tech or LinkedIn.

Media Contact

cynthia.lawton@lightstream.tech

A Bank Securely Supports a New LOB in Azure

Industry:  Banking

A regional bank holding company is the Western U.S. with just under 3,000 employees offers its clients a wide range of banking products and services, including transaction and savings deposits, commercial, consumer, and real estate loans, and mortgage origination services.

Business Problem:

  • Avoid cost of purchasing additional hardware while integrating a new 3rd-party SaaS application Koney Customer Service Management on Azure SQL Managed Instance
  • Adhere to security and regulatory compliance
  • Improve business continuity and ensure continual compliance

Solution:

  • Lightstream Rapid Risk Profile and guided Cloud Foundation Framework helped securely extend the customer’s on-premise infrastructure into Azure
  • Custom integration that enabled a 3rd-party provider to securely access line-of-business application in Azure
  • Refactored SQL databases in Azure to support a SaaS solution
  • Lightstream Cloud Managed Services for ongoing Azure management and optimization of financial, technical, security and operational aspects of environment.

Business Outcomes:

  • Enabled bank operations to support new customer-facing line-of-business application while providing visibility for operational and security teams
  • Improved overall ability to meet business technology needs while enabling customer recovery capabilities

Lightstream Rescues Fortune 1000 Company from Security Disaster and Facilitates Digital Transformation in Azure

Organization is Future-Proofed with Cloud Managed Services to Promote Financial, Security, Operational and Technological Health

 Business Challenge

A Fortune 1000 company sought a digital transformation. A new chief marketing officer was hired, and the first order of business was to have a new website created. In order to save time, this rather large undertaking was outsourced to a third-party development agency instead of having the company’s internal IT department handle it. The multi-location developer expedited the design and construction of a new customer-facing website with a completely transformed customer interface.

Unfortunately, the development shop failed to communicate with the company’s internal IT team during the process of building the website. Two weeks before the site was scheduled to go live, the IT team performed an assessment and determined that live customer data had been transferred to the cloud without any security controls having been installed. The absence of security features made organizational assets and critical customer data vulnerable to attacks and theft. Frustrated and in need of skillful mitigation of this huge risk, the IT department quickly shut the site down and contacted Lightstream for help remedying the security breach.

Solution

The experts at Lightstream brought the two opposing parties together in order to discover exactly what was done. This all-in approach allowed them to devise a plan that everyone was on board with in order to make the application work within the company’s security environment.

Eight months later, the new website went live with strict security measures in place to protect customer and company data. While Lightstream was initially engaged to put out the fire of the unsecure website, the relationship grew and the provider now manages the company’s cloud environment. Their environment is optimized through Lightstream’s partnerships with Microsoft Azure and Palo Alto Networks, delivering consistent, automated protections with a variety of value-added resources. Moreover, the security, financial, technology and operational expertise offered by Lightstream’s Cloud Managed Services (CMS) solution is helping the manufacturer to improve the day-to-day administration and management of its cloud infrastructure.

Business Outcomes

The company now has a modern, customer-friendly website operating within a highly secure cloud environment. When new applications are desired, they can be implemented quickly and safely.

Previously, the company had its own data center which was fully managed by its internal IT department. Several months into the relationship with the web developer, huge inefficiencies were discovered which had caused the company’s invoice to increase by $40,000. With no security or financial controls in place, the company incurred significant budget and resource drains. Lightstream’s CMS now ensures that expensive mistakes like this will be avoided as cost variations will be detected early on.

Ongoing monitoring and monthly reports on the financial, security, operational and technological health of the environment provide full transparency to company executives. By exposing minor but frequently occurring inefficiencies, Lightstream consistently helps to keep costs down.

With its current cloud expenditures being nearly cost neutral, the company is looking to expand into Lightstream’s network services. A continuously growing depth and breadth of business-optimizing solutions ensures that Lightstream will be there to support the organization well into the future.

Customer Quote:

“In my 30 years in the technology industry, Lightstream has been one of the best partners I’ve ever worked with. Their ability to sit on the same side of the desk as us, partnering with us to develop customized solutions to our problems has been a game changer.”

– Director of IT at Fortune 1000 company