It can be all too easy to let Kubernetes-related cloud costs get out of hand—and for many enterprises, it is exactly what is happening. Software provisioning and access to expensive resources like GPUs are just a few of the factors that will increase budgets without a conscious effort to mitigate costs. And as enterprises continue to scale their use of Kubernetes, every little bug and cost inefficiency scales along.

The answer lies in visibility and ownership. Enterprises need to see where and how they are spending with enough granularity to implement change when needed, and they need to cultivate a culture of spend responsibility and accountability that affects both engineering and finance teams. In many cases, the mere act of informing engineering teams of their Kubernetes spend has a significant effect on more efficient spending. More thoughtful use of Kubernetes also results in more streamlined, productive and secure environments, in addition to cost savings.

Enterprises should understand that they have four methods for monitoring Kubernetes costs, with each option best suited for specific use cases:

  1. Limited cost monitoring. In this method, a centralized team or teams (often finance or devops) are responsible for receiving Kubernetes monthly billing and then handling unnecessary costs and any contributing issues. Organizations with small application engineering teams and less advanced environments are best suited for this method. Those with larger, multi-tenant environments need a more robust approach.
  2. Shows. The display method introduces detailed breakdowns of Kubernetes costs and cloud costs for each team in the organization. Each team is provided with this accurate spend data so they can better understand and more proactively manage their spend responsibilities. Showbacks are ideal for organizations with three or more application engineering teams and 20+ engineers.
  3. Refunds. Restorations are restorations with teeth. Here, teams must pay from their own budgets to cover the costs of Kubernetes and the cloud they build. This method is best suited for the same larger organizations as demos. However, for a chargeback approach to succeed, businesses must commit to a chargeback culture and agree that controlling these costs is a key shared goal they can achieve.
  4. Monitoring of limited costs. This approach requires teams to pay from their budgets if/when their resource costs disappear beyond set spending limits or, in some cases, pay from their budgets only for selected resources. As with chargebacks, the company culture needs to be on board for this method to thrive.

Whatever method an organization uses, Kubernetes cost controls will fail if their deployment is too abrupt, perceived as unfair, or poorly managed. To gain the trust, collaboration, and organization-wide buy-in you need to make your Kubernetes cost controls a success, follow these five best practices.

Build a payback strategy instead of trying to force it overnight.

Teams often experience shock at their first cost reviews and need time to understand why certain costs occur and how to change practices to reduce them. Putting them on the hook for the bill right away—before they’ve had time to think through and put together careful cost-cutting plans—will only lead to panic, bad decisions, and a build-up of resentment from team leaders. Starting with limited cost monitoring or demos allows teams to ease responsibility for costs and provides fair warning of incoming bills.

Make cost allocation fair and transparent.

Teams need full confidence in the cost metrics they are responsible for. However, without careful curation, costs in a Kubernetes distributed system are not that low. To create buy-in, use transparent cost allocation models that ensure these metrics are repeatable, auditable and verified. Also, be sure to provide teams with actionable data and clarify what role they play in controlling overspend.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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