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How to Optimize Your Azure Cloud Computing

Shelly Rozenblum

Director of Business Development | Cloud Alliances Team, Intel Granulate

At the end of 2022, Azure Cloud had nearly a quarter of the cloud computing market share for a good reason. The Azure cloud is a powerful tool, but tools must be appropriately used to achieve their true potential.  Cloud computing does offer various cost-saving benefits to its localized or on-prem counterparts, but it must be treated as a “business” within your business to truly flourish.

In this guide, we’ll cover cost optimizations, fine-tuning, and other considerations while we dive into some key factors that make Azure so widely accepted and how it can be tailored to suit your needs better. 

The Budget Within the Budget

Every solution and implementation needs a realistic budget, which must be tracked and analyzed to ensure that it is both practical and follows the strategy you have laid out. 

What better way to analyze your Azure Cloud budget than to use Azure Cloud itself for analytics, reporting, and visibility into spending? Real-time and easy-to-use analytics services built within the Azure and Microsoft ecosystem allow you to achieve accurate data-driven insights and act on them almost immediately.

Built-in cost management tools allow you to estimate, budget, and optimize costs along the way, so you don’t need to spend hours worrying if your initial implementation was incorrect.

Start by setting a monthly budget instead of an annual one and scrutinizing the spending. It’s common to have some variations, but it is essential that everyone on the team and all stakeholders understand what they should be looking for. 

Understanding Azure costs comes with learning what is affecting your budget and looking at it with a unified mindset to ensure that the spending is necessary without having a preconceived notion beforehand.

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It’s Not Just About Cost

One common focus when looking to increase optimization is to do more for less. While this certainly provides a cost-reduction mindset, other factors must be considered. The overall goal should be to maximize business value rather than price optimizations on their own

Strategic alignment is also a massive consideration in this balancing act between pricing and deliverables, as your team and customers should equate each practice to what they should expect from your service offerings and management style.

With this being said, the benefits of the Cloud can be seen and felt from many different directions, and costs can quickly add up. 

Before adopting any strategy, the first step is to embrace a business mindset and methodology with your team on what approach you’d like to take and have regular “check-ins” to ensure you are on track and schedule. You will need to reduce cloud spending without compromising the quality of any deliverables, internally or otherwise.

Tag, You’re It!

Much like the iconic playground game, tagging your resources is critical in properly optimizing your Azure Cloud. Resource tagging is a powerful strategy that uses metadata labels to assign them to anything within the Cloud. 

Tags can often be created for a specific purpose or named on an ad-hoc basis – which can confuse or obfuscate the original purpose. Developing a proper naming system should be a top priority to use the Cloud to its full potential. 

Providing a structured and organized way to categorize and track resources gives you a foundation that will ultimately give everyone a centralized source of truth they can access with confidence.

Why Should I Tag Azure Resources?

Other than being a naming schematic that you can recall at a later date, here are the primary benefits of having a structured convention for your tagging:

  1. Organizational Structure: Tags allow you to categorize resources based on their purpose, department, project, or custom criteria. This organizational structure simplifies resource management, making it easier to locate and understand the role of each resource.
  2. Budget and Cost Allocation: Your insights report will be more beneficial when tags are integrated. You will gain more helpful and accurate insights into cost allocation and identify which projects or departments consume most of your resources.
  3. Optimizing Workloads: Tags provide a valuable mechanism for optimizing workloads. Idle, orphaned, and over-commissioned resources are significant contributors to wasted spend – which need to be spotted through usage patterns. Tagging these resources helps you make a more informed decision on right-sizing and scaling and, if necessary, decommissioning them altogether.
  4. Policy Implementation: Tags can be used to enforce governance policies. For example, you can tag resources as “production” or “development” and then implement policies restricting specific actions on production resources to minimize the risk of accidental changes.
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What Makes a Great Tag?

Not all tags are created equally, and putting proper oversight into place can save your department, team, and organization a lot of headaches while securing the confidence necessary of your staff and third-party service providers.

In addition to the great tagging modules from Microsoft themselves, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

ABC, Always Be Consistent: It doesn’t have to be the best, but it should follow an agreed-upon protocol. This consistency ensures uniformity in tag application and simplifies the data analysis process.

Use Descriptive Names: Tag names and key pairs should clearly describe what the person is searching for. Descriptions could be the tag’s function, the associated project, or the department leading the charge on a specific deliverable. Use key pairs to make “sub-tags” that follow this hierarchy.

Play the Long Game: If your company is focused on a specific project, making niche tags is easy to help you get through it. Consider how your business will develop and the type of clients you’ll want to onboard later. The naming schematic can change but should remain consistent from day 1.

Prioritize Key Tags: While you can have multiple tags for a resource, always prioritize key tags that hold critical information. This prevents users from getting “lost in the weeds” during critical times.

Educate and Automate: Teams should be educated on naming conventions once they have been set and agreed to. Automation should be used wherever possible to reduce human error and rework but should be analyzed regularly to regulate accuracy from the moment of creation.

The Global Approach to Networking and Region Strategies

Once you have an overall budget and optimization strategy, it is time to fine-tune your cost savings by exploring some critical elements. For example, The North American region is usually the least expensive, but this must be balanced with your service offerings. 

Geographic proximity must be considered, and we should not just look at price alone. Your users, customers, stakeholders, and team will need low latency to improve performance.

Keep in mind that different Azure regions will also offer levels of performance and capabilities that vary. You must choose the best one suited to your needs to run smoothly.

More Optimization Techniques for Azure Workloads

Here are some more things to keep in mind when optimizing and fine-tuning your Azure Cloud potential:

Storage Tiering: Azure’s blob storage tiering and Azure files provide options for your storage needs. For example, if you need to access critical data frequently, you can place it in the performance-oriented (and higher cost) tiers. Backup data can be placed in lower tiers to optimize cost efficiency.

Redundancy: Azure offers diverse redundancy options for storage, each with its associated costs. Data in Azure storage is replicated three times in the primary regions, offering LRS and ZRS options to sync the data into the cloud. Make sure to check if they are supported in your tiered storage.

Dev/Test Pricing: Save on VMs, SQL database, and certain apps with Dev/Test pricing and access lower rates. Azure wants to move the needle at an incredible pace and will provide their services at a discount if you are using them primarily for testing and development.

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AHB/BYOL: The Azure Hybrid Benefit program allows you to reduce licensing costs as an enterprise customer substantially.  This will enable you to leverage existing benefits to re-use specific tools on-premise. This includes RedHat, Windows Server, SUSE, and SQL, saving you up to 85% over pay-as-you-go pricing.

Routing: Azure routing preference lets you determine the path for your traffic between Azure and the Internet, providing options for either Microsoft network routing (cold potato routing) or ISP network routing (hot potato routing). This choice impacts egress data transfer costs, and you can configure it when creating a public IP address associated with resources like VMs, load balancers, and Azure storage resources. 

Autonomous Application Performance Optimization for Azure Workloads

Autonomous optimization solutions like Intel Granulate can empower Microsoft Azure users with real-time application performance improvements and capacity management, leading to reduced cloud costs. 

With Intel Granulate, available in the Azure marketplace, users can access a suite of cloud optimization solutions, optimizing AKS Kubernetes, Azure Compute services, HDInsight and Databricks workloads. Intel Granulate provides DevOps teams with optimization solutions for all major runtimes, such as Python, Java, Scala, Go, and more. Azure customers are seeing improvements in their job completion time, throughput, response time, and carbon footprint, while realizing up to 45% cost savings.

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