Public cloud could result in unexpected costs, warn developers

Calwyn Baldwin, automation team lead at Obsidian Systems.

Automation to spin up instances for app development can prove costly if not properly monitored, experts warned during a multi-cloud automation webinar hosted by Obsidian Systems and HashiCorp last week.

Speaking at the event, Justin Olivier, enterprise account manager at HashiCorp, a cloud infrastructure automation specialist, said: “There’s a massive shift in the market from a traditional static data center which organizations could wrap security around, toward a modern dynamic data center as the move to the public cloud keeps getting bigger. The facing challenges some of the largest companies are how to modernise infrastructure, re-platform apps, and move to the public cloud faster, in an automated, secure fashion. Automation is key. Invariably, a buggy process is often the result of people.”

Olivier noted: “Apps are where the money is currently, and organizations need to enable applications faster to add value to the business. But enterprises are concerned about cloud costs, cloud security, and cloud governance. HashiCorp sees a massive opportunity to help with this. We’ve created a normalisation – almost a single tier – to run, connect, secure, and provision. As you start adopting the HashiCorp suite, you can start achieving anywhere, anyplace, anytime delivery of app workloads to multi-cloud environments with a single control plane at every layer.”

Olivier said there is a particularly strong uptake, especially in South Africa, of Terraform, along with HashiCorp Vault, to secure and control access to passwords, tokens, and certificates. Furthermore, the HashiCorp Consul networking solution has also grown in prominence.

Calwyn Baldwin, automation team lead at Obsidian Systems, said: “Terraform is part of a larger stack of tools from HashiCorp. It is a software tool that enables you to create, change, and improve infrastructure safely and predictably. Obsidian has been using Terraform for several years now, and one of the principles we have worked on is everything as code. So, we can manage everything via GitOps models and pipelines. It makes it easier to automate rollback or rebuild. Among the use cases for Terraform include managing some of our Gitlab repositories, spinning up infrastructure, and onboarding customers for time-limited demos. It’s amazing, and one of the coolest tools we’ve ever come across. It’s going to make your life better,” he said.

Baldwin did outline a cautionary tale of a costly mistake involving Terraform and an ec2 instance left on.

“A process caused the code to keep running in a loop and spinning up lots of infrastructure. We didn’t notice because we weren’t monitoring at that level, and when we got the bill at the end of the month, it was not fun. We implemented internal processes to allow us to monitor costs and what is happening in that space to make sure that doesn’t happen again. My warning here is that while the cloud is amazing, and you can spin up multiple instances in minutes, are you ready for the resultant bill? You need to plan carefully for all possibilities and implement cost controls,” he said.

“Terraform enterprise has tooling and policy management tools that allow you to look at costs before you spin up infrastructure or write policies around that. For those who startup with the open-source Terraform infrastructure, it’s important to determine which tools will help them avoid falling victim to that sort of thing.”

He noted that Obsidian Systems helps customers avoid possible pitfalls in moving to multi-cloud environments. Obsidian developed its credo that represents the foundation of its digital services and technology – SMARTER (Strategy, Methodology, Architecture, Resources, Tools, Execution, and Refinement).

“Obsidian doesn’t just want to drop something and leave – we want to go on a journey with you,” he said.

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