Not knowing how much you overpay can hurt your bottom line. Significantly. To find out how people deal with cloud costs, we surveyed AWS users. About 70% of respondents have already taken some measures to control AWS costs, but only 30% of those who tried succeeded in achieving their cost reduction targets. 

During July 10-17 we ran an online survey on what cloud users have done to curb AWS costs.  We recruited via Twitter 130 respondents from a pool of 21,000 European developers, engineers and IT managers identified on trovero as having worked with AWS. On we asked every respondent up to five two-pronged questions. The first prong of every question was about participants’ own experiences with AWS; the second about how they thought their peers would respond to the same question, as shown below:

About 70% of our respondents had already done something to reduce AWS costs (see below).

Of those who tried to reduce AWS costs, only 30% said they were satisfied with the results and 70% reported that they’d failed to achieve their cost reduction targets. Interestingly, they felt that on average 63% of their peers who tried also failed (close to 70% reported failure rate). In other words, there’s a general admission that reducing AWS costs is difficult and respondents don’t think that others have it better. There’s also another effect in play: Although 70% of respondents tried to control AWS costs, they estimate only 45% of their peers have done so. The message seems to be, sure, as a community we agree that it is a difficult problem, but we don’t tell others what we did and how we failed.

Our most revealing result is that 65% of respondents don’t have a good handle on how much they can reduce their AWS costs. So it’s natural to assume that respondents would be willing to deploy a monitoring solution as the first step to get a sense as to how much they can save.

Surprisingly, 17% of respondents relied on only built-in AWS reporting and only 8% of our respondents chose third party monitoring solution (see below). Two conclusions are warranted. First, respondents might have had already deployed such a solution before focusing on cost reduction activities. Second, instead of offering an assessment of possible savings, the solution may have simply recommended conservative measures like purchasing long-term reserved instances. These conclusions are supported by the fact that 38% of respondents chose long-term reserved instances as the top solution they’d tried.

Are reserved instances the way to go? Our answer is a resounding no, for a simple reason that buying long-term reserved instances perpetuates the using inefficient cloud architectures, which inflate cloud costs to begin with. Our respondents agree. Exploring less orthodox options, such as introducing serverless architectures or using spot instances was expected to be quite popular, at 13% and 20% respectively, but had been tried by only 4% and 8% of respondents.  “None of the above”, chosen by 25% of respondents, included dynamic load balancing, aggressive pruning of on-demand instances and “using something other than AWS, duh!”.

Our takeaway from this survey was that incremental measures to curb runaway AWS costs have failed to provide tangible savings. We’ve also discovered that cloud users face significant friction when exploring the full range of options on the AWS ecosystem. AWS costs may be a painful financial sore. The costs of treating it are certain, but rewards are anything but. So unless someone shows up with a proven turn-key solution, AWS users are reluctant to spend time on half-measures without much cost saving. If this is you, contact BidElastic to arrange a consultation. You may have found a solution that works.