The Seven Tagging Habits of Highly Effective Devops

Aug 1 2013 | by Zev Schonberg

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tagpostitTagging is probably one of the hottest capabilities available on Amazon Web Services. By tagging a resource, you associate it with a specific business unit or application – providing critical business insights that would otherwise be invisible to the rest of the organization. Effective use of AWS tags could quite literally revolutionize the way you monitor and optimize your cloud deployment. Borrowing from Stephen Covey’s 7 habits, let’s look at how they apply to cloud devops:

1. Tag Proactively

Tags are the cloud’s window into your business, making sense of an otherwise chaotic environment. Although you can’t tag everything, you should definitely be proactive and try. But don’t worry, even if you forget to tag instances in AWS, Cloudyn will allow you to retroactively tag them – including terminated instances.

Recently, one of our customers in Australia wanted to generate cost allocation and instance runtime reports. While most of their instances were tagged, many were not, including quite a few that had been terminated. Working together, we added a tag key and value for the untagged instances. This had a dramatic impact on our customer’s ability to maintain a balanced audit trail and accurately allocate AWS consumption.

Important tagging tip: Every time you add a new tag, don’t forget to update Cost Allocation settings in Amazon’s Programmatic Billing Access management. This will ensure comprehensive, up-to-date reporting.

2. Start with the Business Goals

Every tag is an opportunity to leverage the cloud for business goals. Ask yourself what application or business unit this particular resource will most likely serve, and then designate it with the appropriate tag. And if you got a tag or two wrong, don’t worry about it.  Either terminate the resource and start over, or simply update the tag any time you like.

3. Use Tags to Plan for Success

Tagging plays an essential role in successful cloud management, especially when it comes to accurate cost allocation. This enables you to identify which business units, projects or customers are using specific AWS resources and what they’re costing you. Tagging also adds great value to performance management metrics. For example, Cloudyn shows average CPU or memory usage for groups of tagged instances that are supporting specific applications, jobs or other defined business activities.

4. Build a Holistic Organizational Data Lens

Tags are key to slicing and dicing data just the way you want it, but they’re just a means to support a variety of organizational requirements. For example, the CFO might be interested in monitoring cloud cost per business unit, while devops would prefer to focus on data that reflects resource ownership. Developers often need to identify specific jobs or tasks (e.g. instances running a map-reduce job). Each of these requirements translates into a different set of tags, which work to deliver the promise of the cloud to the entire organization.

5. Listen to What People Want from the Cloud, But Focus on What They Need

Remember that actionable recommendations start with meaning and understanding. As the cloud crosses organizational boundaries, executives might make cryptic requests. For example, a manager could ask to see a report that details the average cost for every instance across your entire deployment. While possible, such a report would produce meaningless results. To report on cloud costs at this level of granularity, start with the average cost per instance by any defined group.

6. Promote Organizational Synergy

While tags may strike some as technical minutiae, it’s your job to share the impact of tagging across the company. Present cloud reports to your peers and ask for their opinion. You’d be surprised at some of the feedback you get.
Take it even one step further, and initiate conversations about initiatives that are under the ‘organizational radar’. This is great way to promote communication and collaboration on a whole new level – all thanks to the cloud !

7. Become the Cloud Hero

Data is power. Tags present an opportunity not just for the business as a whole, but for your professional development as well. As the cloud becomes an important tool to visualize the business, your role will become central to leveraging the cloud’s benefits for the greater good.

We’d love to learn how you’re implementing tags in your deployment. Drop us a line to share your tagging experience !

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