Cooking With Linux (without a net): A CMS Smorgasbord

Web Development

Cooking With Linux (without a net): A CMS Smorgasbord

by Marcel Gagné

Note : You are watching a recording of a live show. It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for Cooking With Linux (without a net), sponsored and supported by Linux Journal. Today, I’m going to install four popular content management systems. These will be Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and Backdrop. If you’re trying to decide on what your next CMS platform should be, this would be a great time to tune in. And yes, I’ll do it all live, without a net, and with a high probability of falling flat on my face. Join me today, at 12 noon, Easter Time. Be part of the conversation.

Content management systems covered include:

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The Agony and the Ecstasy of Cloud Billing

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Cloud Billing


Corey Quinn
Tue, 04/17/2018 – 09:40

Cloud billing is inherently complex; it’s not just you.

Back in the mists of antiquity when I started reading Linux Journal,
figuring out what an infrastructure was going to cost was (although still
obnoxious in some ways) straightforward. You’d sign leases with colocation
providers, buy hardware that you’d depreciate on a schedule and
strike a deal in blood with a bandwidth provider, and you were
more or less set until something significant happened to your scale.

In today’s brave new cloud world, all of that goes out the window. The
public cloud providers give with one hand (“Have a full copy of any
environment you want, paid by the hour!”), while taking with the other (“A
single Linux instance will cost you $X per hour, $Y per GB transferred
per month, and $Z for the attached storage; we simplify this pricing
into what we like to call ‘We Make It Up As We Go Along'”).

In my day job, I’m a consultant who focuses purely on analyzing and
reducing the Amazon Web Services (AWS) bill. As a result, I’ve seen a
lot of environments doing different things: cloud-native shops spinning
things up without governance, large enterprises transitioning into
the public cloud with legacy applications that don’t exactly support
that model without some serious tweaking, and cloud migration projects
that somehow lost their way severely enough that they were declared
acceptable as they were, and the “multi-cloud” label was slapped on to
them. Throughout all of this, some themes definitely have emerged that
I find that people don’t intuitively grasp at first. To wit:

  • It’s relatively straightforward to do the basic arithmetic to figure
    out what a current data center would cost to put into the cloud as
    is—generally it’s a lot! If you do a 1:1 mapping of your existing data center
    into the cloudy equivalents, it invariably will cost more; that’s a
    given. The real cost savings arise when you start to take advantage
    of cloud capabilities—your web server farm doesn’t need to have 50
    instances at all times. If that’s your burst load, maybe you can scale
    that in when traffic is low to five instances or so? Only once you fall into
    a pattern (and your applications support it!) of paying only for what
    you need when you need it do the cost savings of cloud become apparent.

  • One of the most misunderstood aspects of Cloud Economics is the proper
    calculation of Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. If you want to do a
    break-even analysis on whether it makes sense to build out a storage
    system instead of using S3, you’ve got to include a lot more than just
    a pile of disks. You’ve got to factor in disaster recovery equipment
    and location, software to handle replication of data, staff to run the
    data center/replace drives, the bandwidth to get to the storage from
    where it’s needed, the capacity planning for future growth—and the
    opportunity cost of building that out instead of focusing on product

  • It’s easy to get lost in the byzantine world of cloud billing
    dimensions and lose sight of the fact that you’ve got staffing
    expenses. I’ve yet to see a company with more than five employees wherein
    the cloud expense wasn’t dwarfed by payroll. Unlike the toy projects
    some of us do as labors of love, engineering time costs a lot of money.
    Retraining existing staff to embrace a cloud future takes time, and not
    everyone takes to this new paradigm quickly.

  • Accounting is going to have to weigh in on this, and if you’re not
    prepared for that conversation, it’s likely to be unpleasant. You’re going
    from an old world where you could plan your computing expenses a few years
    out and be pretty close to accurate. Cloud replaces that with a host of
    variables to account for, including variable costs depending upon load,
    amortization of Reserved Instances, provider price cuts and a complete
    lack of transparency with regard to where the money is actually going
    (Dev or Prod? Which product? Which team spun that up? An engineer left the
    company six months ago, but their 500TB of data is still sitting there and so

The worst part is that all of this isn’t apparent to newcomers to cloud
billing, so when you trip over these edge cases, it’s natural to feel as
if the problem is somehow your fault. I do this for a living, and I was
stymied trying to figure out what data transfer was likely to cost in
AWS. I started drawing out how it’s billed to customers, and ultimately
came up with the “AWS Data Transfer Costs” diagram shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A convoluted mapping of how AWS data transfer is priced

If you can memorize those figures, you’re better at this than I am by a
landslide! It isn’t straightforward, it’s not simple, and it’s certainly
not your fault if you don’t somehow intrinsically know these things.

That said, help is at hand. AWS billing is getting much more
understandable, with the advent of such things as free Reserved Instance
recommendations, the release of the Cost Explorer API and the rise of
serverless technologies. For their part, Google’s GCP and Microsoft’s
Azure learned from the early billing stumbles of AWS, and as a result,
both have much more understandable cost structures. Additionally, there
are a host of cost visibility Platform as a Service offerings out there;
they all do more or less the same things as one another, but they’re great
for ad-hoc queries around your bill. If you’d rather build something you
can control yourself, you can shove your billing information from all providers
into an SQL database and run something like QuickSight or Tableau on top
of it to aide visualization, as many shops do today.

In return for this ridiculous pile of complexity, you get something
rather special—the ability to spin up resources on-demand, for as
little time as you need them, and pay only for the things that you
use. It’s incredible as a learning resource alone—imagine how much
simpler it would have been in the late 1990s to receive a working Linux
VM instead of having to struggle with Slackware’s installation for the
better part of a week. The cloud takes away, but it also gives.

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