Rising and Unpredictable Costs of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Usage
Scott Chamberlain, Chief Financial Officer at Civitas Learning, had a business problem to solve: the company saw its AWS spending rising from one month to the next, often sharply and unpredictably. He had no way to effectively monitor and control that line of spending.
Civitas initially tried AWS’s enterprise support and a SaaS-based cloud cost management tool, but neither option provided quantifiable improvement. AWS costs continued to be an erratic budget item.
Chamberlain asked finance leaders in other organizations how they were solving the problem. The most frequent advice from colleagues was to hire an in-house expert or a team of experts to handle the job. But adding headcount for this purpose was a costly option that Chamberlain wished to avoid.
What Civitas Learning needed was a managed-service provider that focuses specifically on AWS cost optimization.
Civitas Learning is a higher education software provider based in Austin, Texas. Civitas uses predictive analytics to bring deep insights to partner institutions and personalized recommendations to students, faculty, and advisors. Its partners include more than 75 institutions and systems, 817 campuses, and more than 2.7 million students.
The Exstratus Solution:
Lean and Agile AWS Cost Performance Analysis and Oversight
After researching possible solutions for more than a year, Civitas Learning eventually turned to Exstratus, an AWS managed-service provider that specializes in cost optimization.
Using its combination of financial and technical expertise, Exstratus brought together engineers and managers to identify the various factors that drove Civitas’ AWS spending. After identifying both the useful and the wasteful cost drivers, Exstratus led the company’s teams to immediately address the inefficiencies.
Our AWS costs were a black hole before Exstratus — we couldn’t predict what the bill would be from one month to the next, which is the kind of thing that keeps a CFO up at night. Exstratus paid for itself and much more.
Scott Chamberlain, CFO, Civitas Learning
Rapid AWS Savings Without Added Headcount
Within a year, Civitas had saved about $1.5 million in AWS costs. And it had also instilled an effective cost-management culture across departments — one that gave engineers more insight into and accountability for costs without sacrificing the agility that makes AWS such a powerful tool.
Results were rapid, and the outcome greatly exceeded Chamberlain’s expectations. In less than two quarters, Exstratus had moved into retainer mode, performing cost-effective ongoing governance and maintenance.
“Our AWS costs were a black hole before Exstratus—we couldn’t predict what the bill would be from one month to the next, which is the kind of thing that keeps a CFO up at night,” Chamberlain explains. “Exstratus paid for itself and much more.”
While cost controls are important to Civitas’ engineering leaders, urgent issues inevitably take priority – a common scenario for businesses.
“When we have a fire, I have to pull everyone on my team to work on it,” explains Chad Walters, VP of Engineering at Civitas Learning. “Having an outside group dedicated to cost savings has allowed my team to concentrate solely on innovation. Exstratus has realized savings for us that we never would have accomplished on our own.”
Exstratus has realized savings for us that we never would have accomplished on our own.
Chad Walters, VP of Engineering, Civitas Learning