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The Rise of the Cloud Economist

How a single role could yield a 10x return.   

Eric Plue – Head of Consulting
Justin Cooke – Principle Cloud Architect 

I was talking recently with one of my colleagues, Justin Cooke, Principle Cloud Architect, about challenges we see for organisations working in the cloud when we stumbled upon an interesting concept.  It goes like this: 

If you accept that the main trend in systems is that they are growing ever more complex, made up of increasingly specialised systems and services, then it’s easy to think that organisations will inevitably follow as well and develop even more highly specialised roles.  With this trend, we think we may see one role emerge that’s focused on cloud optimisation and FinOps. Dear reader, I give you: The Cloud Economist.    

A Clearly Defined Role

A Cloud Economist is that rare mix of engineer and accountant.  Their function is clearly defined across five discrete activities, each with a clear and compelling value proposition. The role itself embodies themes currently active in our own Cloud/Platform practice here at esynergy:  

More specifically, the Cloud Economist: 

  • at design, consults with delivery teams on how to Design for Cloud and best take advantage of opportunities to scale up and down to minimise service utilisation costs. 
  • consulting with teams to adopt alternative tooling that’s more cost effective and suited to the task, e.g., not everything needs to be built on AWS, GCP, Azure and the like. Some tasks, jobs, pipelines can be effective living elsewhere.
  • consults with delivery teams for existing implementations on how to monitor costs and the adaptations that can be implemented to further reduce costs.  
  • keeps an eye to the market on current provider prices, contracts and opportunities for cloud arbitrage 
  • consults on designing for portability to take advantage of cloud arbitrage.  

Aligned with FinOps

How is this different from FinOps? In its aims, it is no different.  The distinction is that a FinOps practice, as it stands, tends to describe a larger organisational structure and approach where, in simplified form, teams are given better usage data so that they can make their own decisions independently on how to optimise. The concept of Cloud Economist focuses on a specific organisational role right down to the job description.  The Cloud Economist is a consultative role, an SME for cloud design, tooling, portability (e.g., platform distinctions) as well as the current market pricing and structure of contracts.   

Justin described how the role can itself expand and become even more sophisticated with tasks like:  

  • ‘cost modelling’ based on different popular and proven architectural patterns, different balances between fixed and pre-emptive resourcing. 
  • maintaining historical data on cloud provider pricing and try to predict which provides will offer the best value for a given architecture, so, for example, if you need high speed NFS, definitely avoid vendors where these costs are high.  
  • Help teams balance resiliency and speed against total cost of ownership 

A Compelling Return on a Single Role

The case for the Cloud Economist is compelling given the ubiquity, size and scale of cloud contracts.  How much could you save with such a function? It seems feasible to expect at least a 10X return on the cost of a full time role.  The role reflects the growing concern we see at clients around cloud portability and arbitrage as organisations work to reduce costs.  It’s a key hedge against vendor lock-in as the tide swells with multi-year contracts all coming up for renewal and renegotiation.  

If you’d like to know more about how we can help set this function up in your organisation or the practices around it, reach out to chat with us at esynergy.   

As Head of Consulting, Eric Plue works with technology organisations to develop a strategic approach to emergent architectures, data driven culture and engineering execution. 

As Principle Cloud Architect, Justin Cooke has worked to build out large scale microservices transformations and cloud native startups.


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