How We’re Extending Visibility and Control Capabilities in the Cloud
Visibility and usage controls are rarely touted today because many public cloud providers simply don’t offer them. We’re dedicated to helping developers, testers, and IT ops teams increase the efficiency of their usage of Skytap. By utilizing a range of Skytap tools that simplify maintaining visibility and control, our customers prevent the overages and inefficiency around public cloud consumption.
We recently rolled out greater functionality to our labels and tagging features to ensure that we continue to provide a level of visibility and control that simply cannot be found elsewhere in the public cloud market. Skytap principal product manager Arnab Banerjee sat down with us to discuss what makes this new feature so unique.
What drove this feature to be added to the Skytap product, and what exactly does it do?
As enterprises continue to move to the cloud, fears around cost overruns are increasing, and a loss of control around those costs are common. The cloud makes it easy for any authorized user in the organization to self-provision infrastructure, and the ease of access to such resources often results in inefficient usage that IT will often struggle to spot.
What you can’t see or measure, you can’t manage and control. That’s why these enterprises want more visibility around knowing who is using what so that they can be in charge of their consumption. Skytap Labels give our customers a tool to gain valuable insights into their spend by defining their own spending categories and tracking usage against those.
Usage-allocation makes accounting tasks easy, but it also has much broader and strategic implications by giving customers the control of their spending and removing a major barrier to cloud adoption.
These custom-defined labels can be used to represent internal cost centers/categories such as training class, products, product versions, teams, customers, partners, etc., and they can be used to track resource usage through downloadable usage reports.
Customers can view and download usage reports for their account, and can also segment it by selected categories like, “users,” “departments,” and “regions.”
What problem(s) does this feature solve?
There are a number of examples. Maybe a single training template has been used many times in a month to run multiple training programs for various customers in many locations around the world. A salesperson may be using a demo environment to showcase a product in various sale opportunities. A developer/test manager needs to track how much they spent for a particular development project or on a feature/version of the application that they are developing using Skytap.
With Skytap Labels, customers can now create their custom label categories inside Skytap. Labels are structured metadata, a key/value pair, with two components: Category (e.g. “customer”) and Values (“Customer X”, “Customer Y”, and so on).
Once label categories are created, users can attach these labels to their resources with appropriate values, and Skytap does the rest. This tracks the usages of those resources against these labels so a customer can download a report which provides the information to understand/allocate how much usage was attributed to Customer X vs. Customer Y, for example.
In addition to usage allocation, labels are also useful for organization and easy discovery. One can search and filter resources by labels to quickly find resources that they are looking for.
What are some unique characteristics of Skytap Labels?
In Skytap, label categories are curated, and only admins of an account can create a new label category. After they are created, users can use any of these pre-defined categories. This helps admins plan out the segmentation of usage based on the reporting and budgeting needs of the organization. There are no extraneous categories to clean up when time comes to analyze the usage from the past.
The end users of resources have the flexibility to assign the right label values based on the context of the usage of that resources—something that end users are more familiar with. Skytap also suggests to users what values they can use when attaching labels to their resources (from previously used values in the account) to help avoid the creation of duplicate values or misspellings. As a result, reports are clean and properly allocated and there’s no need for time-consuming manual reconciliation and adjustment every month.
The assignment of these labels is also carried forward to child resources, e.g. when creating an environment from a “golden master template,” the labels associated with the template are automatically assigned to the environment as well. This helps the creators of the golden master to track useful categories for that template without having to depend on the end user of the template.
Additionally, when orchestrating environments using Skytap Scheduler, you can also define labels to attach to the new environments being created.
In addition to labels, Skytap also supports “tags.” Tags are simple, non-curated, free-form strings. Their main usage is for searching and organizing resources, as anyone can mark their environments and templates and easily find them later by using these tags. Tags don’t show up in usage reports, but they serve another useful purpose in helping customers organize their workspace in Skytap.
To learn more about how we make using and administering Skytap a breeze, check out our catalog of free, self-paced courses available in the newly-launched Skytap Academy!