How 6fusion Solved the Container Financial Management Challenge

Republished from the original blog post by John Cowan (CEO of 6fusion) and Delano Seymour (CTO of 6fusion) on

At 6fusion, our software team began to use container technology in a material way nearly two years ago. Almost immediately, we recognized a significant downstream financial efficiency problem: Given the highly dynamic and wildly volatile nature of container usage, tracking and reporting the true cost of delivering our application services was nearly impossible. Understand that I cringe a little as I write this, considering that 6fusion wrote the book when it comes to modern IT utility economics. The root of the problem is that in the world of containers, granular visibility at the server, VM, or even instance level isn’t good enough. To sum up our situation, while we love the abstraction layer from infrastructure (private or public) that container technology provided us, thus helping us to solve for development velocity and scalability, we, as a consequence, created financial friction that nobody really expected.

Enter Red Hat.

There’s a backstory to this that we’d be glad to share with anyone over a Dark & Stormy or two (you can take the founders out of Bermuda, but you’ll never take the Bermuda out of the founders). Let’s just say that to validate our observations, we walked over to our neighbors at Red Hat in downtown Raleigh and asked them to corroborate our findings.

They did.

And from that, a cool idea was born: What if we could apply 6fusion’s unique approach to metering infrastructure to application services?

Fast forward two years (remember that early OpenShift Origins prototype?) and presto! Here we are! We are pumped to announce the release of our OpenShift Collector. The OpenShift Collector availability means we have officially added metering for containers to our list of capabilities! We’re super jazzed about this because as we’ve fanned out across the Kubernetes ecosystem (remember that early interview at Red Hat Summit?), we’ve heard a constant ask: “Can you give me something that enables billing and paying for containerized application services like a utility?”

Before I go any further about the power of our new solution, it might be helpful provide a quick review for the uninitiated about how such IT was purchased in the past and how that has changed over time.

My Parents Way: The Hardware Era

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, mom and dad purchased servers, networking equipment, and storage arrays, and depreciated them on their books for 3 to 5 years. Essentially, they would pay for the compute resources up front or on a lease to break the capital expense into smaller monthly payments. In this mode of buying, they had to think in 3 to 5 year chunks and hope they made solid predictions so as not to purchase too much or too little. Total dinosaur tech finance.

How My Older Siblings Did IT: The Virtualization Era

Bro and sis grew up and still purchased hardware upfront or on a lease, but they were very innovative types. They used virtualization technology to squeeze more ROI from the data center hardware. Pretty clever. They still had to purchase in 3-5 year chunks, but the need to make perfect predictions was lessened because the hardware surplus was somewhat “recyclable” as demand for new virtual servers continued to grow. That said, buying too little was still very much a pain in the neck.

How I Was Raised: The Cloud Era

By the time I started to shave my chin, the idea of purchasing hardware as a requirement to build and deliver software was passe. Alas, the cloud provides to me the ability to rent compute-on-demand (brilliant!). Sure, I still have to buy in chunks, but the chucks are very small and they increase or decrease every hour if needed (brilliant!). This flexibility created huge opportunities for companies big or small to right-size spend, matching it to the needs for any given hour of the day (sweet deal, eh?!).

How the New Generation is Doing IT: Enter the Container Era

Containers change the game for developers because of velocity and scale. And there is no going back. But there’s a teeny tiny huge “businessy” problem. Containers re-introduce huge waste back into the purchasing equation (not so brilliant!). Unlike an instance, a container’s lifespan can be as little as seconds and require a tiny amount of compute to complete its task. The smallest instance can accommodate many running containers and each container will use a variable amount of compute resources. Basically, paying by the instance hour is painfully inefficient and it causes the amount of wasted spend to increase, big time. The benefits gained from velocity and scale simply magnify and multiply the financial problem. Put a slightly more imaginable way, if IT financial management is a slow-burning dumpster fire (and you know it is!), container technology is like spraying it with a gasoline hose!

The Solution: Just Pay for IT Like a Utility

So, what do you get when you cross-pollinate Red Hat, Kubernetes, and 6fusion? Answer: You get the world’s first truly utilized IT offering from highest order application service right on down to the wiring in the closet. And therein lies the power of our solution to the problem: Not only can we show you the true cost of operating container platforms at the most granular level ever, but we can enable utility style billing too—be it to internal business units (chargeback) or to external customers (CSP’s). At the end of the day, 6fusion’s supply chain platform has always been about leveraging data to create smarter buyers and more efficient sellers. And thanks to 6fusion and Red Hat, that world now extends to containers.

I’ll leave you with a little teaser for next generation to come: Serverless computing and Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) will push the boundary of application development even further. If you are skeptical about that, I invite you to listen to industry leaders like Andy Jassy (in case you missed his keynote at AWS re:Invent 2017). 6fusion is already prepared for this generation. We are hurtling toward an IT supply chain that mirrors how we buy and sell other industrial utilities, like electricity, bandwidth, or fuel—based only on what we need, exactly when we need it, no more no less.

If you are an OpenShift customer and want to turn on container metering, please click here for more information or simply ping It’s super easy to deploy. And it’s free of charge! **

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