Vendasta: Reducing costs and improving quality with cloud cost management

About Vendasta

One of Canada's fastest growing companies, Vendasta is a white-label platform built for companies and individuals providing B2B products and services to local businesses primarily in the marketing and advertising space.

Industries: Technology
Location: Canada

By accessing Cloud Billing Reports from the Google Cloud Platform Console and analyzing its Google Cloud Platform billing data using Billing Export to BigQuery and Google Data Studio, Vendasta creates custom cost dashboards to save money, reduce risk, and keep engineering quality high.

Google Cloud Results

  • Increases profits by keeping cloud costs down even as more customers come on board
  • Improves engineering quality and platform stability by using cost metrics to identify bugs and inefficient resource usage
  • Creates a culture of cost accountability and ownership across teams, helping them make more informed decisions
  • Reduces risk by forecasting cost trends and providing company-wide visibility into cloud spend
  • Helps make better technology performance/cost trade-off decisions with cost management tools

Reduces cloud costs up to 25%

Years ago, if something went wrong in a company's IT infrastructure or its systems became overloaded, employees or customers usually felt the pain of service downtime. As more companies move to cloud-based infrastructures and services that scale automatically, customer-facing problems are easier to avoid. However, companies need tools that help monitor, control, and optimize their cloud costs on an ongoing basis due to the dynamic nature of the cloud.

Instead of asking whether systems can handle the current load, the question becomes: "Can we afford the current load, and if not, what can we do to optimize our costs?"

Vendasta, a long-time customer of Google Cloud Platform (GCP) that uses cloud services to enable its channel partners to offer digital services to local businesses, knows this challenge well. Vendasta uses GCP services such as Cloud Build, App Engine, and Google Kubernetes Engine whenever possible, preferring to consume pay-per-use resources instead of running its own virtual machines (VMs) and container infrastructure. This approach helps Vendasta improve stability and performance while keeping technical staff lean and focused. It's a complete business win, as long as the cost model works.

"Google Cloud was built to scale, and it scales really well, even if we do something silly," says Dale Hopkins, Chief Technology Officer at Vendasta. "There's a lot of power and flexibility in GCP services, and that makes it essential for us to manage our cloud costs wisely."

"We use Google Cloud Billing Reports daily to forecast our costs. It's better than anything we could build ourselves. These reports provide us with visibility into our current cost trends and help us know where we're going to stand at the end of the month."

Dale Birtch, Site Reliability Engineer, Vendasta

Simplifying cloud cost management

Everyone makes mistakes, however. When one of Vendasta's dev teams spun up a huge VM for testing and forgot to turn it off, Compute Engine costs were more than they anticipated. One of Vendasta's software builds introduced a bug that made it hungry for App Engine resources, and the problem wasn't detected until the month-end bill. In addition, a slow burn of unused static IP addresses, over-retention of backups, and egress charges for microservices slowly increased overall cloud costs. The cost accumulation was difficult to notice because each charge was very small, but over time, they added up.

Wanting more visibility and control of its costs, Vendasta decided to leverage Google Cloud cost management tools, including the Cloud Billing Reports available in the GCP Console for at-a-glance views of current and forecasted costs. In addition to exporting daily billing data to BigQuery and creating custom billing dashboards in Google Data Studio, a serverless visual analytics and reporting tool, Vendasta creates custom views tailored to specific teams to drive cost accountability.

"We use Google Cloud Billing Reports daily to forecast our costs," says Dale Birtch, Site Reliability Engineer at Vendasta. "It's better than anything we could build ourselves. These reports provide us with visibility into our current cost trends and help us know where we're going to stand at the end of the month."

By leveraging Google Cloud's cost management tools, Vendasta is maximizing efficiency and preventing unexpected budget overruns. "Due to the dynamic nature of public cloud use, costs must be monitored and controlled on an ongoing basis," says Hopkins. "Exporting our Google Cloud Platform billing data to BigQuery and creating custom dashboards in Data Studio makes it easy to understand our spend, adjust quickly if needed, and realize the true value of the cloud."

"Giving developers access to view the costs for their Google Cloud Platform projects helps them be more aligned with the business and its objectives. Not only do we get better engineering practices, we get a more stable environment long-term, and it costs us less to run."

Dale Birtch, Site Reliability Engineer, Vendasta

Running a more informed business

To help democratize the data beyond billing admins, Vendasta uses the Data Studio permissions model to share dashboards with users even if they don't have access to the underlying data sources, giving development teams access to see their costs "With BigQuery and Data Studio, we can easily control exactly who is able to access certain subsets of our billing data and keep teams informed on what they're spending," says Hopkins.

App owners at Vendasta are now accountable for the costs of their GCP projects and can proactively address issues long before getting the bill at the end of the month. Dashboards tailored to specific teams break down cloud costs and credits by environment. Vendasta also displays a cost management dashboard in its atrium so that anyone walking by can ask questions and take ownership to drive down costs. As a result, the company is increasing profits and reducing risk with at-a-glance views of its costs.

"Rapid development and ease of use of Data Studio allow Vendasta to make data-backed decisions and monitor our progress against the objectives and key results we have defined," says Birtch. "Plus, BigQuery BI Engine brings fast, interactive performance to these BigQuery-backed reports in Data Studio. We've seen huge improvements in speed when dealing with small data sets, which stack up to save our data analysts valuable time and allow them to focus on delivering business insights."

"We've had months where we've saved more than 25 percent on our GCP bill just because of the cost reporting and analytics that we've run with BigQuery," says Hopkins. "We've grown our business by 32 percent over the past year, yet kept our cloud costs relatively flat."

"We've stuck with Google Cloud because we feel that of all the major cloud providers, Google has always had a better vision of where the future is going."

Dale Hopkins, CTO, Vendasta

Improving engineering practices

Vendasta also uses GCP Billing Reports to help signal when to refactor its engineering work, using budget alerts to notify teams when cost spikes might indicate a software bug or inefficient resource usage. Teams can see the cost impact of the changes they make, helping them make better technology decisions and test the scalability of new services from a cost perspective. For example, does a new service justify the extremely low latency that Cloud Bigtable can provide, or would a SQL approach satisfy the business requirements at a lower cost?

"Giving developers access to view the costs for their Google Cloud Platform projects helps them be more aligned with the business and its objectives," says Birtch. "Not only do we get better engineering practices, we get a more stable environment long-term, and it costs us less to run."

A better vision for the future

Improving cost transparency is just one way that Google helps Vendasta grow its business. By reselling G Suite, Vendasta saw an opportunity to expand beyond digital marketing into productivity and collaboration. As a result, its channel partners are building loyalty by helping their customers modernize local businesses' tools and processes while reducing their software costs.

"We've stuck with Google Cloud because we feel that of all the major cloud providers, Google has always had a better vision of where the future is going," says Hopkins. "We're excited to be on GCP. There's a solution for nearly everything we need."

About Vendasta

One of Canada's fastest growing companies, Vendasta is a white-label platform built for companies and individuals providing B2B products and services to local businesses primarily in the marketing and advertising space.

Industries: Technology
Location: Canada
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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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