Left + Taloflow

How Left uses Taloflow's AWS Cloud Cost Management to innovate in the travel industry with speed and efficiency

Left
Customer
Left
Industry
Travel
Locations
Maple Ridge, Canada
Company Size
130 Employees

Full interview transcript

LV (Taloflow): How are you doing today?

Alan (Left): I'm doing well.

LV (Taloflow): Great, and can you describe your role at the company?

Alan (Left): My title is Manager of Security and Infrastructure. Realistically, I'm the overall tech guy for the Maple Ridge office. So a little bit of everything.

LV (Taloflow): And, what does Left do?

Alan (Left): Left is primarily a travel company. We maintain, the biggest one is, Rent by Owner, and essentially that is a meta search site. It allows us to basically put ads out, people come to our site, people get bounced off. We get affiliates and percentages of when people book a travel vacation.

LV (Taloflow): How long have you been using AWS?

Alan (Left): Since the start, so probably since 2012.

LV (Taloflow): Cool, and what were your objectives when you were looking for an AWS cost management solution?

Alan (Left): The main objective was saving money. Honestly, we didn't have a whole lot of visibility into our spend, and because of that, we didn't know where our problems were. We didn't know if we were making good decisions, making bad decisions. In the initial conversations with you guys, you guys made a compelling argument and had a compelling price point.

LV (Taloflow): What are your favorite aspects of Taloflow?

Alan (Left): The two big ones would be a really nice charts. Being able to have that nice graphical display. To get a really easy glance of where the "Oh shit" moments are and where the trends are heading. And, the second would be the fact that the daily emails have titles that contain, you know, above, below or within expected ranges. So as much as I love reading lots of emails, being able to glance at the subject line and be able to just say, "Okay, nothing's exploded. Everything's cool." I'll get to that later. I'll take a look at that later, or I'll just archive and ignore it because I know everything's going well.

LV (Taloflow): Gotcha. And do you find that those real time  reports or at a glance things save a lot of engineering time or your overhead looking at the bill?

Alan (Left): Probably a little bit of both. We're not changing a whole lot of the engineering side right now. So our costs are fairly steady. Mostly it's just that awareness. Yeah. being able to have that, that little bit deeper view. And once we get the systems a little bit better set up. We're still falling behind in our tagging. But, once we have that, we'll have that really nice correlation of "if we do X, it costs us Y".

LV (Taloflow): And, did Taloflow ever reveal something worth investigating further ?

Alan (Left): Yeah, absolutely. We've had a couple of, I guess you'd call them bleeders. And even though we weren't necessarily able to cut them off, being able to see exactly why we're spending this extra, you know, $300 a month, for example, and knowing it might be these servers, it might be those servers and be able to say like, "Okay, this is still running. We can't turn it off, but we know where that money's coming from." And we know that if money gets really tight, we can just say, "listen, we'll just shut that project down".

LV (Taloflow): And what would be your favorite aspects of working with Taloflow? Besides the product.

Alan (Left): Well, to see your smiling face. Now, you guys have been really good. Having the monthly calls where you guys are able to go really in depth with us and taking that time and taking that extra attention to go through our systems and help us find the bleeders. I don't know if that comes as part of the package, or just because we were really awesome, but that's probably the best part about working with you guys. The second thing would be responsiveness. Having a Slack channel where I can just throw out a question and within minutes, generally speaking, it's either answered or fixed or somebody's going to go and find something.

LV (Taloflow): Awesome. Yeah. That's all great to hear. Is there anything else you'd like to share about Taloflow or your use of AWS?

Alan (Left): AWS obviously can be a challenge. So the beauty of AWS is it can do anything that you want. And the downside is it can do anything you want. And for the money side of things, you can create and make it do whatever you want and it will charge you to do exactly what you tell it to do. So it can be very dangerous. We were bitten by something like that previous to having you guys involved where  we had an experimental database of some sort that sucked up a bunch of credits from some program. That was not good. And that was just somebody leaving up a search database experiment. So that's the danger of AWS. I think I've said most things about you guys, you know. You guys have been really good to us. The price is right.

LV (Taloflow): Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much.

Alan (Left): My pleasure.

Keeping a large and global software team organized and diligent on monitoring cloud costs would challenge even the most experienced leader. By focussing on a shared mission, prioritizing real-time reports and getting help from Taloflow to structure optimization workshops, Left has made growing their business with AWS cloud cheaper and more effective.

Left maintains one of the biggest portfolios of travel sites out there, including sites like RentbyOwner, and acts as a meta search engine for travel. Left has offices in Maple Ridge, Canada and in Bangladesh, and has been building on AWS since 2012.

A global engineering team and culture

We didn't have a whole lot of visibility into our spend, and because of that, we didn't know where our problems were. We didn't know if we were making good decisions or making bad decisions.

Having a global software team with more than 130 engineers overseas has its challenges and opportunities. For one, a large time difference between offices means that more careful coordination is required. However, as Left keenly observes, this also means that a team is available 24/7 to address any service incidents that may occur with the Left travel sites, and with the AWS bill too!

When Left approached Taloflow, the main objective for an AWS or Cloud Cost Management solution was gaining visibility. As Alan Bailward, Manager of Security and Infrastructure at Left, puts it: "Honestly, we didn't have a whole lot of visibility into our spend, and because of that, we didn't know where our problems were. We didn't know if we were making good decisions or making bad decisions."

A team can focus on innovation when cost reporting is real-time and on autopilot

There are many engineers at Left, and they're busy! The key to cloud management adoption was effective communication of trends, anomalies and insights. Taloflow delivered. According to Alan, "to get an easy glance of where the "Oh shit" moments are and where the trends are heading," and, "being able to glance at the subject line of email reports and be able to say, "Okay, nothing's exploded. Everything's cool." I'll get to that later," are aspects of the product his team can't do without.

I love being able to see exactly why we're spending an extra $300 a month, and knowing it might be these servers. Then being able to say this is still running, let's just shut that project down.

On multiple occasions, Taloflow's Tim proactively alerted the Left team of cloud cost anomalies. For Alan and the Left team, it's the root cause analysis that makes the formerly painstaking now painless: "I love being able to see exactly why we're spending an extra $300 a month, and knowing it might be these servers. Then being able to say this is still running, let's just shut that project down."

An emphasis on AWS cloud billing and architecture workshops to align team objectives for efficiency

Part of Taloflow's offering involves regular billing and architecture workshops. They help customers identify worthwhile AWS cloud cost optimization initiatives to undertake. They are in-depth and produce much more than vanilla reserved instance recommendations. For Left, they occur on a quasi-monthly basis and are primarily oriented towards finding any waste buildup. After an intense few weeks of software deployments at Left, there's usually something to reveal. Be it too many NATS and load balancers or a surge in metric calls.

One thing about cloud cost optimization that both Left and Taloflow understand is that it is a constant effort. That's why a shared Slack channel is available to help Left draw on Taloflow's cloud management expertise on demand. "Having a Slack channel where I can throw out a question and within minutes it's either answered or fixed, is great", Alan describes.

Having a Slack channel where I can throw out a question and within minutes it's either answered or fixed, is great.

To recap, Left makes regular use of Taloflow's anomaly detection, sleek email summaries, billing and architecture workshops, and even directly accesses Taloflow's experts over Slack. Altogether, Left has a trusted solution and partner in Taloflow to scale fast without sacrificing cloud efficiency.

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