If your IT department creates a bunch of virtual machines that don't get used then it can become a security risk and a manageability nightmare. However, if you move to the cloud and spin up a bunch of machines that don't get used then the problem is even worse, since you're paying for each one.
Amazon Web Services recognized the problem and so it launched a program to alert its customers when they had cloud servers with low utilization, so that the servers could be deactivated and save the company from paying for them.
On Monday, AWS CEO Andy Jassy told the audience of technology executives at Gartner Symposium that the AWS initiative has now saved its customers $500 million.
"We don't want to make money from customers that aren't getting value from us," said Jassy. "We're trying to build relationships that last a long time."
At the annual event in Orlando, FL, Jassy did a 30-minute interview on stage with Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer, who also hit the AWS chief with some interesting data and feedback from the audience of 7,500 business and IT leaders.
Plummer said Gartner's survey reported that the most confusing thing about AWS was the bill, according to 95% of respondents.
Jassy attributed that to the fact that AWS launched over 1,000 new features and services in 2016 and is going to launch over 1,200 in 2017.
"It's daunting to keep up with all the features we're launching," he said.
The biggest surprise may have been that 65% considered Amazon as a trusted enterprise partner. That compared to 90% for IBM and Microsoft, 75% for Oracle, 60% for Google, and 30% for Apple.
Jassy said that if someone had told him four years ago that AWS would be up to 65% by 2017 then he would have been thrilled. He admitted that AWS has grown far faster than anyone at Amazon ever anticipated--now with $15B in annual sales, 40% growth, and millions of active customers.
In spite of all that growth and revenue, the program to keep customers from paying for services they aren't using is clearly one of the things Jassy is most proud of.
"How many of your partners call you up and say 'stop spending money with us'?" he asked the Gartner crowd.