Werner Vogels, CTO and vice president of Amazon, once made a great analogy in a keynote speech: He called it "turning off the lights." The idea is that your developers wouldn't leave the office without turning off the lights, because it's incredibly visible and has an obvious impact. Shutting off the lights if you're the last person to leave the office is almost subconscious; you don't have to look very hard to know that it needs to be done.
Translating that over to the cloud environment, it becomes simpler to make sure that your developers know to "turn off the lights" before they leave. Many companies have put up large displays that track the total cost per hour of their cloud environments. Making it very large and visible makes it obvious when something "development" is running and makes it almost encouraging to shut things off when members of your team are done to avoid increasing the cloud computing fees.
The more visibility you provide to your developers on their impact on the costs to the company, the simpler it becomes to get them to manage their instances properly. This can be something as simple as a giant monitor visible in the developers' offices that shows line charts of the costs of instances running, or even physical lights that would be a very obvious signal before they leave that instances are still running.
Of course, you could also have alarms, email or even automatic termination of instances that are running after a given period of time, but it's often better to let your developers handle managing their own resources. The most important thing is to give them a clear vision of what's going on and encourage them to help save the company money.
About the author
Chris Moyer is author of the book Building Applications in the Cloud and creator of two Web frameworks, Marajo and botoweb. He currently lives in New York, where he helps developers migrate applications to the cloud.
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This was first published in May 2013