Jesse DeRose

FinOps X 2024 Review

Published 2024-07-01 18:40:00 +0000 8 min read
Image Credit: Luis Quintero

FinOps X 2024 took place recently in San Diego, CA. We (Tim Banks, Amy Negrette, and Jesse DeRose) caught up to discuss our thoughts on the event and what it means for FinOps as a whole. The following post is a summation of our discussion. You can watch the full conversation here.

FinOps is Still a Buzzword

FinOps X is “the global conference for FinOps”, produced by The FinOps Foundation.

FinOps became a hot-ticket item during the COVID work-from-home battle when companies suddenly needed to tighten their purse strings and understand why they were spending millions of dollars on AWS. This inadvertently led to a lot of service providers using marketing buzzwords to sell tools that “solve FinOps”. But what does that actually mean?

FinOps X 2023 and 2024 saw a large number of breakout sessions asking this question, discussing what people mean when they use terms like FinOps, cost optimization, cloud optimization, cloud economics, etc.

FinOps still feels like a buzzword. Practitioners are still defining what FinOps means for them while companies simultaneously look for the cheapest and fastest way to exploit it.

Without a clear definition of what problem you’re trying to solve when you talk about FinOps, all you’re doing is muddying the waters. Purchasing a tool may be a great step towards understanding the business value of your cloud workloads but a tool alone will not solve your problems.

Tim recently produced a documentary on DevOps and discovered many people still can’t agree on a single definition of DevOps. If DevOps has been around for fifteen years and we can’t reach consensus on it, FinOps still has a ways to go.

An Education Problem

Because FinOps is so nascent, there’s still a lot of opportunities for education.

When companies first moved workloads into the cloud, they lost visibility on their spend and therefore couldn’t forecast it. That’s a huge business risk. But how do we communicate that?

The 2023 and 2024 State of FinOps surveys noted 60% of respondents struggled with the FinOps Practice Operations capability–organizational change required to incentivize teams to fold FinOps into their processes. We were excited to see the majority of breakout sessions and chalk talks this year focus on solving these problems.

But even if you know where your money is going, should your money be going there? Just because a product line is profitable doesn’t mean it’s optimized. We’ve worked with many clients that could allocate their spend to the penny but couldn’t tell us the business value of that spend–are there opportunities to optimize? What business metrics influence this spend? Would this workload be less costly in a different cloud or, heaven forbid, an on-prem data center? We didn’t see many sessions or chalk talks dedicated to this topic.

It’s also worth noting that designing workloads for cloud is easy when they’re net-new. But what about all your existing infrastructure? Can you imagine not knowing that your server has fallen over until the end of the month? Or that an expensive workload ran two dozen times instead of once because of an error? This is how a lot of companies do FinOps, and you can’t rely on lagging indicators. Similarly, FinOps X 2024 didn’t have any sessions discussing what happens when your process fails.

Certifications - A Love Hate Relationship

Sessions and networking at FinOps X are great ways to learn FinOps but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention The FinOps Foundation’s persona-based certifications. These are a great starting point if you’re new to FinOps, especially their free introductory course, but leave some things to be desired.

First and foremost, they’re expensive. If your company is paying for the certification, great. But if you’re trying to learn FinOps without scholarships or other funding, certification can be an expensive barrier to entry.

Second, the FinOps certifications test your ability to memorize and regurgitate information rather than your ability to apply principles to a problem. FinOps is a holistic practice, so we’d love to see certifications similar to the Six Sigma accreditation system that test a practitioner’s ability to understand the holistic view of the financial impact of their infrastructure.

There Are No Runners

Another interesting part of FinOps X this year was the theme “there are no runners”. The notion of runners relates to levels of FinOps practice maturity: crawl, walk, and run. Leadership may assume that reaching a “run” level of maturity is the goal but FinOps X’s keynote suggests “run” may simply be a state of stability between moments of chaos when new tools, capabilities, or business requirements require organizations to change how they do FinOps.

So maybe calling these levels of maturity isn’t the right phrase anymore. We’re excited to see this messaging evolve as the practice evolves.

Influence the Whiteboard

We saw a lot of vendors selling FinOps tools on the show floor. What we didn’t see was FinOps tools that influence whiteboard architecture discussions, which is where FinOps starts.

Tools like System Initiative help teams visualize cloud architecture, empowering them to think holistically about design decisions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could fold cost into those visualizations? Or optimization opportunities? Suddenly, a recommendation to migrate from one cloud service to another shows the architectural repercussions of that change, giving teams the context they need to make an informed decision. InfraCost is one solution in this space, and we’d love to see more options like it.


Related to tooling, we were excited to see the 1.0 release of the FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUSTM). The plan is for this specification to be adopted by all major CSPs so customers running workloads in multiple clouds can export all their spend data in a single standardized format. Coming from development and operations backgrounds, we saw the rise and standardization of observability metrics with OTel so we’re cautiously hopeful that FOCUS becomes the standard for cloud spend data.

Emphasis on cautiously. AWS, GCP, Azure, and Oracle have already adopted this standard but just because the standard exists doesn’t mean people will use it. FOCUS allows customers running workloads on multiple clouds to compare workload costs apples-to-apples across clouds, which should hopefully prompt CSPs to compete for customer workload retention.

Additionally, FOCUS will allow customers to ingest all their metrics into a single solution so your non-technical stakeholders can skip the AWS console and just look at your preferred data visualization tool for insights. You’re welcome.

Rapid Fire

Things we thought were overhyped:

  • Sessions detailing bespoke, in-house technical solutions. These talks are usually given by enterprises that couldn’t use an off-the-shelf solution. And we get that but “we threw money at the problem” is not an attitude non-enterprise companies should adopt.
  • Networking mixers. To all conference organizers everywhere: please stop throwing parties you think are “cool”. It feels like I’m back at a forced-fun work event and that’s not the vibe I want after a day of conferencing.
  • Location. For a practice focused on cost optimization, FinOps X organizers certainly picked an expensive city and state to gather. The entire state of New Mexico is right there.

Things we thought were underhyped:

  • Workshops (chalk talks). There were more chalk talks this year than last year but we always want more, especially birds-of-a-feather style sessions. We always want to see more whiteboard sessions focused on a group of people in a very specific industry collaboratively solving a very specific problem.
  • FinOps X. For the amount of money companies could be saving on their cloud workloads, we should be sending more practitioners to this event. Building a FinOps practice is a business investment. Local meetups are a great way to meet local practitioners but this conference is the FinOps event for learning and networking.

What We Want Next Year

  • Recurring roundtables/whiteboard sessions focused on building a FinOps practice from scratch. There’s always going to be new practitioners, and we want to ensure they’ll always be able to get the basic building blocks at FinOps X.
  • More whiteboard sessions (chalk talks)! FinOps starts at the whiteboard with architecting a workload for the cloud. We can’t count the number of times we’ve seen loadbearing tech debt prevent a team from rearchitecting a workload for cost optimization purposes.
  • Invest in a DEI track. You want more underrepresented minorities in tech? In leadership roles? They’re going to need to know how to handle cloud spend. This is a great place to give them those opportunities.
  • Career-building opportunities. Related to a DEI track, we’d love to see FinOps X foster more career-building opportunities for its community. A mentorship program helps new practitioners learn from seasoned practitioners, and looks great on a resume. Resume reviews and headshot photo booths help practitioners breaking into FinOps position themselves for hiring managers.