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Reserving infrastructure capacity

To get the best value for money from cloud infrastructure, we should pay in advance for parts of it that are going to be in active use over a long period.

This guidance should be followed wherever possible, but is particularly applicable to AWS and Azure.


Only reserve instances for long-lived infrastructure

Reserving infrastructure allows us to make a significant saving over paying for it on demand, but only if that class of infrastructure is in use over the period in which the savings are made.

The best indicator that we have of this is if that class of infrastructure has been (and, therefore, is likely to continue to be) in active use for the length of the reservation.

Given that most infrastructure reservation systems operate on a one- or three-year basis, we should only consider for reservation any infrastructure that has existed for at least one year.

Allow for change without wasting reservations

Our infrastructure estate is undergoing a lot of changes at the moment, with consolidation, re-hosting, and re-architecting taking place on many fronts. This means it’s difficult to predict what infrastructure we’ll need in future, so we should only make reservations for one year at a time.

In addition, to avoid reserving infrastructure that we end up not needing as a result of those changes, we should only reserve up to 70% of the infrastructure we’d consider for reservation.

Teams provisioning infrastructure should ensure they can easily change instance types within a given family, to allow ease of upgrading to more cost-efficient instance types within that family, should the need arise.

Only reserve non-production infrastructure if it can’t easily be switched off

All our systems should be able to scale up and down according to the demand for them at any given moment, so we’re only paying for infrastructure when it’s in active use. By extension, that means that all non-production infrastructure should be able to be entirely switched off outside business hours.

To that end, teams should work to allow non-production infrastructure to be switched off out of hours before it is considered for reservation.

If, after this work is done, the non-production infrastructure is actively used for more than a year, and is expected to remain so, we should consider using “scheduled” reserved instances for infrastructure that can be switched off out of hours.

Non-production infrastructure that is too difficult (or costly) to make able to be switched off out of hours may be considered for reservation if it is expected to be required long term.

Don’t use reserved instances to guarantee capacity

While it’s appealing to reserve capacity to ensure the provider guarantees that capacity will be available, the MOJ are currently not working at a scale that warrants this level of guarantee. Rather, we should emphasise flexibility of deployment, and services ability to redeploy into other environments, and optimising costs when we do so.

This page was last reviewed on 24 August 2023. It needs to be reviewed again on 24 November 2023 by the page owner #operations-engineering-alerts .
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