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From local to global in six months: an Aussie FinOps startup’s meteoric rise in the cloud

Rodney Joyce, managing director, Data-Driven

Rodney Joyce has been writing code for 25 years, so he knows the challenges involved in building teams and delivering enterprise software.

“Bringing best software engineering practices to the ‘wild west’ of the data world has been an interesting experience,” he says.

Joyce’s desire to help businesses make the most of their data led him to establish Data-Driven in March 2019. Based in Sydney, the Microsoft Gold Partner specialises in building cost-efficient, modern data platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. It also offers advanced data analytics consulting services.

“We provide better outcomes for customers by involving technical consultants in the pre-sales process regarding data, AI and analytics,” Joyce explains. “This aligns customer expectations, reduces scope creep and minimises friction between the sales and delivery team, which results in happier customers.”

The company is 1 of only 5 in Australia to hold the coveted Microsoft Advanced Specialisation – Analytics on Azure certification. The calibre of its consultants is one of the main things that sets Data-Driven apart from other data and AI specialists, according to Joyce.

Most of our people come from meet-ups and hackathons where we don’t even need to do a technical interview,” he says. “Our brand attracts good talent and interesting customer projects, so we just have to keep doing what we are doing.

Helping businesses take control of their cloud costs

Dubbed ‘FinOps on autopilot’, CloudMonitor is the first product from Data-Driven. It helps companies reduce unnecessary spending on cloud technology and avoid bill shock by identifying cost anomalies and cost-saving opportunities. Transport for NSW, which manages one of the largest and most diverse vehicle fleets in Australia, recently reduced its Azure cloud spend by 22 per cent using CloudMonitor.

The solution monitors customers’ cloud resources in real time to find any that are oversized or unused. It then provides personalised recommendations for lowering costs, or improving security and governance processes, based on usage patterns. Accountability for cloud spend is pushed down the project teams allowing each Project Owner to view their own costs and receive cost anomaly alerts via the Teams Bot. This encourages the right-sizing of resources and builds a FinOps culture during the development phase of projects, as opposed to being an afterthought for the Ops team in Production.

“CloudMonitor started off as a cost assessment framework for an enterprise customer with runaway costs,” explains Joyce. “We realised that most of the actions we took to reduce their costs could be automated or done via a self-service platform by delegating cloud cost management to the business owners.”

CloudMonitor enables Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) to offer a white-labelled, FinOps service as part of their solution catalogue to their customers. CSPS and MSPs receive a volume discount and meet a growing demand for cloud cost optimisation.

Data-Driven offers a free version of CloudMonitor, as well as paid options to suit small and large businesses. And as part of its Tech for Social Impact initiative, Data-Driven offers non-profit organisations, non-government organisations and charities around the world a free two-year CloudMonitor licence valued at US$10,000.

The tech behind the solution

CloudMonitor leverages Azure’s serverless computing capabilities and various Azure application programming interfaces to provide cost and security analytics. These also allow Data-Driven to operate the platform at a very low cost.

The service uses a Microsoft Teams bot that is embedded into customers’ project development workflows to provide recommendations as soon as cloud resources are created. CloudMonitor also generates interactive dashboards in Microsoft Power BI so customers can easily see their cloud consumption. Customers can also build their own Power BI reports to suit their business needs.

Unlike other FinOps tools on the market, CloudMonitor lives inside the customer’s Azure cloud, meaning that sensitive cost data doesn’t leave the organisation. “This is a vital security requirement for large enterprises and governments,” Joyce notes.

CloudMonitor leverages Microsoft Dynamics 365 to help onboard new users and build a highly targeted sales funnel.

Making the most of Microsoft’s commercial marketplace

In August 2021, Data-Driven launched a beta version of CloudMonitor on Microsoft’s commercial marketplace, which includes Azure marketplace and Microsoft AppSource. Since then, the Aussie startup has released a full version of the platform and turned CloudMonitor into a globally recognised brand.

The company now has close to 70 customers in 31 countries and averages ten downloads per day on Microsoft’s commercial marketplace. The platform monitors 632 Azure subscriptions and has generated an impressive $15 million in Azure Consumed Revenue.

“CloudMonitor would not be logistically possible to scale and sell without the Microsoft commercial marketplace,” Joyce says.

“As a startup with less than 10 employees and constraints on resources and budget, the marketplace allowed us to validate our idea and take it to the global market within six months.

“Expanding globally was as simple as ticking checkboxes. Having our product displayed to the thousands of daily marketplace users immediately resulted in an increase in downloads in over 30 countries.”

Joyce says Microsoft’s commercial marketplace also enabled Data-Driven to launch a white-label FinOps solution in March 2022 for Microsoft Cloud Provider partners to sell to their customers.

The startup’s meteoric rise was recognised at the recent Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards. It was named as the Finalist for the prestigious Partner of the Year award in Australia.

Lizelle Hughes, Director of SaaS and ISV Partnerships at Microsoft ANZ, says:

It’s been incredible watching Data-Driven fully embrace Microsoft’s ecosystem to rapidly scale its offering. CloudMonitor is a very clever tool that is helping Azure customers reduce cloud wastage and improve their bottom line.

Grand plans for further expansion

Data-Driven is working on projects with the Australian Government and three state governments, as well as several private organisations. Joyce says he wants to expand the company’s presence significantly across Australia, New Zealand and Asia over the next three years.

“CloudMonitor is gaining traction as the market realises the importance of FinOps and sees value in reducing [cloud] wastage. We’re aiming to onboard 2,000 more customers in the next two years worldwide,” he says.

“Our target market is any user of Azure in any part of the world, regardless of industry or employee size, who has a cloud spend of more than $100,000 per year. That represents a huge opportunity for further growth.”