Charu Thomas, cofounder and CEO of Ox, a software platform provider that helped retailers improve online order fulfillment, was proud of how her business had grown and earned positive feedback from investors, beta customers, and the press. Now, in the summer of 2021, revenue was on track to meet projections, and she began a comprehensive analysis of her costs, especially cloud hosting and computing costs. Ox’s software was built and relied fully on cloud services, and Thomas had originally chosen a cloud provider based on capabilities and speed to build, not on cost. When she compared her costs to those of similarly sized start-ups, she realized Ox was paying 10 times what she expected to pay at scale.
Fortunately, Thomas had recently welcomed Brent Sperry, who had worked on multiple cloud initiatives, as Ox’s new chief operating officer. She shared her insights into the costs of cloud providers with Sperry and proposed the next project: benchmarking and reevaluating cloud costs for Ox. They aimed to better understand which activities were driving cloud-related costs, how prices compared across cloud providers for each activity, what operational constraints, if any, Ox currently faced, and the advantages of one provider over another. In the end, would they stick with the current cloud provider? What changes would they request on their current cloud bill? Would Ox benefit from a multi-cloud strategy?
This field-based case, which is used in Darden’s “Digital Operations” course, includes an overview of cloud computing’s history and types; student and instructor spreadsheets with an interactive cost estimating model are also available.