This is part 6 in a series on cloud cost management.
There is a burgeoning crop of applications and portals for cloud cost optimization and reporting which point to the maturity, complexity and adoption surrounding cloud offerings. This strong adoption of the cloud offerings has sent IT organizations scrambling to understand the costs and to show their savings for, in many cases, well executed transition plans.
Range of features
Most cost control and repairing packages support more than one cloud service, in some cases they support ten or more. This is very useful both for comparing cloud service vendors for price, as well as for aggregating expenses. This is a natural extension to allow for hybrid clouds to be integrated under one reporting application. If you are considering or deploying a hybrid cloud solution, then this should be a concern for you. A couple of good questions for you to consider are: Can costs between cloud vendors be combined? Can a project that runs in more than one cloud be analyzed as a single project? Is there an import function for supporting data exported from a private cloud?
Cost reporting and projects
Bread and butter, right? Yup, you’ll be able to slice and dice the numbers, especially if you did your homework in the earlier sections and structured those tags right. Most tools will give you simple cost projections at a minimum. All of the reporting packages support an export to spreadsheet for further refinement.
Most of these packages have some type of SaaS offering. You go to the website, sign up for an account, and provide a login to your cloud service. This is often a free account, and lets you become acquainted with the software, the functions provided, as well as gain some information and insight into your cloud environment.
Some packages are offered as either a cloud hosted service or available as a COTS package which can be installed on your own local machine. Both of these options deal with both security and privacy issues, ie. you don’t want a package running outside your cloud accessing the data, or you have a private cloud. Accounting data can be a treasure trove of information, in some cases you may be contractually obligated to keep information private.
Authorization and access levels
In order to collect information and report, these applications need to be given access to accounting information. The actual accounting data is collected and stored by your cloud provider. You should never need to hand out administrator level access to a reporting application. If the package you are looking at requires it, move on. The exception would be packages which provide cloud instance management capabilities, which we’ll cover in another article. Good applications use read-only credentials, the best ones support a strict and narrow policy allowing access to only the accounting data.
Shared access describes the ability to connect other users to the reporting package. This can allow you to increase involvement up and down the organization. When project managers and architects see the costs tally up, it gives them a better understanding of the business case. As always, this does not substitute for real, meaningful communications, it just helps. Most reporting packages do not have any login tracking, so you need to decide if this meets your organization’s policies.
Some applications support sending automated emails to addresses other than the account owner’s in order to support sharing data without the overhead of accounts. Some organizations may not be comfortable with sending emails to external email addresses, and may have policy restrictions on such information to organizationally controlled email addresses only.
Optimization and recommendations
You’ve entered all your accounts, you’ve patiently waited while the reporting software has crunched away. Here’s where you get the experience and analysis from the experts. You shouldn’t take everything at face value, especially if your application use patterns are still changing. Even so, the results returned will include recommendations for storage changes, pre-purchasing of capacity (Reserved Instances or RIs in AWS nomenclature) and some basic projections.
Pricing models vary. Most SaaS product have a free version to give you a taste. Once you decide to pony up some cash, you’ll find that functional tiering is popular, while some opt to give you everything, always, but bill you based on how much money you’re tracking as a total, either as a percentage of tracked cost or a fixed graduated cost scale based on total cost tracked.