Cost control is the top cloud-management concern organizations face today. With this challenge in mind, cloud service providers offer certain cost-management capabilities as part of their platforms. Because these so-called native tools are dedicated to analyzing cost and usage of the individual cloud service providers, they make the most sense early in the cloud journey.
When cloud initiatives begin to scale, it’s time to consider graduating to third-party tools dedicated to controlling and optimizing cloud costs. At this point, cloud footprints have expanded, additional services are consumed, multiple accounts are used in a variety of locations, and likely multiple clouds have been added. At the same time, cloud spend must be tightly controlled to reduce the risk of budget overruns or increased waste, which is especially important during times of economic uncertainty.
A more comprehensive approach to understanding cloud usage and controlling cloud costs is needed.
What are the main cloud cost-management tools?
Deciding whether your cloud cost-management requirements are covered by native tools means knowing what’s inside the integrated toolbox offered by your cloud provider: Given three service providers comprise two thirds of the global public cloud market – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) – it’s likely your environment includes one or more and you have access to their native tools.
AWS native tools let organizations optimize their AWS costs and usage through these services that are mostly free or have nominal fees:
- AWS Cost Explorer: drill into historical cloud spend and understand trends with flexible cost reporting.
- AWS Budgets: set up custom budgets that send alerts when budgeted thresholds are exceeded or when RI coverage drops below targets.
- AWS Recommendations: identify potential resource savings and surface optimization recommendations for rightsizing EC2 instances and RI purchases.
- AWS Trusted Advisor: provide recommendations to reduce costs and improve system performance and reliability.
Microsoft's Azure Cost Management provides organizations with visibility and optimization recommendations through:
- Azure Cost Analysis: visualize your Azure cloud spend with simple dashboards.
- Azure Budgets: establish budget notifications and threshold alerts via email or Azure Action Groups.
- Azure Advisor Recommendations: offer cost-saving recommendations encompassing VM rightsizing and RI purchases.
Google Cloud's cost management capabilities are provided through various sections of their “Google Cloud Console”. These Include:
- Billing: view reports with a graphical representation of current cost trends and forecasts that can be filtered and grouped by Project, SKU, and Location.
- Pub/Sub: configure GCP’s general messaging service to manage budgets and trigger alerts.
- Compute Engine: list VM instances and append a Recommendation column to surface cost saving opportunities.
Why should you consider independent cloud financial management tools?
Third-party tools such as Apptio Cloudability pick up where native tools leave off in three critical areas of cost control.
Allocation and visibility
Visibility into cloud spend is the key to potential cost optimization opportunities. Gaining those insights requires having a cost allocation structure and policies that group costs in business-meaningful ways, giving the various stakeholders specific insight into their area of interest.
Native tools help get you started by offering some basic cost-categorizing constructs such as resource tags and accounts. While useful early in the cloud journey, with Cloudability you have an opportunity to greatly enrich this data through mapping completely new business layers on top. Even though base data may not explicitly have information – such as the project ownership of a particular service, what application it belongs to, or even the type of expense it is (COGS vs. OpEx), you can create mapping rules to surface this detail.
Complexity and scale
When cloud environments scale, so do the opportunities to waste resources. Collaboration with delivery teams is fundamental to tackling waste. However, simply notifying teams of their calculated cloud spend on a monthly basis, and expecting changes in behavior, is likely to lead to disappointment. Cloud financial data is complex and dynamic in nature, and therefore it is imperative that all stakeholders are provided interactive tools that allow them to fully engage with this information.
A great starting point is to provide stakeholders curated dashboards that surface the most relevant KPIs and trends in a single page, no matter the cloud provider used. It goes without saying that the data backing the dashboards needs to be kept current so that teams are kept up to date throughout the month and retain the data for the ability to look back. Nothing drives financial accountability like giving teams an official budget. Any tool will ideally make budget information readily available. It will also compare data to historical and forecasted spend, and pre-emptively notify relevant stakeholders when forecasts exceed the current month’s budget. To further enable teams, Cloudability offers visual exploratory tools that develop a deep understanding of an organization’s cloud footprint. Depending on your organization’s needs, there are additional strategies that can be employed, such as using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect significant anomalies in spending and alert relevant teams.
One company, Agero, skipped native tools all together and went straight to a third-party tool at the outset of its cloud migration. Its number one goal was to avoid costly, accidental overprovisioning of cloud resources without a way to quickly spot those issues before receiving the monthly invoice. By using a more sophisticated cloud-cost management tool, rather than native tools, Agero has been able to have full transparency into their cloud costs, set budgets, and keep spend on track.
Thanks to a variety of choice and potential acquisitions of companies with existing cloud infrastructure, most organizations today are using two or more cloud providers. For native tools users, what comes with the territory is being forced to manage separate tools from each provider – probably using a homegrown spreadsheet that consumes precious engineering time and resources.
In contrast, Cloudability creates a unified, multi-cloud experience by making data across all clouds, regardless of provider, viewable from a single pane of glass.
One company, Bitmovin, tried to separately manage native tools from all three main cloud providers – AWS, Azure, and GCP – including billing files, discounts, and prepaid services that needed monitoring and controlling. It turned out going through the billing data of each cloud provider tool one by one, locating the invoices, and compiling and summarizing the data in spreadsheets was too time-consuming. Instead, Bitmovin moved to Cloudability because the solution provides a single dashboard and unified view of all its cloud costs, allowing them to:
- Improve tagging coverage across AWS, Azure, and GCP
- Allocate cloud costs to specific customers to calculate their cost per customer
- Identify and shut off dev-and-test instances that were left running
- Monitor and control their multi-cloud costs from one dashboard
See the difference for yourself
Discovering the true cost of your cloud relies on much more than raw billing data alone. Getting a detailed picture requires granular visibility so you can accurately allocate costs.
Cloudability allows you to tackle the complexity of cloud, including the ability to display multi-cloud cost data in a single pane of glass; all data is constantly refreshed with every provider's latest updates.
See the difference for yourself with a free Cloudability trial and find out if you are ready to go beyond native tools.