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12/14/2012
06:24 PM
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Amazon Details Cloud Bills By The Hour

AWS uses operational data to deposit hourly usage information in a customer's S3 storage account. Customers can request alerts when thresholds are crossed.

7 Dumb Cloud Computing Myths
7 Dumb Cloud Computing Myths
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Amazon Web Services has added a rich level of billing detail for customers who want to know more about what's in their monthly bill for the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and related services.

In the past, customers have complained that an Amazon bill was little better than the utility bill they received at home -- one lump sum without any way of figuring out who within the organization was responsible for increases or the lion's share of the charges.

Now Amazon is making it possible to receive an hourly report on each server, giving customers an unprecedented amount of detail in the billing information delivered directly to them.

Jeff Barr, Amazon Web Services evangelist, in a blog directed to customers Dec. 13, said Amazon had received many customer complaints about the lack of detail in bills and was responding with "a new hourly grain view of your AWS usage and charges." The hourly view was detailed down to individual servers and the services of a particular availability zone in which they were running.

[ Want to learn how one user ran up a bill of $23,000 when he expected to use $2,300 worth of service? See Cloud's Big Caveat: Runaway Costs. ]

Customers receiving consolidated bills covering many accounts, for example, an IT manager supervising employee use of cloud services, will get hourly details with "unblended rates," separating out on-demand instances from reserved instances. That gives a customer a view of how much of their needs were being met by Amazon's lowest-cost option -- reserved instances -- versus the more expensive on-demand instances.

Earlier this year, Amazon made the detailed information available to customers in wholesale form, leaving it to customers to select data out of an undifferentiated stream that contained 25 fields of information on each server. Customers could programmatically select out the data they wanted with which to build reports.

With the new detailed billing reports, AWS gives customers a view of how much time services were used per server. The reports are sent to a bucket in their S3 storage account, adding eventually to the monthly storage bill if they're not periodically downloaded or cleaned out.

"We've had a number of requests for better access to more detailed billing information," Barr acknowledged. "We do our best to listen and to learn and to make sure that our plans line up with what we are hearing," Barr wrote.

Amazon also estimates what a bill is expected to be and stores Amazon CloudWatch monitoring statistics on actual usage. Customers can set up thresholds for email alerts to be sent to them when usage goes above averages or the estimates.

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