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3/28/2013
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Compare Cloud Service Prices With New Tool

Cloud service prices change frequently. PlanForCloud, a free online tool, tracks those changes and calculates your potential deployment costs with six different providers.

Buffaloed by the task of figuring out which cloud provider offers the best deal? A free service called PlanForCloud.com will do it for you, incorporating 12,000 different pricing possibilities offered by six different cloud vendors. Just plug in the resources you plan to use and compare the results.

Launched in February 2012, PlanForCloud.com was acquired by RightScale in June. RightScale maintains it as a free service and updates it with the frequent price changes that occur in the cloud market. For example, PlanForCloud has captured 29 price reductions in cloud services over the past 14 months. Amazon alone during that period announced eight core service price reductions -- for servers, storage or network bandwidth -- and 11 reductions on add-on services such as database, caching and messaging.

Rackspace, which entered the lists with low entry-level services, prides itself on customer service over price -- but during the same period it has had four price reductions. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Windows Azure and Google Compute Engine have both had three price drops.

[ Want to learn more about the difficulties of gauging the costs of cloud computing? See Cloud's Thorniest Question: Does It Pay Off? ]

Some of these price cuts occur when major vendors react to each other's moves, as they did last November at the end of Amazon.com's Re:Invent show in Las Vegas. Google cut storage prices by 20% on Nov. 26. Amazon cut prices by 25% on Nov. 28, and Google cut another 10% on Nov. 29 to stay positioned just below the market leader. Windows Azure joined the spree on Dec. 5 when it cut its storage prices by 22%. Rackspace reduced its own storage prices by as much as 25% in February through its own tiered pricing plan.

However, only 23% of all service price reductions were applied to compute services. Although storage and other services prices dropped by 25% or 30%, the average compute reduction was just 20%. A bigger reduction would have helped customers more, as compute services comprise 70% of their bills.

"Compute, storage and network bandwidth are mature services that may have achieved all the gains that can be achieved by efficient deployment and management of these services," said Kim Weins, VP of marketing at RightScale. Further reductions in the prices of these services might come more slowly and will have to be driven by gains in the efficiency of the underlying hardware, she said in an interview.

Instead of waiting for those industry efficiencies to materialize, cloud customers can use tools like PlanForCloud to examine the possibilities of scaling back servers, shutting servers down when they're not being used, or moving from one cloud provider to another to save money. Customers simply feed their intended resource deployment into PlanForCloud, including the gigabytes of data expected to be downloaded to the workload. They can also include an estimate of how the workload might increase in size over time.

The information generates a projected cost report based on a three-year life expectancy of the resources being used. The report details charges for each resource. A PlanForCloud user can then clone the projected deployment and try it with modifications in another cloud setting, or perform what-if analyses to explore different configurations and growth patterns.

PlanForCloud.com was first established by Hassan Khajeh-Hosseini, founder, marketing and product manager, and Ali Khajeh-Hosseini, founder and technical lead, in Edinburgh, Scotland, prior to its acquisition by RightScale. The two are continuing to develop the service.

Weins said PlanForCloud complements RightScale's own ability to capture pricing and project cloud costs. "We have a lot of experience in helping customers in doing this over six years," she noted.

RightScale is a front-end management service that configures, deploys and monitors workloads to major cloud providers on behalf of customers.

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