The promise of saving money is a major factor in the cloud's explosive growth. But the pay-as-you-go cloud world, which is currently dominated by Amazon Web Services, can easily and quickly end up costing you more than what you'd hoped to save by migrating in the first place.
Managing the AWS cloud bill gets to be a bigger headache every week for the IT manager in charge of controlling the cost of cloud computing. As use of the cloud grows, so does the complexity of the bill. There's precious little ability to extract the detailed information needed to see who drove the increase each month.
Yes, Amazon supplies some ability to set accounts using tags and consolidated billing. This capacity allows an IT manager to separate production cloud accounts from dev and test accounts. But it becomes daunting for the IT department to serve 10,000 employees.
If by the end of the year, most of those employees are in a business unit that wants its own account on EC2, the company will run out of tags long before it runs out of users.
With 37% of IT spending on servers, switches, and storage headed for one form or another of cloud computing, it's extremely likely that managing the cost is on the C-suite's radar.
Two major challenges facing IT managers charged with keeping tabs on the AWS bill: How to make cloud users more accountable and how to measure efficiency of cloud usage.
Amazon Web Services recognizes the problem. First, it tried to ease the problem of ordering the correctly priced server by offering prospective users Trusted Advisor. The tool can take a user's specifications and recommend an instance configuration that's a match without building in much surplus capacity.
AWS describes its online adviser as a resource "to help you reduce cost [and] increase performance ..." What more could you ask? Perhaps more visibility, tracking, and feedback regarding the operation of what the Trusted Adviser set up.
Remember, the cost picture can be complicated by outside events, such as Britain's vote to exit the European Union. Microsoft announced in October that it will raise prices as of Jan. 1, 2017 on Azure cloud computing in Britain to make up for the decline of the British pound since the Brexit vote. Can Amazon be far behind?
Since then, AWS and several promising young third-parties, such as Cloudyn, CloudHealth, Cloud Checkr, Cloudability, Apptio, and Uptime Software, have come up with additional billing management and cloud cost-management offerings. Here's a look at six tools for cost accountability and management as the reliance on the cloud continues to grow.
All the tools highlighted have been tested by customers and most have won acceptance in the marketplace over the past two to three years. Each contains multiple cost management features, with at least one of particular strength that makes it worth considering by IT managers responsible for cloud operations.Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio