CloudHealth Technologies tracks usage of Amazon Web Services and recommends ways to improve service and cut costs.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

June 17, 2014

3 Min Read

locations where its assigned availability zone exists; that may mean it can't be converted into a Reserved Instance if that RI must be created in a datacenter that's outside that zone.

"I told Jeff Barr [Amazon's chief cloud evangelist] that our customers have a lot of Amazon accounts," Kinsella recalls. Some of those customers are struggling to successfully convert their on-demand accounts into Reserved Instances and are experiencing an unexpectedly high failure rate.

An on-demand account is named to an availability zone in a given region, and availability zones are often spread across several -- but not all -- datacenters. To convert an on-demand account into a Reserved Instance, the on-demand account must be located in a physical datacenter where the RI will be assigned upon creation, which may or may not be the one used by the on-demand account. Cloud customers have no control over on-demand deployments, which are handled by provisioning systems inside Amazon.

Building a spread sheet of which datacenters a given on-demand account has access to is time consuming and prone to error, if the account gets moved. Consequently, a customer that was attempting to convert 150 accounts to Reserved Instances and realize a 40% savings ended up with a savings of 5%, Kinsella told us. Many of the on-demand accounts hadn't converted and continued to run in an on-demand fashion, billed at the higher on-demand hourly rate.

"We corroborated with the customers, 'Yes, this is a problem.' " Amazon Web Services support people also conceded it was a problem "with no immediate solution," Kinsella says.

The CloudHealth system, on the other hand, can look at existing on-demand instances for a given customer and map them to the Reserved Instances that the customer would like to create. In some cases, an on-demand instance used by one department will transfer into an availability zone and datacenter used by another to free up a spot on an account that's in a datacenter that can run an RI. By knowing which availability zones are where, along with where all instances of one company are running, CloudHealth can map assignments to where they need to go to achieve the maximum number of RIs.

CloudHealth handles the billing details so that each virtual machine instance is charged to the correct party, but use of Reserved Instances is maximized.

In addition to CloudHealth, customers can get help understanding cloud billing from other vendors such as Cloudyn, Uptime Software, Apptio, CloudCruiser, and 6Fusion. But CloudHealth says it is trying to relate the health and performance of existing cloud workloads to the business processes they must support.

"We don't want to give you more tools with which to go and manage infrastructure," Kinsella says. Rather, CloudHealth is trying to assimilate information from many tools and combine that data with its understanding of how the Amazon cloud operates, then tell the business what it needs to know.

IT leaders who don't embrace public cloud concepts will find their business partners looking elsewhere for computing capabilities. Get the new Frictionless IT issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

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 Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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