The more workloads you migrate to the cloud, the more difficult it becomes to predict monthly cloud costs. Cloud service providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft can help organizations avoid capital costs for new hardware, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made the most cost-effective decisions about the specialized services these and other cloud providers offer.
And while it’s great that you only pay for the services you need, trying to analyze your monthly bill requires the skills of a CPA, a software engineer, a commodity trader, and a keen eye for the details.
This is because some cloud resources, such as B. High performance instances with multiple CPUs and high volume memory repositories will inflate the counter fairly quickly. Also, prices change frequently, either because providers are constantly lowering their fees to stay competitive, or because they have muddied the waters with special offers on future resource consumption that reward forward planning, so-called reserve instances.
Some providers offer gimmicks to preserve your data by not charging for inbound or outbound data transfer. To complicate matters further, as providers bring new cloud services to market, it can be daunting to understand the pricing implications of choosing one type of service over another.
Finally, a virtual instance of a CPU or hard drive is not necessarily the same across vendors, making comparison shopping almost impossible.
The good news is that there are many tools and services designed to help organizations manage and optimize cloud costs. Forrester Research’s Tracy Woo recently updated her report on this market segment. And Gartner leads this list of 20 vendors in the Cloud Management and Tooling category.
Why should companies use cloud management tools?
There are several reasons to consider using these tools and services. You may want to switch to a new provider to add functionality, or because you are unhappy with your provider’s downtime or level of customer support.
You may want to have better insight into your cloud costs by tracking price changes or better planning your reserve instances to align with the best price tiers. This is where the ability to trade commodities comes into play.
Cost analysis is just one part of optimizing cloud instances, which should be an ongoing process. This is because the pricing is so dynamic and the various resources are closely related in ways that may not be immediately apparent.
Providers offering this service have very sophisticated optimization routines. The right tool can also help identify mismanaged instances or resize your instance to fit your specific needs when scaling up or down.
Finally, you might want to investigate instances that are more cost or performance efficient.
Ironically, figuring out the cost of a tool or service designed to help you calculate cloud costs can be a bit confusing. Some of the providers have very transparent and public pricing pages, others allow you to check their rate sheets only after you sign up and some go so far as to make it clear that you only get the “free” tier access if you have registered and signed up an onslaught of marketing calls and emails.
This growing market segment has many players. Here’s a sampling of providers that fall into the three main categories of cloud cost management offerings.
1. AWS-only tools, both native and third-party
AWS has many of its own tools to help you understand your monthly cloud bill and predict your future cloud costs. These include:
AWS Cost Explorer is the grandfather of cost analysis portals, and it’s packed with data—you just have to work through them all to find out.
The Cost and Usage Report explains what these monthly reports are and how to use them wisely.
AWS Cost Anomaly Detection helps you identify unusual spending patterns.
Other tools that provide optimization recommendations are AWS Trusted Advisor, AWS CloudWatch, Cloudtrail, and S3 Analytics.
Qualys TotalCloud is a third-party tool designed specifically for AWS. There’s a 15-day free trial along with a forever free plan if your monthly bill is less than $5,000. Otherwise, plans start at $49/month. TotalCloud comes with hundreds of pre-built templates that can be used to automate and streamline various AWS tasks such as: B. the automatic termination of unused instances or the detection of anomalies.
2. Multi-Cloud Comparison Tools
Most businesses of all sizes use multiple cloud providers, so be sure to explore these tools. They either go far and cover multiple providers, or they cover many services from a particular provider.
In many cases, features are limited once you step beyond the more familiar cloud services like CPU, disk, and storage. Some have free trials that you should definitely try before you pay anything. Here are some examples:
Apptio Cloudability provides reserve instance scheduler and right-sizing analytics. Apptio bought Cloudability in 2019 and has other optimization tools in its portfolio. Cloudability comes with a 30-day free trial (with detailed registration and potential sales exposure) and then costs $499/month.
Cloudbolt.io has two different offerings (a cloud management platform and a cost optimization tool, but the latter is only for AWS and Azure). Free trials require registration and potential outreach to sales contacts. There are no prices available.
Cloudorado.com compares 11 cloud server, compute, and storage providers (including the big three) and normalizes CPU to AWS’s ECU to compare service providers’ CPU performance. You set your parameters for RAM, storage, CPU and OS types and it shows you the total monthly cost and you can drill down into details about each provider. There is a good balance between sufficient information and a wide range of providers, so it is a good starting point as long as you are interested in one of the providers analyzed. The service is free (vendors pay to list) and it’s up to you to fine-tune your own spend and specify your parameters.
CloudHarmony.com offers a directory of more than 100 providers. However, it only shows the basics of each (along with uptime statistics from Panopta, which is an independent way of checking the vendor’s promises and claims) with no cost information. If you’re willing to try one of the lesser-known providers, this is a good place to at least familiarize yourself with what each has to offer.
Densify has a variety of resource optimization tools as well as PaaS costs for the big three plus VMware, Openshift and Kubernetes. There are free (registration required) trial versions, but no public prices. There is also a page that describes the configuration requirements to run their tools.
Targeted for AWS and Azure, the GorillaStack Cost Optimization Tool aligns with your total cloud spend and starts at $50/month.
Harness covers the big three as well as Kubernetes. It has much more than expensive features and is designed for use in continuous software delivery environments. There is both an open-source and a forever free plan (for up to five services). Paid plans start at $100 per service per month for up to 100 services and an unlimited plan with a 14-day free trial.
Komiser covers IBM’s cloud and others. There are free and paid plans starting at $169/month.
NetApp has several different tools for the big three, including Spot.io and CloudCheckr, which are part of its larger analytics platform.
ParkMyCloud was acquired by IBM. It also covers Alibaba’s cloud. There are no prices available.
Virtana Cloud Cost Management was formerly called Metricly CloudWisdom. It only covers AWS and Azure, there is an unlimited free trial for a single resource, otherwise $5/device/month. Given this price point, this could be a good starting point for smaller cloud installs or for experimenting with the genre.
VMware CloudHealth covers the big three, but you have to run separate tools for each provider, which somewhat defeats the purpose of the comparison. VMware bought CloudHealth in 2018
3. Advisor (mostly)
The third option is cloud consultants, who often offer a free or low-cost comparison or cost analysis to entice you into signing up for their broader optimization services, which typically charge a percentage of your total cloud spend. These include:
Cloudsaver.com is for AWS only. The company says its consultants use a proprietary suite of more than 30 cloud optimization tools to help their clients save money.
Cloud Custodian has open-source YAML rules that you can use to set various runtime parameters to save money on your big three cloud bills.
The Duckbill Group offers a free service (with registration) to audit your AWS bill, but would like to get you to pay for consulting services soon after.
Flexera.com One is a full-service offering for the big three and VMware that includes cost and optimization, but they can analyze bills from other cloud providers. There are no prizes available, but they have fixed prize tiers.
Rackspace Cloud Optimization advises on the big three and also includes VMware. No prices given.
CloudZero.com has its own cost analysis tool that also supports Kubernetes and integrates with Snowflake. But they are mainly in business to give a lot of other advice. Free trials of Cost Analysis require registration and potential outreach to sales contacts.
TrackIT only sells add-ons for managed AWS services and custom cloud pricing advice.
Kubecost is for Kubernetes cost analysis only. Free for a cluster with 15-day history, paid plans start at $449/month.
Opsani is now part of Cisco and their AppDynamics platform, which performs continuous cloud runtime optimization on the big three, Kubernetes and other clouds. Plans are only available for CPU and memory optimization or for deeper integration with frameworks like CloudBees and Github. Their pricing page, which shows multiple plans without actually revealing dollar numbers.
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