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How Much Does Your Cloud Cost?

One of the earliest features we added to RightScale was cloud cost tracking and monthly projections. Instance usage reporting quickly became one of the most appreciated features by our customers (and their finance departments). Over time we've added more cost-tracking capabilities for volumes and reserved instances. I still find it odd, although I'm not entirely surprised given their revenue model, that this information is unavailable or difficult to find in some IaaS vendors' interfaces. Especially since controlling cloud costs is one of the more critical needs that enterprises face today.

RightScale now has more than 100 million cloud computing billing records for customer usage in our databases. Some of our customers have hundreds of separate accounts that they need to somehow account for and report on at the end of each month. And cloud service provider pricing just continues to get more complex with matrixed tiers and hybrid environments. So as cloud computing technology has become both more advanced as well as mainstream, billing visibility has comparatively lagged. How are enterprises to manage?

A New Tool for Forecasting Your Cloud Costs

Cost tracking and accounting has been a vexing problem for our largest customers for some time, and we have been working closely with them to approach it from a variety of angles and develop the best solution. Most recently we acquired PlanForCloud, a free cloud cost forecasting site that helps you predict your cloud costs for deployments running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine, Rackspace, and Windows Azure. We are working closely with the PlanForCloud team to add more functionality into RightScale to better help our customers predict their future spend.

Manage Your Reporting Across Accounts and Clouds

Another way we are helping our customers with cost tracking and reporting is by giving them the ability to report across accounts and clouds and organize this data to match their company's internal cost centers. And if I get asked by our sales team to demo our new Enterprise Report Manager one more time, I won't be able to get this blog post out!

All kidding aside, let's look at two key use cases and how the Enterprise Report Manager solves each. You will notice how we have taken advantage of the RightScale tagging system to enable custom collections of resources. This is because when we first interviewed our customers, showing them an arbitrary tree structure for organization, they ripped it apart — pointing out use cases that only tags could solve.

First, we heard the need to roll up all production costs (or development costs, QA costs, etc.) across all accounts. To do this, tag all production deployments and roll them up in a single report:

Second, departments or cost centers have become spread out across multiple accounts, making it difficult to look at just one bill to charge back cloud costs to a single department. In this case, simply tag all the accounts that belong to a single department:

Now that the cost accounting squared away, generate reports immediately or schedule them to be uploaded to storage or delivered via email. Give your finance department the information they need without pushing a button:

Instance Usage is now available in the public beta Enterprise Report Manager, and we are looking to add more services very soon. As always, we are interested in your feedback on what else you need us to report on.

So get tagging and keep your finance department happy. Oh, and if you're interested in seeing the new Enterprise Report Manager in action, request a demo and one of my colleagues will be happy to walk you through it.

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