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Evaluate Azure Cost Management updates post-Cloudyn acquisition

Microsoft users have seen a number of improvements to the Azure Cost Management tool -- but there are still concerns about its support for other cloud platforms.

As more enterprises use cloud services to provide critical infrastructure, some features that were once attractive have become costly liabilities.

Instant availability and unlimited scalability can create financial headaches if resources are left unchecked. Enterprises have pushed for better cost management tools to monitor and forecast monthly spending as they ramp up their cloud usage, and Microsoft responded to those demands when it acquired Cloudyn in 2017.

The Israeli startup was one of the first to address cost management deficiencies on AWS, and it later expanded support to Google Compute Engine, OpenStack, Microsoft Azure and VMware. Cloudyn's feature set was folded into a tool from Microsoft called Azure Cost Management, which became generally available earlier this year. Since then, Microsoft has continued to expand the service's capabilities, so let's review how enterprises can potentially benefit from its usage, and why its limitations might still give them pause.

Azure Cost Management 101

Azure Cost Management is a default service in Microsoft's cloud, available to Enterprise Agreement, Pay-As-You-Go and Azure Government customers. The financial governance tool provides budgets, cost analysis, Azure compute and reservation recommendations, and the ability to export data to Azure Storage.

It's integrated into the Azure Portal and works with Azure Advisor, Microsoft Power BI connectors and Cost Management APIs.

The service is free on Azure. It also works across clouds, though usage of the service to monitor and evaluate AWS or Google Cloud Platform environments carries a fee of 1% of the managed cloud spend.

Upgrades post-general availability

Over the summer of 2019, Microsoft continued to add features to Azure Cost Management, with notable improvements, including:

  • budget and resource usage forecasting for Azure and AWS resources;
  • resource reservations on both AWS and Azure, with costs connected and linked back to the teams using the resources;
  • support for budgets that span both Azure and AWS resources using management groups;
  • more options for customizing dashboard tiles;
  • expanded support for resource tags for Azure services, including App Service, Data Factory, Event Hubs Service Bus, VPN Gateway and load balancers;
  • increased limits on tags per resource, from 15 to 50;
  • customized views and sharing capabilities for reports; and
  • more granularity in budget reporting and forecasting.

Missing features and unanswered questions

Not all users can access Azure Resource Manager through the Azure Portal. Microsoft partners in the Cloud Solution Providers program must use the Cloudyn portal, as do multi-cloud users that rely on Cloudyn's recommendation feature for AWS. Microsoft says it will add those integrations into Azure Resource Manager in the near future.

One major concern, now that Microsoft holds the reins with Cloudyn, is whether the updated platform will remain agnostic or if Azure will have preferred status with richer features and integrations.

There are similar concerns about how responsive Microsoft will be with product support, bug fixes and performance for competitive cloud services. For example, Microsoft said it improved latency through the addition of usage data, cutting lag to roughly eight hours. It's doubtful that it will be able to provide the same functionality across clouds.

For Microsoft partners, there are questions about the privacy of competitive customer data when using Azure Cost Management to track resources across platforms. Microsoft will have access to data about their clients' use of alternative cloud services and could conceivably use it in ways that aren't in the best interests of independent third parties.

Organizations that would prefer a multi-cloud IT architecture must carefully weigh the convenience of Azure Cost Management against these issues when considering the best cost management product for their environments.

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