We’ve delved into the depths of cloud cost management in previous posts. We’ve shown you how to solve your problems if you aren’t looking to use any tools to help you.
Now it’s time to shed some light on the best cloud cost management software on the market.
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in fancy software with features that promise the world but, in reality, do little more than add to your costs while serving the same purpose as a Rube Goldberg machine. So many are over-engineered, that we’ve put together a simple list of all you need to take care of your cloud cost management software needs.
If you haven’t seen the previous posts we’ve published in this mini-series, check them out here. Otherwise, here’s an overview of what’s to come:
- What is cloud cost management software?
- What you need from cloud cost management software
- Top 10 cloud cost management software
- How to optimize your cloud costs
No more stalling, let’s get started!
What is cloud cost management software?
To understand what cloud cost management software is and which features you’ll need from yours, you first need to understand what cloud cost management is as a discipline. We’ve talked about this in depth in the previous two posts in this mini-series, but let’s go over the basics here to reaffirm it.
Cloud cost management is the practice of monitoring, tracking, managing, and optimizing the costs associated with your cloud computing operations. Whether you’re running a small-scale cloud server or you have multiple applications and data warehouses, cloud cost management is all about knowing how much you’re spending, what you’re spending that money on, whether what you’re getting is worth the costs, and how you can improve your operations.
This is where cloud cost management software comes in.
“Cloud cost management software” spans any software which helps you to monitor, control, and/or optimize your cloud operations. It doesn’t have to be an all-in-one suite either; you could utilize a tool that organizes and attributes your costs but nothing else, and it would still class as cloud cost management software.
Before we dive into the recommendations for what software you should use, it pays to know exactly what you need out of your own suite so that you can cover your bases. For instance, if you already have a method for effectively tracking and attributing your costs (including separating your individual unit costs) then you will benefit much more from software that specializes in optimizing your costs as opposed to retreading the same ground.
What you need from cloud cost management software
While the list below isn’t exhaustive, looking for software that brings the following to your cloud cost management setup will give you a good basis to start off with:
- Cost optimization
- Architectural context
- Direct control
The first and most important element you need from your cloud cost management software is visibility over your costs. You need to be able to see exactly how much you’re spending, what that money is being spent on, and be able to easily communicate that information with the rest of your team (and your financial team). After all, it’s hard to stick to a budget if you don’t know what your costs are, let alone whether they’re decreasing, increasing, or remaining consistent.
Ideally your choice of software should not only allocate your costs in detail, but also show you your unit cost, COGS, and cost per customer to give you a more complete picture of your operations. With that data you can then look to further optimize cloud operations without sacrificing other metrics.
Predictability ties into cost visibility, but not all software solutions cover both, so it’s worth noting separately. You need to be able to accurately predict what your costs will be in the near future in order to prepare for the bill, notice any discrepancies ahead of time, and be able to take advantage of patterns in your spending.
For example, if your costs spike seasonally according to the amount of traffic you get, you know that you’ll need to have room in your budget to account for those spikes. You might also be able to see how much you can scale your operations back during the slower months without risking performance, as you’ll have predicted when business will increase and you’ll need to scale up again.
The problem with cost optimization isn’t that it’s all that hard to do. Often the solutions that you need to carry out to cut your costs are very simple. The issue (as with most cloud computing when finances are involved) is knowing what you need to do. With the vast amount of options to choose from, it’s almost impossible for you to know what types of instances would suit you best, what savings plan or payment methods would save you the most money, and whether you can change your operations to spend less but keep performance high.
Thankfully, there are a few great tools that you can use which will analyze your cloud setup and make recommendations for you to optimize your costs based on your needs.
Architectural context isn’t something that cloud cost management software will bring by itself. However, it should provide you with enough information to put your operations into a wider context and help you to decide what your next best move is. Whether that’s redesigning your setup to work in a different framework or merely tweaking one or two aspects so that your existing containers can effectively work with new architecture, you need to have software that provides enough information for you to make those decisions.
Also, while you don’t need direct control over your operations through your management software, having it can cut out an awful lot of busy work. Having to analyze your cloud setup in one program and take action on those findings through other interfaces just leaves room for human error, if not downright negligence to occur. Remember that all it takes for you to lose a huge sum of money is to have one small recursion loop slip through the cracks - the more that you can consolidate your operations into one dashboard, the better.
Not to mention that having your analytical data and the ability to act on it in the same place means you waste less time cross-referencing what you’re doing.
Finally, automation can save so much time and effort that it would be insane not to utilize it wherever possible. If your software allows you to set actions to occur based on triggers, try using them to adjust operations on the fly instead of your team having to manually make changes as things happen. Doing so lets you switch from reacting to everything after it happens and negative effects have already been felt to proactively planning and putting measures in place to stop performance dropping.
Automation can also save you money outside of your pure cost sheet too. Just think about the amount of your team’s human hours you’re saving by automating busy work - it’s paid time that they can instead spend on more valuable tasks.
Top 5 cloud cost management software
You know what you need, now it’s time to dive into the best options you have to fulfill those needs. Let’s get right into it.
Cloud cost management software #1: Aimably’s AWS Invoice Management Software
Our first recommendation takes care of your visibility, predictability, and even some of your automation needs with no effort on your part - Aimably’s AWS Invoice Management Software. This tool takes the data from your AWS Cost and Usage Reports (CURs) and translates it into a dashboard that’s easy to view and understand.
Want to gather all of your AWS bills into one location to make it easy to get an accurate overview of your operations? No problem. Need to allocate your costs according to line items for your finance team? We’ll do it automatically. Tired of spending hours modeling your costs into monthly statements? It’s a thing of the past.
Not only will this software let you see exactly how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on, but it will also allow you to easily cross-reference your invoices with actual spending and usage statistics. This means that you’ll immediately be able to spot when you’ve been charged incorrectly and verify that nothing unexpected is happening.
Cloud cost management software #2: AWS Cloud Explorer
AWS Cloud Explorer is AWS’ native answer to cloud cost management software, and you’ll probably be familiar with at least the free plan if you use any of AWS’ other services already.
Cost Explorer provides you with the basics that you’ll need to view, track, and manage your cost data. Anyone starting out with AWS or who is testing out different services on a small scale should be able to use their free plan to manage their costs without too much trouble, and without having to pay for the privilege.
Unfortunately, Cost Explorer rarely explains exactly why your costs are what they are. To do this, you’ll need to compare the costs to usage and utilization data. You can get that from Amazon CloudWatch. Then, it’s up to you to use a data analysis tool to unite them both.
CloudWatch gets complicated and quickly incurs large costs if you’re running a large-scale operation on AWS. As we’ve stated before, CloudWatch pricing locks detailed metrics and many useful features behind paywalls, meaning that you’re going to be paying more as the operations that you need to manage also scale.
It’s a good way to get to grips with the principles of cloud cost management. Just be sure to keep an eye on when the costs for CloudWatch itself start racking up.
Cloud cost management software #3: Microsoft Azure Cost Management & Billing
As Microsoft Azure’s answer to AWS Cost Explorer, Azure Cost Management & Billing is exactly what you’d expect from a basic cloud cost management tool. It covers all of the basics such as showing you your costs, letting you set budgets, and generally managing billing data. If you’re using Azure in conjunction with this, then the good news is that it’s totally free to use!
The downside is that you will have to pay 1% of your total AWS managed cost spend if you use this tool to analyze and manage your AWS cost data. This, much like CloudWatch’s pricing, can quickly rack up if you’re not paying close attention, so be a little cautious as you expand your operations if you’re using a mix of AWS and Azure.
Cloud cost management software #4: Aimably’s AWS Cost Reduction Assessment
Once you’ve got the basics of viewing and tracking your costs down it’s time to get into the optimization phase. That’s where Aimably’s AWS Cost Reduction Assessment comes in.
Our assessment will review your operations, costs, and usage data in order to provide you with a list of actionable items that you can carry out to save money on your AWS bills. Whether you’re trying to evaluate the efficiency of your AWS infrastructure, forecast your potential savings, or you’re just looking for advice on what to do from the thousands of options you can take, look no further for the perfect AWS cost optimization software.
Cloud cost management software #5: Aimably’s Public Cloud Due Diligence Report
Most cloud cost management software falls flat when it comes to assessing acquisitions. This leaves you with little to nothing except the seller’s word and own documentation on what the state of their cloud services are and what kind of financial impact they will have on your operations once they’re in your hands. The solution is Aimably’s Public Cloud Due Diligence Report.
Using a combination of our own software and expertise, our due diligence report will take all of the heavy lifting out of the assessment process for you, leaving you with the simple task of deciding what to do with your new acquisition. From the current state and sophistication of their cloud infrastructure to a full financial analysis of the impact of their setup, the whole report will be delivered within a week to prevent any nasty delays to your deals.
There really is no better option if you’re trying to assess the cloud costs of an acquisition before it has an impact on your own operations (and wallet).
How to optimize your cloud costs
Now you know some of the best cloud cost management software options on the market, it's time to get your own operations in shape. If you’re interested in putting them into practice, take a look at the other posts in our cloud cost management mini-series - you’ll be given a crash course in everything from the basics of cloud cost management to some solutions to the issue that don’t even require any software!
The biggest thing to remember is to be vigilant. We’ve harped on at the risks of spiking costs and mistakes before, but it’s all too easy to grow complacent with consistent cost figures and not to notice when things that you don’t need to pay for start adding up (such as obsolete AWS instances).
The ball’s in your court, so it’s time to get moving and start saving!