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AWS Cost and Usage Reports drive cloud spend analysis

Do you trust a cloud vendor's native cost analysis tools? In reality, both provider-native and third-party cost management systems are only as reliable as their underlying data.

When it comes to cost analysis, data reliability is critical. You must be able to trust the cost management tools...

you use and the results they produce. A tool's beautiful graphs, detailed breakdowns and other advanced features should come second to the accuracy of the information it presents.

AWS customers can choose from a number of cost management and analysis tools, both native to the AWS platform and from third-party vendors. But which should you use? In the end, the tool itself won't matter as much as the underlying data sets it uses.

Amazon generates the data that produces its customers' AWS Cost and Usage Reports. There are other AWS cost analysis reports users can access, but the cloud provider plans to retire them soon, according to its documentation.

AWS Cloud and Usage Reports provide all cost data related to usage and pricing, which enables users to drill down into the details of their resources. These reports are customizable, so you can choose what data to include. For example, you can incorporate resource IDs -- unique identifiers that simplify resource tracking -- and control whether your data is aggregated daily or hourly. You can also send reports to specified Simple Storage Service (S3) buckets.

Other native and third-party tools use AWS Cost and Usage Reports as a source of information for analysis. Some AWS tools, such as Cost Explorer, use the same data sets generated for AWS Cost and Usage Reports, while third-party tools import reports from S3 buckets for further analysis. Amazon QuickSight, AWS' business analytics service, uses manifests to import reports from S3 and then creates its own data set that businesses can use for data visualization.

In essence, both AWS-native and third-party cost management tools rely on the same data sources. This means the real limiting factor for cloud cost analysis is on the AWS side, where data is generated, and is not the fault of any individual tool.

Moving forward, we'll likely see new features for AWS cost analysis, from both native and third-party tools. As user requirements grow, we might even see cost data with per-minute or per-second granularity. But until then, AWS Cost and Usage Reports give you the most accurate representation of your spending.

This was last published in November 2017

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