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Implement AWS Budgets for cloud cost control

Administrators can use AWS Budgets to define and track their monthly expenses in the Amazon cloud. Notifications help keep teams on track, reducing surprise overhead.

Every financial planner recommends setting and sticking to a budget. And AWS has integrated that advice in its...

cloud platform.

AWS Budgets, introduced in mid-2015, allows cloud admins to define a monthly budget for their AWS costs. Enterprise IT defines a budget according to an aggregate cost level or focus it on costs in specific areas of interest. Among other things, AWS Budgets can include email notifications and help with setting up budgets for various periods.

Aater Suleman, co-founder and CEO of Flux7, an IT consultancy, says AWS Budgets is a very important feature that should appeal to enterprise customers. Suleman's enterprise customers typically allocate an annual fixed budget for IT and use a chargeback model to split costs across departments. This approach works in a traditional data center because cost is primarily dedicated to on-premises equipment at the beginning of the year based on anticipated needs. It's not so simple, though, in the cloud.

AWS Budgets helps individual teams manage their own costs more efficiently and still spend dollars as they need, Suleman noted. "This agility has a high value by implying more responsibility, thus a high need for good cost analytics and monitoring," he explained.

A technically sophisticated team at a Fortune 1000 and customer of Suleman's had built a self-service IT dashboard for sales engineering teams to log in and run simulations on behalf of customers. "The budget control was limited, which was not a problem with only a handful of users," Suleman said. "However, as the user base of their dashboard increased, the costs increased behind the scenes without being controlled."

In a given fiscal year, the team typically exhausted its entire annual budget by the 10th month. "The budget outage led to a near halt of the entire operation, until a drilldown was performed and more funding was allocated, which led to a business loss," he said. The main reason for the problem, Suleman noted, was the lack of cost monitoring, forecasting and alerts that might have led to either better cost management throughout the year or a budget increase request earlier in the year.

AWS Budgets and Forecasts -- a predictive cost analysis service -- cured that customer's budgetary ailments. Enterprises that are modernizing to self-service IT can see an immediate benefit in ongoing allocation, predicting shortage and budgeting, Suleman explained.

Start small and work up with AWS Budgets

To implement AWS Budgets, a user should consider starting on the biggest account first, said George Gerchow, a faculty member at IANS, a security research and consulting organization. "Take one or two [accounts] and target S3 (Amazon Simple Storage Service) at first," he said.

With data storage, there is the issue of cost differential between "hot" and "cold" storage, and who is accessing what. "That is always a pain point, but we started noticing quite a bit of cost savings when we could move more data to cold storage," Gerchow said.

What are the alternatives? Budgeting typically used to be done through Salesforce or a spreadsheet but it was a cumbersome process, Gerchow noted. "No matter how much you try to track spending, there are lines of businesses and developers who won't tell you what they are doing, and others just [swipe] credit cards to get AWS capacity," he said.

If you are in charge, you still have to reconcile all that quarterly spending. "The idea that you can start taking budgets and tying that to multiple linked accounts, that is so huge; it hasn't completely solved the problem, but it has helped to provide some control," Gerchow added.

Next Steps

AWS rolls out cost management tools

Looking ahead, cloud cost management a big focus

Forecast financial storms in AWS

This was last published in February 2016

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