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Use tools to measure, cut AWS costs

Many companies migrate to the cloud for the cost benefit, but expenses can get out of hand quickly. Regain control of your budget with these tools.

The move from traditional data center capacity to the cloud has changed perceptions and methodologies toward setting,...

allocating and monitoring IT budgets. While planning the coming year's budget generally entails buying an adequate amount of capacity, switching to the cloud's pay-per-use model allows companies the flexibility to grow with computing demands. Operating in the cloud also eliminates traditional risks associated with a lack of on-premises resource redundancy.

Soothing old headaches, of course, doesn't prevent the emergence of new ones. Cloud sprawl and a lack of control and transparency within the cloud environment, for instance, can lead to a bill with numbers much larger than anticipated. To enjoy the public cloud's flexibility, users need to monitor consumption, usage and utilization.

AWS cost optimization tools

Since introducing Amazon Web Services (AWS) nearly a decade ago, Amazon has become a giant cloud vendor. AWS supplies tools for native cloud startups that scale to thousands of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. Large enterprises also look to AWS for increasing workloads, thereby reducing their investments in on-premises environments.

Still, managing AWS costs is far from simple. AWS offers several tools to help track costs and optimize performance.

AWS Trusted Advisor. In 2013, AWS released Trusted Advisor, which monitors and inspects AWS customer accounts. It provides optimization recommendations concerning deployment security, performance availability and AWS costs.

AWS Trusted Advisor is provided as part of the AWS Support offering. Basic accounts enjoy up to four checks, the most popular optimization recommendation. Users looking for more than that might consider business- or enterprise-level support, which includes 41 checks.

AWS Cost Explorer. Small businesses can't afford to pay for premium support, so AWS offers Cost Explorer. This tool lets customers go to the billing and cost management section of the AWS Management Console and find the AWS Cost Explorer link on the left menu bar. This feature helps users visualize and analyze trends in their monthly and daily spending.

Cost Explorer comes with three preconfigured views:

  1. Monthly spending over the previous three months, grouped by Amazon services.
  2. Daily spending over the previous 60 days.
  3. Monthly spending over the previous three months, grouped by linked accounts -- only available for consolidated billing.

Cost Explorer is simple to use, allowing users to break down annual AWS cloud costs and trends by the day or month. Additionally, there is an interesting filtering option that lets users break down costs by various parameters such as availability zone, resource tags -- which AWS refers to as cost-allocation tags -- linked accounts, API operations and purchase options. Applying multiple filters enables cross-filter analysis. For example, users can check the cost of their reserved EC2 capacity in a specific region that was applied for relational database service.

Keeping up with AWS changes

AWS continues to evolve -- and so does its pricing model. In 2014 alone, AWS cut its cloud prices more than 40 times. Each year, the company releases hundreds of new services and features. Most recently, Amazon disclosed that a new line of EC2 instances is on the way.

This pace of innovation and cost adjustment makes it logical to question how customers can possibly keep themselves up to date. The simplest way to stay current is by turning to the AWS blog, and other sources like AWS evangelist Jeff Barr and SearchAWS.com.

Before purchasing a new service or expanding AWS usage, users should make sure to use the AWS calculator. As the infrastructure as a service market matures, vendors such as Cloudorado and Cloud Options record price fluctuations and provide recommendations about portability between clouds based on usage and costs.

As the public cloud continues to gain prominence in the IT operations of more businesses, the need to maintain cost-efficient cloud operations is crucial. This begins with effective monitoring and a willingness to take quick action to optimize costs.

Next Steps

E-handbook: Optimizing your AWS costs

Best ways to cost-effectively manage AWS resources

No silver bullet for AWS performance, cost monitoring

This was last published in June 2015

Dig Deeper on AWS pricing, cost and ROI

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