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This article is part of our Buyer's Guide: A guide to AWS cost control with third-party tools

Assess, manage AWS costs with third-party tools

An ecosystem of third-party products augment AWS' vast portfolio of cloud services, including cost management tools. Dig into these vendor tools to find a fit for your organization.

In a market as dynamic, dispersed and relatively immature as cloud cost management software, there are a plethora...

of options available to manage AWS costs that pertain to your infrastructure and services. Buyers must consider which of these products fit their specific budget and cloud deployment needs.

Here are 15 potential options to help measure, manage and cut AWS costs.

Apptio

Apptio primarily aims its cost management services toward the CIO and touts its underlying platform as its greatest strength. The platform can ingest and draw relationships between any types of data that users upload. Apptio can also monitor and manage all technology, finance and operation resources, including developer services, middleware and messaging services. It also includes out-of-box connectors for AWS, Azure, VMware, CenturyLink and IBM SoftLayer.

Apptio provides a unified interface to manage costs on both AWS and Azure. This support for the two most popular cloud platforms is especially useful as more organizations adopt multi-cloud strategies.

Users might run into some challenges, however, as the company and its products are young; the first -- and current -- version of software released in late 2017. This product focuses on financial management, not infrastructure optimization, which leaves other important implementations to IT or other systems.

Here are 15 potential options to help measure, manage and cut AWS costs.

Cloudability

Cloudability provides advanced analytics, automation and machine learning to improve the analysis of cloud usage and spending data. Cloudability can also calculate baselines, detect spending anomalies and recommend cost saving changes. It covers various aspects of the cloud lifecycle, including planning, control, performance and security.

Cloudability provides a True Cost module as part of larger package that covers the entire cloud service lifecycle, including planning, migration and data security. These capabilities make it suitable for AWS and other public cloud environments. Cloudability has both the benefits and drawbacks of being a smaller company. For example, it puts the focus on a single product but might be limited in the support resources available for customers.

Cloudyn

Cloudyn, recently acquired by Microsoft, is a SaaS product. Cloudyn is one of the first cost management vendors to offer a unified administration console to manage and optimize multi-platform, hybrid cloud environments. Cloudyn supports Azure, AWS, Docker, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and OpenStack. The platform provides insights into usage, performance and cost and can recommend proper cloud optimization actions for admins. Cloudyn also enables accountability through cost allocation.

While Cloudyn does provide cost reduction recommendations, it only provides cost alerts, not automatic remediation. Also, as a Microsoft product, some organizations might have concerns that new features and support for AWS and other environments will lag behind Azure-supported features. Likewise, third-party service providers might not want Microsoft to have access to their customer billing and usage data.

CloudCheckr

CloudCheckr is a cloud governance product that includes cost management among its features. CloudCheckr focuses on cost optimization, bills, invoices, security and compliance -- all viewable and manageable from its console. CloudCheckr features more than 540 best practice checks, many of which can automatically apply its Self-Healing Automation feature to fix the issue. This self-healing feature is one of CloudCheckr's more notable advantages, as it can automatically remediate many violations of these best practices. CloudCheckr works with Azure and AWS.

Any organization with four-figure or greater monthly bills could find CloudCheckr useful, but the product is especially attractive to service providers that need to resell cloud services and generate invoices.

But CloudCheckr does come with some drawbacks. Cost management is only one component of this large platform, which might be overkill for smaller organizations. Also, with pricing set at 2.5% of an organization's cloud bill, CloudCheckr can quickly become prohibitively expensive. The product is best suited for large enterprises that can negotiate volume discounts and third-party service providers or partners that can roll the cost into the price of their services.

CloudHealth

CloudHealth Technologies offers a cloud analytics platform that gathers and analyzes data from various cloud instances. The CloudHealth platform enables enterprises and service providers to align cloud operations with business objectives, optimize costs and proactively manage service levels before they impact the business. The platform includes components for cost management, resource utilization, governance and security. CloudHealth provides visibility, control and workload migration for multiple clouds via a single administrative dashboard. CloudHealth currently works with AWS, Azure, GCP and VMware.

CloudHealth is a comprehensive suite, but it comes with a learning curve. The extensive platform might even require some training and professional services to master. Also, CloudHealth pricing is not transparent, so prospective buyers should perform an ROI analysis to see if they can justify the cost.

CloudSqueeze

CloudSqueeze is one vendor that applies machine learning to cloud resource analysis. While all vendors use AWS APIs to access usage data, CloudSqueeze uses AWS automation tools to make recommendations. CloudSqueeze claims to find an average of 35% cost savings in an account.

CloudSqueeze uses AI technology to analyze AWS data and establish baseline usage and spending levels, as well as detect trends and anomalies. It also supports a variety of Amazon cloud services, including Elastic Container Service, Elastic Block Store (EBS), S3 and Relational Database Service (RDS). CloudSqueeze recommends configuration changes for these services and offers cost implications for use of each.

However, CloudSqueeze only works with AWS, and it uses an unusual operating model that builds upon CloudFormation with custom scripts. The software requires some expertise to install, which likely makes it better suited for DevOps teams. While CloudSqueeze provides transparent pricing, it gets expensive at 3% of AWS spending. It's also available as a subscription through AWS Marketplace, but the rates range up to $10,000 for 6% of AWS spending.

Cloud Cruiser

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) acquired Cloud Cruiser in late 2017 and incorporated it into its Flexible Capacity offering. HPE Flexible Capacity is a hybrid infrastructure service that delivers a public cloud experience with the benefits of on-premises IT, and it is a strategic component of HPE's Technology Services portfolio. With Cloud Cruiser, HPE customers can manage their own IT infrastructure but are able to pay for it as a service. This option can help prevent organizations from investing either too much or not enough in IT. This payment model also eliminates unused capacity and opens up valuable IT resources for new projects.

However, since HPE acquired Cloud Cruiser, it is no longer a stand-alone product. Existing customers receive support through HPE but will eventually need to migrate to the company's service-level agreements.

FittedCloud

One of the first products to apply machine learning to cloud cost optimization, the FittedCloud platform provides continuous analysis of AWS infrastructure. FittedCloud is one of the few vendors that provides automated resource provisioning and supports both semiautomated -- clicks through actionable advisories -- and fully automated provisioning. The FittedCloud tool is based on two issued patents and several pending patents. It aims to provide resource optimization, not cost reporting, and it supplements AWS tools like Cost Explorer, which collects spending information and Reserved Instances recommendations.

FittedCloud can automatically redeploy resources to service configurations that better match their load profile and save money. FittedCloud works with EC2 On-Demand and Reserved Instances, as well as EBS, RDS and DynamoDB. It can also automatically size and configure EBS volumes to match IOPS requirements. FittedCloud can also function as either stand-alone software or SaaS.

Prospective buyers should note that FittedCloud only works with AWS and solely focuses on resource optimization, not cost reporting and budgeting. Thus, it's most suitable for DevOps environments and cloud operations teams, not financial analysts and purchasing managers. It also uses the same percentage of spend billing model -- 2% or 2.2% with software maintenance -- so organizations must validate the cost savings with an ROI analysis.

GorillaStack

GorillaStack is a programmable cost control engine that focuses on AWS automation, not specifically cost optimization or reporting. It offers a rules engine feature that lets users create rules that involve:

  • the context or scope that AWS accounts and regions target and
  • triggers, which can be events, schedules or inbound integrations, like a webhook.

GorillaStack claims to be extensible and ChatOps-ready, but such programmability means it's best for experienced AWS pros. The company even stated that it prefers to sell with AWS consulting partners, but it does supply directly through the website as well. The SaaS version runs in AWS.

GorillaStack is AWS-specific, not a general-purpose cost management tool. It targets DevOps teams with the skills to customize rules and design more complicated automated workflows. Although it includes a cost savings dashboard designed for management, GorillaStack supplements Cost Explorer and CloudWatch; it doesn't replace them.

ParkMyCloud

ParkMyCloud is a multi-cloud, SaaS platform that focuses on automatic resource optimization by identifying and eliminating public cloud resource waste. It claims it can save customers up to 65% on their cloud costs.

ParkMyCloud uses AWS APIs to ensure that data is both current and accurate, and it integrates with CloudWatch to pull in usage data, as well as similar monitoring products with both Azure and GCP.

In addition to the big three cloud providers, ParkMyCloud also supports Alibaba Cloud. The product provides a consolidated UI for all cloud resources, which admins had to previously run 24/7 -- and would often underutilize -- and simplifies the process of scheduling resources.

ParkMyCloud uses resource scheduling to reduce AWS costs. While the product can automate schedules based on usage and defined trigger levels with its SmartParking feature, the product is not a general-purpose cost and budget management system. Futhermore, AWS recently enhanced its Instance Scheduler service to provide a similar set of features at a significantly lower price, so buyers should evaluate whether ParkMyCloud delivers enough incremental value for the money.

RightScale

RightScale provides two options for cloud management: Optima for cost management and governance or the full Cloud Management Platform, which includes Optima. RightScale claims Optima gives customers the option to start with a focus on cost optimization and then transition into a full-fledged platform.

RightScale partners with all of the major public cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP and IBM Cloud) and supports virtual and bare-metal servers, as well as container clusters. Optima includes a variety of features tailored to different organizational departments, including billing managers, software project managers, cloud users and IT operations or DevOps teams.

However, RightScale's broad feature offering might be too much for many organizations to manage. Hence, it might be the best fit for managed services providers, software service companies and more sophisticated enterprise cloud users. Also, RightScale includes some features that might overlap with infrastructure operations software that could be in use on premises. It offers a flat-rate licensing model for predictable spending, but otherwise, pricing is not transparent.

Scalr

Scalr's Cost Manager provides a single console to track, budget and assign costs at scale, across both public and private clouds. Scalr Policy Engine builds proactive guardrails that aim to prevent overspending through reclamation and placement policies. Scalr provides an organizational view of cloud costs, which can help admins define and enforce usage policies. It provides both preventative and reactive controls for cost management and can recommend usage of Reserved Instances to save AWS costs upfront.

Scalr's biggest advantage for customers is its large portfolio of features. Both the product and the UI aim to ease mapping cloud usage to different organization and projects, while retaining the ability to summarize costs at different levels of an organization. Scalr ties resource usage to particular applications to provide context to understand usage changes and make recommendations.

Scalr is not available in a SaaS option and requires its users to install and operate on one or two more Linux systems. It offers yearly subscriptions based on the number of managed instances, which might not align with an organization's financial preference and requires that users pick and choose what they want to monitor. In addition, some of Scalr's automation features, such as the policy and orchestration engines, require a learning curve or a moderate DevOps skill set.

Splunk Insights for AWS

Splunk Insights for AWS Cloud Monitoring is a supplementary product that integrates with S3, EC2, CloudWatch and CloudFront, among many other Amazon services, to provide end-to-end security, in-depth visibility and operational and cost management insight into AWS environments. The product can gather data on security-related activities, such as unauthorized access attempts, network configuration changes and billing deviations. It also includes a visual interface that can navigate AWS architecture and perform security compliance checks. With this capability, Splunk provides recommendations to admins to manage costs and optimize resource usage.

But keep in mind that the product requires a Splunk installation and license, which might only be particularly useful for existing Splunk users -- who, additionally, are the only users who can access Splunk's SaaS offering. It also requires at least one EC2 instance to run the software, aside from the Splunk license.

Spotinst

Designed to maximize resource usage and application performance, Spotinst uses historical data and identifies trends with predictive analytics to run workloads on cloud providers' excess compute capacity. Spotinst claims it can save enterprises up to 80% on their infrastructure costs by replacing On-Demand with Spot Instances. Spotinst works with AWS, Azure and GCP.

Spotinst has a unique approach to cost optimization that focuses on bidirectional autoscaling with deeply discounted AWS Spot Instances to minimize the amount of wasted capacity. It also uses machine learning and predictive analysis to determine baseline usage, anticipate demand and analyze the available spot capacity.

This product automates the scaling of VM instances and containers and supports On Demand, Reserved and Spot Instances as well as low-cost, low-priority instances, such as EC2 Spot, Azure Low Priority or GCP Preemptible VMs. Spotinst requires cloud expertise and DevOps team involvement. It cannot replace a general-purpose cost reporting tool, such as AWS Cost Explorer, but it can interface with it.

Summary and trends

The third-party options run the gamut from specialists targeting a unique cost management approach, such as Spotinst's automation of its namesake VMs, to cloud management suites, like CloudCheckr, RightScale and Scalr. Likewise, some have features that primarily appeal to large enterprises or third-party service providers and cloud resellers, while others are suitable for any organization with a significant cloud budget.

Products like CloudSqueeze and FittedCloud apply machine learning and other AI algorithms to the problem of cloud resource optimization, but that technology will likely be commonplace among resource optimization products in the coming years. Vendors that use such advanced algorithms claim that they improve recommendation efficiency, thus further reducing AWS costs, as well as eliminate manual processes.

Editor's note

With extensive research into cloud cost management vendors, TechTarget editors have focused this series of articles on vendors that specialize in the AWS environment. Our research included Gartner and TechTarget surveys.

This was last published in September 2018

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