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AWS expands its cloud cost optimization portfolio

AWS customers have long bemoaned its complexity, which can lead to inadvertent costs. Now AWS has a recommendation tool to help them optimize their EC2 instances for cost and performance.

AWS' latest tool aims to help customers save money and optimize their workloads on the cloud platform, and also expand AWS' cost management capabilities to a broader base.

As an opt-in feature, Amazon EC2 now scans customer usage over the previous two weeks and creates "resource optimization recommendations" for actions to address idle and underutilized instances. AWS defines idle instances as ones with less than 1% of their maximum CPU utilization active, and underutilized instances as CPU activity between 1% and 40% of capacity, according to a blog post.

The system recommends customers shut off idle instances entirely. For underutilized ones, AWS simulates that same level of usage applied to a smaller instance in the same service tier, and shows customers cost savings to bundle multiple instances into one. Customers get a summary of potential resource optimizations, which includes estimates of monthly savings, and can also download lists of recommendations.

At present, the recommendations cover major EC2 instance families but not GPU-based ones, according to the blog.

AWS advances cloud cost optimization question

The new feature bears similarity at a glance to the likes of AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Trusted Advisor, but there are differences, and it should be welcomed by customers, analysts said.

Deepak Mohan, analyst at IDCDeepak Mohan

"This aligns with one of the top pain points customers highlight as they start scaling up their cloud usage, which is that optimal service selection and configuration are not easy, and suboptimal configuration results in high costs as usage increases," said Deepak Mohan, an analyst with IDC.

This aligns with one of [cloud customers'] top pain points … optimal service selection and configuration are not easy, and suboptimal configuration results in high costs as usage increases.
Deepak MohanAnalyst, IDC

With resource optimization recommendations, AWS also presents cost management features to a broader set of customers, Mohan said.

Cost Explorer gives customers report-generation tools to examine their usage over time. It also includes forecasting capabilities, but Cost Explorer is more a means to examine the past.

Trusted Advisor has a broader remit, as it looks at not just cost issues but also security and governance, fault tolerance and performance improvements. The full feature set of Trusted Advisor is only available to customers with business and enterprise-level support plans, while the new capabilities are available to all customers at no charge, Mohan noted.

Moreover, Trusted Advisor alerts admins that an instance has a poor level of utilization, which might prompt them to investigate which instance might be better, said Owen Rogers, vice president of cloud transformation and digital economics at 451 Research. By comparison, these resource optimization recommendations tell admins which instance would be a better fit to keep the application performing well but also at a lower price point.

Owen Rogers, 451 ResearchOwen Rogers

"This is a nice free feature that I think many customers will take advantage of," he said. "After all, if you can save money without impacting deliverables, why wouldn't you?"

AWS has not achieved anything revolutionary here. Microsoft and Google have similar tools for cloud cost management, as well as third-party options from the likes of ParkMyCloud, VMWare CloudHealth and OpsRamp, Rogers added.

But AWS' complexity with regard to prices and SKUs has long been a sore spot for customers. Its latest move ties generally into remarks Amazon CTO Werner Vogels made in a recent interview with TechTarget.

"I think there's a big role for automation," Vogels said. "I think helping customers make better choices there through automation and tools is definitely a path we are looking for."

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