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Three AWS budget challenges that plague enterprises

Based on their size, companies face unique challenges around budget management in the cloud. Follow this expert advice to keep your costs in check.

The size of a business plays a big role in how to best manage a cloud budget. Large enterprises tend to deal with...

complex sets of processes and accounting systems, as well as deep regulations around reporting. In some cases, enterprises support a Cloud Business Office, which provides central command and control, as well as cost accounting.

Smaller businesses can do things in less formal ways, but AWS budget management becomes a priority, because there is rarely extra money to cover mistakes or oversights. These businesses must carefully forecast cloud costs, because a cloud bill that runs over budget affects profits and, thus, significantly affects the value of the business.

Still, larger enterprises typically have more hurdles to clear when it comes to cost management, as there are simply more factors -- and tools -- at play than with a typical small business or startup.

Big business, big money. big problems?

Enterprises typically face three primary issues when it comes to AWS budget management.

First, an enterprise must integrate its cloud budget into its legacy accounting systems, which might include SAP or other general ledger systems. Cloud budget management systems need to communicate with these existing systems to provide the best ops, which formulates the crux of the problem.

Your cloud budget or cost governance system keeps track of costs and usage, and it can even enforce budget policies. However, these systems typically don't provide plug-and-play integration with existing enterprise legacy accounting systems. This is the case with AWS' native Billing and Cost Management console, as well as third-party tools, such as CloudHealth or Cloud Cruiser. To get around this, you must programmatically link the cloud budget management system's API with that of your legacy system. Or, you can use an integration tool, such as MuleSoft or SnapLogic.

Second, enterprise reporting systems must fall in line with compliance requirements. Certain sectors have specific regulations to follow, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in healthcare or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for financial business. To meet legal requirements, enterprises need to ensure their AWS budget systems have sufficient reporting capabilities.

Therefore, you need to carefully evaluate cloud cost management systems to make sure they align with your compliance requirements. For example, you might need to provide audit paths through cloud-based billing for some regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which defines processes for financial reporting to protect public investors. This might only be needed for well-regulated industries, and, ultimately, the extent of the reporting capabilities you need will depend on the laws that govern the industry. But noncompliance is not an option.

Finally, you need to integrate your budget reports with cloud ops tools and processes, which you'll use whenever you operate instances in the AWS cloud. Tools for cloud ops tasks vary, but they typically include a mix of AWS-native tools, such as CloudWatch, and some of the dozens of available third-party tools.

You can't budget for what you can't see

No matter how you mix your tools, they need to provide visibility into AWS budget and usage metrics. It's easier to troubleshoot when you correlate budget and usage data with ops data to determine issues, such as overusing compute or storage instances. You could also, for example, automatically shut down instances when you surpass budgets. However, ops teams need to be aware when this will happen.

As with our legacy accounting integration, we need to figure out ways to get information to the ops tools. APIs are your primary way to integrate these systems. But, in some cases, ops tools might provide plug-and-play hooks based on the cloud budget tools you use.

No matter how you look at this issue, it's always a challenge to integrate and use cloud budget management tools within an enterprise. There's no true out-of-the-box option, so it's up to you to make the tools play nice with legacy systems and existing business processes.

This was last published in May 2018

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What integration challenges do you have with older budget systems and AWS tools?
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