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How to Improve Your AWS Billing

When it comes to managing and monitoring IT spending, the cloud has created a new layer of complexity. Consider the fact that AWS provides as many as 28,000 service offerings, generating up to millions of billing line items each month. This creates budgeting and planning problems for CIOs because there’s no easy way to interpret what percentage of cloud spending is going toward storage, compute, or network, along with specific applications, projects and services. IT departments also need a way to merge cloud costs with on-premise IT costs to see the full picture of infrastructure spending across key categories. As well, with many individuals from different departments procuring their own AWS resources, a company can have dozens of unmanaged and unlinked accounts. This creates gaps in financial tracking and spend management and prevents a company from taking advantage of volume discounts.

IT needs a unified model to categorize cloud and non-cloud costs together, and automation to map line items into the IT cost model each month. To automate the mapping process, 2nd Watch and Apptio have worked together on a mapping table that specifies where each Amazon product fits within a standard cost model. This mapping is now embedded in the Apptio Cost Transparency application, a solution for integrating AWS usage with billing, cost categorization, modeling of total costs including internal labor and self-service analytics. This allows IT organizations to categorize cloud costs into trackable categories such as Cloud Windows in Compute or Cloud Archive in Storage.

Determining the run costs of an application is another goal, and requires mapping cloud resources, such as servers and storage, to individual applications. Many IT organizations have not yet adapted their management processes to track application relationship data for cloud infrastructure. Linked accounts and tagging are two ways to get around these hurdles on AWS.

Many enterprises have several AWS accounts at the team and departmental levels in order to encourage agility, but these unlinked accounts create gaps in cost and operational management. To unify unlinked accounts across an organization, companies can use the Apptio application to link individual accounts into one “master account” paid through an IT cost center. This provides visibility into enterprise spend on AWS yet still maintains business-unit level tracking. It also enables savings with volume discounts, that’s not possible when spending goes across several individual AWS accounts.

AWS tags help group usage and expenses across shared key resources like databases. Tagging helps accomplish the problem of mapping AWS resources back to specific business projects, such as “Marketing Web Staging” and “Marketing Web Production.” Detailed tagging can help answer questions such as, how much of an entire application portfolio is comprised of AWS services or what percentage of which projects are using cloud resources? One thing to keep in mind is that AWS tags are applied only to individual accounts. AWS tagging is ideal for environments where you need to share resources across multiple workloads.

There are some limitations to this manual approach for managing individual accounts and tagging, however – managing numerous logins and passwords, going through the AWS setup process for each individual account, creating and controlling a tagging schema, etc. For a more scalable approach to managing AWS accounts and tagging, consider solutions like our 2W Insight billing application, which enables grouping of tags across AWS accounts and provides tools to track and analyze cloud costs by cost center, business unit department, etc. For more information on 2W Insight, contact us.

To learn more about best practices for managing and tracking cloud spending, download our Analyzing Cloud Costs white paper.

-Jeff Aden, EVP, Marketing & Strategic Business Development

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