Among other things, cloud computing is supposed to help businesses keep IT costs in check. But does it really live up to its billing?
Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, announced today the beta release of two application programming interfaces (APIs) that offer partners and customers a clearer look at the monetary impact of running workloads on the company's Azure cloud platform.
"Enterprises need to be able to get detailed, granular consumption data and derive insights to effectively manage their cloud consumption," stated Guthrie in a June 25 announcement. In response, Microsoft released beta versions of the Azure Usage API and Azure RateCard API to add visibility into cloud workloads and how they're priced.
"The new Azure Billing APIs make it much easier to track your bill and save money," he claimed.
As its name suggests, the Azure Usage API enabled customers and partners to get usage information pertaining to their cloud subscriptions. "As part of this new Billing API, we now correlate the usage/costs by the resource tags you can now set on your Azure resources (for example: you could assign a tag 'Department abc' or 'Project X' to a VM [virtual machine] or Database in order to better track spend on a resource and charge it back to an internal group within your company)," explained Guthrie.
The Azure RateCard API puts a dollar figure on cloud consumption. "[This is] a REST API that customers and partners can use to get the list of the available resources they can use, along with metadata and price information about them," Guthrie said.
Two Azure Billing partner companies are already using the APIs, Cloudyn and Cloud Cruiser. "Cloudyn has integrated with Azure Billing APIs to provide IT financial management insights on cost optimization," Guthrie said. Meanwhile, Cloud Cruiser provides estimates on what running a workload would cost on Azure. "They are also working on integrating with the Azure Usage API to provide insights based on the Azure consumption," he added.
A majority of businesses with over 500 employees are enjoying the cost-cutting benefits of the cloud, according to a global study released earlier this year by Tata Communications.
In its survey of 1,000 senior IT decision-makers, 63 percent of respondents identified cost reductions as an unexpected, if welcome, benefit of switching to the cloud. Other perks included better access to data (65 percent) and an increase in productivity (69 percent).
In May, a survey from West IP Communications indicated that IT managers grew more confident about recouping the cost of moving to the cloud when they had a bigger budget to work with. Although the survey's 300 respondents were pretty evenly split on whether they expected a positive return on investment —54 percent agreed, 46 percent disagreed— two-thirds (66 percent) of those with IT budgets of over $5 million were confident that the savings would cover their operating costs.