Microsoft Expands Azure Cloud Budgeting Toolset

The updated API allows businesses to track cloud costs according to their own organizational structures and usage patterns.


Microsoft is adding more transparency to the process of calculating and managing cloud costs for large Azure customers.

Although migrating to the cloud is often touted as a budget-friendly way of consuming IT resources that a business needs, technology executives often discover that pinning down the true cost of their cloud investments is easier said than done. A recent study from Densify found that many enterprises don't know how much they are spending on cloud services.

In fact, 75 percent of organizations can't precisely tally their cloud costs or are spending more than their budgets allow. Half of all enterprises aren't sure they're getting their money's worth, and another half are having a tough time handling frequent pricing and technology changes that have come to characterize the competitive enterprise cloud computing market.

During the past few years, Microsoft has been working to improve visibility into the costs of conducting business using Azure. The latest updates to Azure Budgets API add more granularity to the platform's cost- and usage-reporting capabilities.

Help for Multiple Teams, Resource Groups

"Today we're announcing the release of additional features that support the scoping of more granular budgets with filters as well as support for usage and cost budgets," wrote Vinod Kurpad, principal program manager of Azure Intelligence Platform at Microsoft, in a Feb. 2 announcement.

"We've heard from our customers that multiple teams share a subscription and that resource groups serve as cost boundaries. Today's updates will support resource-group and resource-level budgets in addition to the subscription-level budgets," Kurpad wrote. In Azure, resource groups are used to package Azure cloud instances, storage and other resources for management purposes.

Supported use cases include creating cost budgets for multiple resource groups in an Azure subscription or multiple resources within a resource group and subscription. IT organizations can also set budgets based on usage metrics pertaining to a resource group or subscription.

Azure Budgets API also now supports Action Groups, enabling users to trigger notifications actions when they are about to hit budgetary limits.

As the name suggests, an Action Group is a list of actions that are taken when an activity log alert is triggered. Those actions can include sending data to ITSM (IT service management) tools or dispatching an SMS message or email. If an expenditure threshold is hit, the new integration allows the system to notify a developer before automatically spinning down resources when the next threshold is reached, Kurpad offered as an example.

Constraints Also in the Picture

There are some constraints in the updated API.

Currently, budgets are only supported for customers with Azure Enterprise licenses. Calls to the API must be made in the context of a user, not a service principal, or credentials assigned to cloud applications. Users typically assign account permissions to a service principal that are different or more restricted than their own.

Another addition to Azure's set of cost management APIs is a new data indicator called E-Tags, which can be used to prevent the service from returning information that is unchanged since the last time the API was called.

Microsoft is also continuing to convert its APIs so they conform with the Azure Resource Manager service used to deploy and manage cloud services. The release of the new Marketplace Charges and the Pricesheet API is a major milestone in that project, Kurpad said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...