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Azure Cost Management adds AWS, reflects multi-cloud strategies

Microsoft's Azure Cost Management tool now integrates with AWS to track spending across both cloud platforms, a nod to customers' increased shift toward multi-cloud strategies.

Microsoft's Azure Cost Management tool now supports not only Azure but also AWS, a move that's as much about market pragmatism and customer demand as it is a desire to make money.

Azure Cost Management offers 18 ways to visually analyze spend, through dimensions such as provider, availability zones and service names. It can spot anomalies and cost spikes, as well as provide a higher-level view of spend over monthly periods.

Support for AWS costs, now in preview, provides a connector for customers to pipe AWS spend data into the core system, and view and analyze it alongside Azure spend. The system also features tools to set budgets based on cloud subscriptions or enterprise license agreements, and sends alerts when cloud spend doesn't align with those guidelines, according to Microsoft.

Other features still in the works center on richer reports and improved functionality around cost analysis and forecasts. Microsoft said it will also support additional cloud products, although the company did not provide details or timelines for availability.

Azure Cost Management is turned on by default and Azure customers incur no charges for its use. There is no cost during the preview period for AWS cost-analysis either, but once it becomes generally available, Microsoft will charge a fee to use the tool based on 1% of the customer's total AWS spend that it manages.

Azure's cost management service has somewhat of a convoluted history. In 2017, Microsoft acquired startup Cloudyn, which specialized in cost management for Azure, AWS and Google Cloud. After the acquisition, Microsoft sold the product under the name Azure Cost Management by Cloudyn and kept its multi-cloud focus.

Since then, Microsoft has migrated Cloudyn's technology into its similarly named Azure Cost Management tool, which is native to Azure and provides better performance, the company said.

While the original Cloudyn-based service remains available, it's unclear for how long. There is no dedicated tool available for customers to migrate Cloudyn dashboards over to Azure Cost Management, but the process is fairly simple, Microsoft said.

Cloud giants play better with others amid multi-cloud trend

Microsoft's multi-cloud approach as it reimplements Cloudyn's capabilities through its Azure Cost Management tool reflects today's reality among customers.

Owen Rogers, 451 ResearchOwen Rogers

"The big trend in 2019 is [for customers] to prepare for multi-cloud deployments," said Hyoun Park, founder and CEO at Amalgam Insights. Enterprises interested in the cloud now work with multiple providers, from proofs of concepts to production deployments, much as they hedged their bets in the past with traditional data center providers, he added.

Microsoft likely bought Cloudyn to address gaps in its native Azure cost management tools, but it's happy to make some incremental revenue off AWS customers, as well with that 1% charge, said Owen Rogers, director of the digital economics unit at 451 Research. "It's a nice little earner," Rogers said.

There's another benefit to Microsoft than to collect dollars from AWS customers: insights into what they do on a rival's cloud platform.

Microsoft ... is making a smart decision in digging deeper into AWS usage.
Hyoun ParkFounder and CEO, Amalgam Insights

"Every large cloud provider wants to have as much visibility to users' usage as possible," Park said. "Microsoft in this case is making a smart decision in digging deeper into AWS usage because at the end of the day, why wouldn't they want more visibility into how their customers are using other clouds?"

Meanwhile, as the public cloud provider landscape coalesced around AWS, Microsoft and Google, other large tech companies such as HPE and Cisco abandoned that market. Instead, they now position themselves as neutral middlemen to help customers run operations and manage costs in a multi-cloud world. More recently, small and midsize vendors have consolidated as well, evidenced by Apptio's acquisition of Cloudability.

There is plenty of room going forward for these players, as well as specialized third-party vendors to manage multi-cloud spend, Park said. "This is a battleground currently in development," he said.

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