Microsoft Azure Management Archives - ParkMyCloud

Software for Microsoft Azure management plays an important role in reducing the cost of deploying Virtual Machines (VMs) on Microsoft´s cloud computing platform. By being able to schedule temporary stop times for non-production VMs, organizations can save time and money and avoid committing to a long-term Enterprise Agreement that may be inappropriate within a few months.

Although it is possible for organizations to develop their own scheduling scripts, the development resources required – and the possibility that organizations may have to pay for a reserved public IP address – can make this option counterproductive. Furthermore, there are additional features on software for Microsoft Azure management that cannot be replicated by scheduling scripts.

These additional features include a single view of multiple Azure accounts, VM types and pricing options, so that administrators can manage accounts with greater efficiency. Administrators can also create permission tiers with Microsoft Azure management software to increase accountability and enable future budget and capacity planning.

However, not all Microsoft Azure management software is the same. Some only allow you to deploy new roles to Microsoft Azure, whereas others may not have the versatility to manage accounts located in different regions. In the same way as developing scheduling scripts can be counterproductive, selecting an inappropriate software solution for your needs can also cost more money that it saves.

This is why we invite organizations to take advantage of a thirty-day free trial of ParkMyCloud. ParkMyCloud is a versatile and lightweight Microsoft Azure management solution that reduce the cost of deploying non-production VMs on Microsoft´s cloud computing platform by up to 60%. Not only does our free trial give organizations the opportunity to try the software for Microsoft Azure management in their own environments, but they also keep the money they save.

To find out more about our free trial offer, contact us today.

3 Enterprise Cloud Management Challenges You Should Be Thinking About

Enterprise cloud management is a top priority. As the shift towards multi-cloud environments continues, so has the need to consider the potential challenges. Whether you already use the public cloud, or are considering making the switch, you probably want to know what the risks are. Here are three you should be thinking about.

1. Multi-Cloud Environments

As the ParkMyCloud platform supports AWS, Azure, and Google, we’ve noticed that multi-cloud strategies are becoming increasingly common among enterprises. There are a number of reasons why it would be beneficial to utilize more than one cloud provider. We have discussed risk mitigation as a common reason, along with price protection and workload optimization. As multi-cloud strategies become more popular, the advantages are clear. However, every strategy comes with its challenges, and it’s important for CIOs to be aware of the associated risks.

Without the use of cloud management tools, multi-cloud management is complex and sometimes difficult to navigate. Different cloud providers have different price models, product features, APIs, and terminology. Compliance requirements are also a factor that must be considered when dealing with multiple providers. Meeting and maintaining requirements for one cloud provider is complicated enough, let alone multiple. And don’t forget you need a single pane to view your multi-cloud infrastructure.

2. Cost Control

Cost control is a first priority among cloud computing trends. Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) conducted a research study and identified key reasons why there is a need for cloud cost control, among them were inefficient use of cloud resources, unpredictable billing, and contractual obligation or technological dependency.

Managing your cloud environment and controlling costs requires a great deal of time and strategy, taking away from the initiatives your enterprise really needs to be focusing on. The good news is that we offer a solution to cost control that will save 65% or more on your monthly cloud bills – just by simply parking your idle cloud resources. ParkMyCloud was one of the top three vendors recommended by EMA as a Rapid ROI Utility. If you’re interested in seeing why, we offer a 14-day free trial.

3. Security & Governance

In discussing a multi-cloud strategy and its challenges, the bigger picture also includes security and governance. As we have mentioned, a multi-cloud environment is complex, complicated, and requires native or 3rd party tools to maintain vigilance. Aside from legal compliance based on the industry your company is in, the cloud also comes with standard security issues and of course the possibility of cloud breaches. In this vein, as we talk to customers they often worry about too many users being granted console access to create and terminate cloud resources which can lead to waste. A key here is limiting user access based on roles or Role-based Access Controls (RBAC). At ParkMyCloud we recognize that visibility and control is important in today’s complex cloud world. That’s why in designing our platform, we provide the sysadmin the ability to delegate access based on a user’s role and the ability to authenticate leveraging SSO using SAML integration . This approach brings security benefits without losing the appeal of a multi-cloud strategy.

Our Solution

Enterprise cloud management is an inevitable priority as the shift towards a multi-cloud environment continues. Multiple cloud services add complexity to the challenges of IT and cloud management. Cost control is time consuming and needs to be automated and monitored constantly. Security and governance is a must and it’s necessary to ensure that users and resources are optimally governed. As the need for cloud management continues to grow, cloud automation tools like ParkMyCloud provide a means to effectively manage cloud resources, minimize challenges, and save you money.

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How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing

Are you looking for the cheapest cloud computing available? Depending on your current situation, there are a few ways you might find the least expensive cloud offering that fits your needs.

If you don’t currently use the public cloud, or if you’re willing to have infrastructure in multiple clouds, you’re probably looking for the cheapest cloud provider. If you have existing infrastructure, there are a few approaches you can take to minimize costs and ensure they don’t spiral out of control.

Find the Cloud Provider that Offers the Cheapest Cloud Computing

There are a variety of small cloud providers that attempt to compete by dropping their prices. If you work for a small business and prefer a no-frills experience, perhaps one of these is right for you.

However, there’s a reason that the “big three” cloud providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud – dominate the market. They offer a wide range of product lines, and are continually innovating. They have a low frequency of outages, and their scale requires a straightforward onboarding process and plenty of documentation.

Whatever provider you decide on, ensure that you’ll have access to all the services you need – is there a computing product, storage, databases? How good is the customer support?

For more information about the three major providers’ pricing, please see this whitepaper on AWS vs. Google Cloud Pricing and this article comparing AWS vs. Azure pricing.

Locked In? How to Get the Cheapest Cloud Computing from Your Current Provider

Of course, if your organization is already locked into a cloud computing provider, comparing providers won’t do you much good. Here’s a short checklist of things you should do to ensure you’re getting the cheapest cloud computing possible from your current provider:

  • Use Reserved Instances for production – Reserved instances can save money – as long as you use them the right way. More here. (This article is about AWS RIs, but similar principles apply to Azure’s RIs and Google’s Committed Use discounts.)
  • Only pay for what you actually need – there are a few common ways that users inadvertently waste money, such as using larger instances than they need, and running development/testing instances 24/7 rather than only when they’re needed. (Here at ParkMyCloud, we’re all about reducing this waste – try it out.)
  • Ask – it never hurts to contact your provider and ask if there’s anything you could be doing to get a cheaper price. If you use Microsoft Azure, you may want to sign up for an Enterprise License Agreement. Or maybe you qualify for AWS startup credits.

Get Credit for Your Efforts

While finding the cheapest cloud computing is, of course, beneficial to your organization’s common good, there’s no need to let your work in spending reduction go unnoticed. Make sure that you track your organization’s spending and show your team where you are reducing spend.

We’ve recently made this task easier than ever for ParkMyCloud users. Now, you can not only create and customize reports of your cloud spending and savings, but you can also schedule these reports to be emailed out. Users are already putting this to work by having savings reports automatically emailed to their bosses and department heads, to ensure that leadership is aware of the cost savings gained… and so users can get credit for their efforts.

 

 

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Managing Microsoft Azure VMs with ParkMyCloud

Microsoft has made it easy for companies to get started using Microsoft Azure VMs for development and beyond. However, as an organization’s usage grows past a few servers, it becomes necessary to manage both costs and users and can become complex quickly. ParkMyCloud simplifies cloud management of Microsoft Azure VMs by giving you options to create teams of users, groups of instances, and schedule resources easily.

Consider the case of a large Australian financial institution that uses Microsoft Azure as its sole cloud provider. In this case, they currently they have 125 VMs, costing them over $100k on their monthly cloud bill with Microsoft. Their compute spend is about 95% of their total Azure bill.

Using one Azure account for the entire organization, they chose to split it into multiple divisions, such as DEV, UAT, Prod, and DR. These divisions are then split further into multiple applications that run within each division. In order for them to use ParkMyCloud to best optimize their cloud costs, they created teams of users (one per division). They gave each team permissions in order to allow shutdown and startup of individual applications/VMs. A few select admin users have the ability to control all VMs, regardless of where the applications are placed.

The organization also required specific startup/shutdown ordering for their servers. How would ParkMyCloud handle this need? This looks like a perfect use case for logical groups in ParkMyCloud.

For detailed instructions on how to manage logical groups with ParkMyCloud, see our user guide.

Putting this into context, let’s say that you have a DB and a web server grouped together. You want the DB to start first and stop last, therefore you would need to set the DB to have a start delay of 0 and a stop delay of 5. For the web server, you would set a start delay of 5 and stop delay of 0.

Of course, you could also manage logical groups of Microsoft Azure VMs with tags, scripts, and Azure automation. However, we know firsthand that the alternative solution involves complexities and requires constant upkeep – and who wants that?

ParkMyCloud offers the advantage of not only to cutting your cloud costs, but also making cloud management simpler, easier, and more effective. To experience all great the benefits of our platform, start a free trial today!  

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Cloud Optimization Tools = Cloud Cost Control (Part II)

A couple of weeks ago in Part 1 of this blog topic we discussed the need for cloud optimization tools to help enterprises with the problem of cloud cost control. Amazon Web Services (AWS) even goes as far as suggesting the following simple steps to control their costs (which can also be applied  to Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, but of course with slightly different terminology):

    1. Right-size your services to meet capacity needs at the lowest cost;
    2. Save money when you reserve;
    3. Use the spot market;
    4. Monitor and track service usage;
    5. Use Cost Explorer to optimize savings; and
    6. Turn off idle instances (we added this one).

A variety of third-party tools and services have popped up in the market over the past few years to help with cloud cost optimization – why? Because upwards of $23B was spent on public cloud infrastructure in 2016, and spending continues to grow at a rate of 40% per year. Furthermore, depending on who you talk to, roughly 25% of public cloud spend is wasted or not optimized — that’s a huge market! If left unchecked, this waste problem is supposed to triple to over $20B by 2020 – enter the vultures (full disclosure, we are also a vulture, but the nice kind). Most of these tools are lumped under the Cloud Management category, which includes subcategories like Cost Visibility and Governance, Cost Optimization, and Cost Control vendors – we are a cost control vendor to be sure.

Why do you, an enterprise, care? Because there are very unique and subtle differences between the tools that fit into these categories, so your use case should dictate where you go for what – and that’s what I am trying to help you with. So, why am I a credible source to write about this (and not just because ParkMyCloud is the best thing since sliced bread)?

Well, yesterday we had a demo with a FinTech company in California that was interested in Cost Control, or thought they were. It turns out that what they were actually interested in was Cost Visibility and Reporting; the folks we talked to were in Engineering Finance, so their concerns were primarily with billing metrics, business unit chargeback for cloud usage, RI management, and dials and widgets to view all stuff AWS and GCP billing related. Instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole, we passed them on to a company in this space who’s better suited to solve their immediate needs. In response, the Finance folks are going to put us in touch with the FinTech Cloud Ops folks who care about automating their cloud cost control as part of their DevOps processes.

This type of situation happens more often than not. We have a lot of enterprise customers using ParkMyCloud along with CloudHealth, CloudChekr, Cloudability, and Cloudyn because in general, they provide Cost Visibility and Governance, and we provide actionable, automated Cost Control.

As this is our blog, and my view from the street – we have 200+ customers now using ParkMyCloud, and we demo to 5-10 enterprises per week. Based on a couple of generic customer uses cases where we have strong familiarity, here’s what you need to know to stay ahead of the game:

  • Cost Visibility and Governance: CloudHealth, CloudChekr, Cloudability and Cloudyn (now owned by Microsoft)
  • Reserved Instance (RI) management – all of the above
  • Spot Instance management – SpotInst
  • Monitor and Track Usage: CloudHealth, CloudChekr, Cloudability and Cloudyn
  • Turn off (park) Idle Resources – ParkMyCloud, Skeddly, Gorilla Stack, BotMetric
  • Automate Cost Control as part of your DevOps Process: ParkMyCloud
  • Govern User Access to Cloud Console for Start/Stop: ParkMyCloud
  • Integrate with Single Sign-On (SSO) for Federated User Access: ParkMyCloud

To summarize, cloud cost control is important, and there are many cloud optimization tools available to assist with visibility, governance, management, and control of your single or multi-cloud environments. However, there are very few tools which allow you to set up automated actions leveraging your existing enterprise tools like Ping, Okta, Atlassian, Jenkins, and Slack.  Make sure you are not only focusing on cost visibility and recommendations, but also on action-oriented platforms to really get the best bang for your buck.

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Cloud Cost Management Tool Comparison

Not only has it become apparent that public cloud is here to stay, it’s also growing faster as time goes on (by 2020, it is estimated that more than 40% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud). IT infrastructure has changed permanently, and enterprise organizations are coming to terms with some of the side effects of this shift.  One of those side effects is the need for tools and processes (and even teams in larger organizations) dedicated to cloud cost management and cost control.  Executives from all teams within an organization want to see costs, projections, usage, savings, and quantifiable efforts to save the company money while maximizing IT throughput as enterprises shift to resources to the cloud.  

There’s a variety of tools to solve some of these problems, so let’s take a look at a few of the major ones.  All of the tools mentioned below support Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

CloudHealth

CloudHealth provides detailed analytics and reporting on your overall cloud spend, with the ability to slice-and-dice that data in a variety of ways.  Recommendations about your instances are made based on a score driven by instance utilization and cloud provider best practices. This data is collected from agents that are installed on the instances, along with cloud-level information.  Analysis and business intelligence tools for cloud spend and infrastructure utilization are featured prominently in the dashboard, with governance provided through policies driven by teams for alerts and thresholds.  Some actions can be scripted, such as deleting elastic IPs/snapshots and managing EC2 instances, but reporting and dashboards are the main focus.

Overall, the platform seems to be a popular choice for large enterprises wanting cost and governance visibility across their cloud infrastructure.  Pricing is based on a percentage of your monthly cloud spend.

CloudCheckr

Cloudcheckr provides visibility into governance, security, compliance, and cost problems based on doing analytics and checks against logic built into their platform. It relies on non-native tools and integrations to take action on the recommendations, such as Spotinst, Ansible, or Chef.  CloudCheckr’s reports cover a wide range of topics, including inventory, utilization, security, costs, and overall best-practices. The UI is simple and is likely equally well regarded by technical and non-technical users.

The platform seems to be a popular choice with small and medium sized enterprises looking for greater overall visibility and recommendations to help optimize their use of cloud.  Given their SMB focus customers are often provided this service through MSPs. Pricing is based on your cloud spend, but a free tier is also available.

Cloudyn

Cloudyn (recently acquired by Microsoft) is focused on providing advice and recommendations along with chargeback and showback capabilities for enterprise organizations. Cloud resources and costs can be managed through their hierarchical team structure.  Visibility, alerting, and recommendations are made in real time to assist in right-sizing instances and identifying outlying resources.  Like CloudCheckr, it relies on external tools or people to act upon recommendations and lacks automation

Their platform options include supporting MSPs in the management of their end customer’s cloud environments as well as an interesting cloud benchmarking service called Cloudyndex.  Pricing for Cloudyn is also based on your monthly cloud spend.  Much of the focus seems to be on current Microsoft Azure customers and users.

ParkMyCloud

Unlike the other tools mentioned, ParkMyCloud focuses on actions and automated scheduling of resources to provide optimization and immediate ROI.  Reports and dashboards are available to show the cost savings provided by these schedules and recommendations on which instances to park.  The schedules can be manually attached to instances, or automatically assigned based on tags or naming schemes through its Policy Engine.  It pairs well with the other previously mentioned recommendation-based tools in this space to provide total cost control through both actions and reporting.

ParkMyCloud is widely used by DevOps and IT Ops in organizations from small startups to global multinationals, all who are keen to automate cost control by leveraging ParkMyCloud’s native API and pre-built integration with tools like Slack, Atlassian, and Jenkins.  Pricing is based on a cost per-instance, with a free tier available.

Conclusion

Cloud cost management isn’t just a “should think about” item, it’s a “must have in place” item, regardless of the size of a company’s cloud bill.  Specialized tools can help you view, manage, and project your cloud costs no matter which provider you choose.  The right toolkit can supercharge your IT infrastructure, so consider a combination of some of the tools above to really get the most out of your AWS, Azure, or Google environment.

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Top 3 Ways to Save Money on Azure

Perhaps your CFO or CTO came to you and gave a directive to save money on Azure. Perhaps you received the bill on your own, and realize that this needs to be reduced. Or maybe you’re just migrating to the cloud and want to make sure you’re set up for cost control in advance (if so, props to you for being proactive!)

Whatever the reason you want to reduce your bill, there are a lot of little tips and tricks out there. But to get started, here are the top 3 ways to save money on Azure.

1. Set a spending limit on your Azure account

Our first recommendation to save money on Azure is to set a spending limit on your Azure account. We especially recommend this if you are using your Azure account for non-production. This is because once your limit is reached, your VMs will be stopped and deallocated. You will get an email alert and an alert in the Azure portal, and you do have the ability to turn these back on, but this is of course not ideal for any production systems.

Additionally, keep in mind that there are still services you will be charged for, even if your spending limit has been reached, including Visual studio licenses, Azure Active Directory premium, and support plans.

Here are full instructions on how to use the Azure spending limit on the Azure website.

2. Right size your VMs

One easy way to spend too much on your Azure compute resources is to use VMs that are not properly sized for the workload you are running on them. Use Azure’s Advisor to ensure that you’re not overpaying for processor cores, memory, disk storage, disk I/O, or network bandwidth. More on right-sizing from TechTarget.

While you’re at it, check to see if there’s a less-expensive region you could choose for the VM for additional cost savings.

3. Turn non-production VMs off when they’re not being used

Our third recommendation to save money on Azure is to turn non-production VMs off when they’re not being used – otherwise, you’re paying for time you don’t need. It’s a quick fix, and one that can save 65% of the cost of the VM – if, for example, it was running 24×7 but is only needed 12 hours per day, Monday through Friday.

One basic approach is to ask developers and testers to turn their VMs off when they are done using them — if you do this, ensure that your users are using the Azure portal to put these VMs in the “stopped deallocated” state. If you stop from within a VM, it will be put in a “stopped” state and you will continue to be charged.

However, relying on human memory is not best, so you’ll want to schedule your non-production VMs to shut down on a schedule. You could attempt to script this, but this is counter productive and wastes valuable development resources to write and maintain.

Instead, it’s best to use software like ParkMyCloud’s to automate on/off schedules – including automating schedule and team assignment for access control – and keep your Azure non-production costs in check.

 

 

These three methods should get you started on your goal to reduce costs. Have any other preferred methods to save money on Azure? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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Cutting through the AWS and Azure Cloud Pricing Confusion (Caveat Emptor)

Before I try to break down the AWS and Azure cloud pricing jargon, let me give you some context. I am a crusty, old CTO who has been working in advanced technology since the 1980’s. (That’s more than 18 Moore’s Law cycles for processor and chipset fans, and I have lost count of how many technology hype cycles that has been.)

I have grown accustomed to the “deal of a lifetime” on the “technology of the decade” coming around about once every week. So, you can believe me, when I tell you have a very low BS threshold for dishonest sales folks and bogus technology claims. Yes, I am jaded.

My latest venture is a platform, ParkMyCloud, that brings together  multiple public cloud providers. And I can tell you first hand that it is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s like being dropped off in the middle of the jungle in Papua, New Guinea. Each cloud provider has its own culture, its own philosophy, its own language and customers, its own maturity level and, worst of all — its own pricing strategy — which makes it tough for buyers to manage costs. I am convinced that the lowest circles of hell are reserved for people who develop cloud service pricing models. AWS and Azure cloud pricing gurus, beware. And reader, to you: caveat emptor.

AWS and Azure Terminology Differences

Case in point: You have probably read the comparisons of various services across the top cloud providers, as people try to wrap their minds around all the varying jargon used to describe pretty much the same thing. For example, let’s just look at one service: Cloud Computing.

In AWS, servers are called Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) “Instances”. In Azure they are called “Virtual Machines” or “VMs”. Flocks of these spun up from a snapshot according scaling rules are called “auto scaling groups” in AWS. The same things are called “scale sets” in Azure.

Of course cloud providers had to start somewhere, then they learned from their mistakes and improved. When AWS started with EC2, they had not yet released virtual private clouds (VPCs), so their instances ran outside of VPCs. Now all the latest stuff runs inside of VPCs. The older ones are called, “classic” and have a number of limitations.
The same thing is true of Azure. When they first released, their VMs were not set up to use what is now their Resource Manager or be managed in Resource Groups (the moral equivalent of CloudFormation Stacks in AWS). Now, all of their latest VMs are compatible with Resource Manager. The older ones are called, you guessed it … “classic”.

(What genius came up with the idea to call the older versions of these, the ones you’re probably stranded with and no longer want, “classic”?)

Both AWS and Azure have a dizzying array of instances/VMs to choose from, and doing an apples-to-apples comparison between them can be quite daunting. They have different categories: General purpose, compute optimized, storage optimized, disk optimized, etc.

Then within each one of those, there are types or sizes. For example, in AWS the tiny, cheap ones are currently the “t2” family. In Azure, they are the “A” series. On top of that there are different generations of processors. In AWS, they use an integer after the family type, like t2, m3, m4 and there are sizes, t2.small, m3.medium, m4.large, r16.ginormus (OK, I made that one up).  

In Azure, they use a number after the family letter to connote size, like A0, A1, A2, D1, etc. and “v1”, “v2” after that to tell what generation it is, like D1v1, D2v2.

The bottom line: this is very confusing for folks moving their workloads to public cloud from on-premise data centers (yet another Wonderland of jargon and confusion in its own right). How does one decide which cloud provider to use? How does one even begin to compare prices with all of this mess? Cheer up … it gets worse!

AWS and Azure Cloud Pricing – Examining Differences in Charging

To add to that confusion, they charge you differently for the compute time you use. What do I mean?  AWS prices their compute time by the hour. And by hour, they mean any fraction of an hour: If you start an instance and run it for 61 minutes then shut it down, you get charged for 2 hours of compute time.

Microsoft Azure cloud pricing is listed by the hour for each VM, but they charge you by the minute. So, if you run for 61 minutes, you get charged for 61 minutes. On the surface, this sounds very appealing (and makes me want to wag my finger at AWS and say, “shame on you, AWS”).

However, you really have to pay attention to the use case and the comparable instance prices. Let me give you a concrete example. I mentioned my latest venture, ParkMyCloud, earlier. We park (schedule on/off times) for cloud computing resources in non-production environments (without scripting by the way). So, here is a graph of 6 months worth of data from an m4.large instance somewhere in Asia Pac. The m4 processor family is based on the Xeon Broadwell or Haswell processor and it is one of the most commonly used instance types.

This instance is on a ParkMyCloud parking schedule, where it is RUNNING from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and PARKED evenings and weekends. This instance, assuming Linux pricing, costs $0.125 per hour in AWS. From November 6, 2016 until May 9, 2017, this instance ran for 111,690 minutes. This is actually about 1,862 hours, but AWS charged for 1,922 hours and it cost $240.25 in compute time.

example of instance uptime in minutes per dayWhy the difference? ParkMyCloud has a very fast and accurate orchestration engine, but when you start and stop instances, the cloud provider and network response can vary from hour-to-hour and day-to-day, depending on their load, so occasionally things will run that extra minute. And, even though this instance is on a parking schedule, when you look at the graph, you can see that the user took manual control a few times. Stuff happens!

What would the cost have been if AWS charged the same way as Azure?  It would have only cost $232.69. Well, that’s not too bad over the course of six months, unless you have 1,000 of these. Then it becomes material.

However, I wouldn’t rush to judgment on AWS. If you look at the comparable Azure VM, the standard pricing DS2 V2, also running Linux, costs $0.152/hour. So, this same instance running in Azure would have cost $290.39. Yikes!

Therefore, in my particular use case, unless the Azure cloud pricing drops to make their CPU pricing more competitive, their per minute pricing really doesn’t save money.

Conclusion

The ironic thing about all of this, is that once you get past all the confusing jargon and the ridiculous approaches to pricing and charging for usage, the actual cloud services themselves are much easier to use than legacy on-premise services. The public cloud services do provide much better flexibility and faster time-to-value. The cloud providers simply need to get out of their own way. Pricing is but one example where AWS and Azure need to make things a lot simpler, so that newcomers can make informed decisions.

From a pricing standpoint, AWS on-demand pricing is still more competitive than Azure cloud pricing for comparable compute engine’s, despite Azure’s more enlightened approach to charging for CPU/Hr time. That said, AWS really needs to get in-line with both Azure and Google, who charge by the minute. Nobody likes being charged extra for something they don’t use.

In the meantime, ParkMyCloud will continue to help you turn off non-production cloud resources, when you don’t need them and help save you a lot of money on your monthly cloud bills. If we make anything sound more complex than it needs to, call us out. No hiding behind jargon here.

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Azure vs. AWS 2017: Is Azure really surpassing AWS?

Azure vs. AWS 2017: what’s the deal? There’s been a lot of speculation lately that Microsoft Azure may be outpacing Amazon Web Services (AWS). We think that’s interesting and therefore worth taking a look at these claims. After all, AWS has been dominating the public cloud market for so long, maybe the media is just bored of that story, and ready for an underdog to jump ahead. So let’s take a look.

Is Azure catching up to AWS?

You may have seen some of the recent reports on both Microsoft and Amazon’s recent quarterly earnings. There have certainly been some provocative headlines:

With Amazon and Microsoft reporting their quarterly earnings at the same time, this is a good time to analyze the numbers and see where they stand in relation to one another. Upon closer inspection, here’s what the recent quarterly earnings reports showed:

  • AWS revenue grew 43% in the quarter, with quarterly earnings of $3.66 billion, annualized to $14.6 billion. Sales and earnings exceeded expectations given by analyst estimates. In the immediate wake of Amazon’s report, the stock went up.
  • Microsoft reported that its Intelligent Cloud division grew 11% to $6.8 billion, and that the Commercial Cloud division has a annualized run rate of $15.2 billion. These reported earnings only met analyst expectations, and therefore the stock fell by nearly 2 percent within hours.
  • We think it’s important to note when it comes to Microsoft’s reported earnings the Commercial Cloud business includes Office 365, not just Azure. We have never fully understood why the Office 365 business has been bundled in with Commercial Cloud, given that it’s a very different business than the IAAS services of Amazon and Google to which it is often compared.
  • Microsoft stated that Azure’s growth rate was 93%, without providing an actual revenue number. Once again, we find this lack of lack of earnings clarity somewhat problematic.

So is Azure bigger than AWS?

Well, currently no. There is little evidence of Azure surpassing AWS, aside from a small research study which pales in comparison to a clear majority of data stating otherwise.

But is Azure growing quickly?

Yes. In this regard, it’s important to consider what factors are at play in Azure’s growth, and whether they hold any weight as far as surpassing Azure outpacing AWS in the future.

Where is Azure actually gaining ground?

Now let’s take a look at what is driving Azure’s growth, and where Azure is gaining ground.

First of all, as companies grow beyond dipping their toes in the water of public cloud, they become more interested in secondary options for diversity and different business cases. Just from our own conversations, we’re finding that more and more AWS users are using Azure as a secondary option. While users might be interested to see what Azure can offer them in comparison, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that it will ultimately surpass AWS.

Take, for example, the results of a research survey released by data analytics provider Sumo Logic and conducted by UBM Research. According to the survey of 230 IT professionals from 500+ employees, Azure actually beat AWS as the preferred primary cloud provider, taking the lead by a 10 percent margin, with 66 percent of participants preferring Azure as opposed to the 55 percent who relied in AWS.

This research is significant because it’s the first time that survey data on customer preferences has reported Azure taking a lead over AWS. However, the data also revealed that a significant number of enterprises are using more than one cloud provider. While Azure and AWS both take the lead, there is certainly an overlap in participants who use both, in addition to other up-and-coming providers.

Second, enterprises have been committed to a variety of Microsoft products for years. According to UBM Research survey data, over 50 percent of participants who preferred Azure as their primary cloud provider were coming from large enterprises with 10,000+ employees. This makes sense considering that Microsoft has a foothold in terms of relationships and enterprise agreements with these larger organizations and are able to cross-sell Azure.

Third, Azure has a strong base in Europe, where more users report using Azure rather than AWS as their primary provider. In a 451 Research Survey with 700 participants considered to be “IT decision makers,” AWS topped the list among all participants as the preferred provider among 39 percent of participants. While Azure saw an increase in users, it still landed in second place overall at 35 percent. However, among the European participants only, Azure took the top spot, with 43.7 percent naming Azure as their provider, and 32 percent sticking with AWS.

Why does the Azure vs. AWS debate matter?

Why does the Azure vs. AWS 2017 debate matter to, when choosing a new or secondary cloud provider? Well… in terms of market performance, it probably doesn’t. As always, the specific needs of your business are going to be what’s important.

One thing is for certain: the public cloud is growing and it’s here to stay. Let’s not forget that both Google and IBM both have growing public cloud offerings too (and Google is looking to expand their enterprise market this year.) All of this competition drives innovation, and therefore IaaS and PaaS offerings – and perhaps, better pricing.

For the customer, the basic questions remain the same when evaluating public cloud providers:

  • How understandable are the public cloud offerings to new customers?
  • How much do the products cost?
  • Are there adequate customer support and growth options?
  • Are there useful surrounding management tools?
  • Will our DevOps processes translate to these offerings?
  • Can the PaaS offerings speed time-to-value and simplify things sufficiently, to drive stickiness?
  • What security measures does the cloud provider have in place?

Based upon the evidence we think it’s pretty clear that AWS is still the leader among public cloud providers.

We’ll continue to track the AWS vs. Azure comparison, and as the companies’ offerings and pricing options grow and change – we’ll be interested to see how this evaluation changes in 2018.

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Why Your CFO is About to Tell You to Control Azure Costs

As more and more companies adopt Microsoft Azure as their public cloud, the need to control Azure costs becomes ever more important. As IT, Development and Operations grow their usage of Azure cloud assets, Finance is catching up. Your CFO has seen the bill, and says, “I thought cloud was supposed to be cheaper. So why is this so high?”

Azure Spend Growing

azure spend growingIt’s no secret that overall Azure spend is rising rapidly. Azure is the fastest-growing cloud provider, both from adoption by new customers, and growth within accounts of existing customers. Many users of other clouds, such as AWS, are also adopting Azure as a secondary option for diversity.

Here’s the thing: as this spend grows, so too does wasted spend. And customers know this. But as one ParkMyCloud user told us, “As we started to dive into it, we found that a large part of our spend is simply on waste. We didn’t have visibility and policies in place. Our developers aren’t properly cleaning up after themselves, and resources aren’t being tracked, so it’s easy for them to be left running. It’s something we want to change, but it takes time and energy to do that.”

So it’s no wonder that IT, Development, and Operations teams are being tapped by CFOs left and right to reduce costs, as the Azure bill becomes a growing line item in the budget.

Control Azure Costs Before Your CFO Makes You

There are a few things you can do to be proactive and control Azure costs before your CFO comes bursting through your office door. Here are some starting points:

  • Control your view –  the first step toward change is awareness, so use an Azure dashboard to view all of your resources in one, consolidated place. We’ve heard from ParkMyCloud users, upon getting a single view of all of their resources in the ParkMyCloud dashboard, that they found VMs they didn’t even know were running.
  • Control your processes – talk with your team and set clear guidelines around provisioning appropriately sized VMs, stopping non-production VMs when they are not needed, and governing existing VMs (for example, whose responsibility is it to make sure each team is only running the resources they actually need?)
  • Control Azure costs – there are a few simple actions you can take to get your actual Azure costs in control. Here are some starting points:
    • “Right size” your VMs – make sure you aren’t choosing larger capacity/memory/CPU than you need
    • Set automatic schedules so your non-production VMs don’t run when you don’t need them (free with ParkMyCloud’s core version – try it out)
    • Set a spending limit on your Azure account. You can do a hard cutoff that will turn off your VMs once you hit the limit, or simply sign up to receive email alerts when you approach or hit the spending limit.

So, automate your operations today and make your CFO happy. Bring your Azure spend down before it becomes a problem!

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Growth = Wasted Spend on Microsoft Azure

If you read any cloud or tech blogs, you’ve probably seen the latest financials that show that Microsoft Azure is growing – and that it’s currently the fastest-growing cloud provider. However, this growth means an ever-increasing amount of wasted spend on Microsoft Azure resources.

Overall, Azure’s growth is exciting for customers who have bought into the Microsoft stack — more momentum means quickly evolving product lines, balanced prices, and improving cloud services.

However, dominant competitor Amazon Web Services (AWS) has had more time to feel and subsequently address growing pains. That means that AWS users have more options available to them to address certain concerns that come with using public cloud. For example, managing costs.

Managing Costs: a Major Concern Among Cloud Users

How much are Azure users worrying about managing their cloud costs? According to RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud report, managing costs is a huge, top-of-mind challenge. While it’s a top-3 concern for all cloud users, for mature cloud users, managing costs is the number one concern.

Rightscale-Cloud-Priorities

The primary goal of cost management efforts is to optimize costs – in other words, to eliminate wasted spend. Most cloud customers would agree that they have some amount of spend wasted, whether that’s from leaving resources on when not needed, oversized resources, orphaned storage volumes, etc. However, estimating the amount of wasted spend is a problem.

RightScale found that customers consistently underestimate how much they are wasting:

RightscaleWastedCloudSpend

So when we’re looking at Microsoft Azure specifically – how much spend is wasted?

Wasted Spend on Microsoft Azure

We’ve talked about overall cloud waste before. So let’s apply those numbers to Azure specifically.

And that’s only a portion of the waste – it doesn’t even address oversized resources, orphaned volume storage, etc. Many of these problems are well-addressed in AWS, but the Azure support market is still catching up.

The good news is, this $0.9 billion portion of wasted spend is easy enough to solve. All Microsoft Azure users need to do is schedule the “lights to turn off” when they’re not home – in other words, schedule non-production resources to turn off when no one is using them. Try it now with ParkMyCloud!

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Watch: Introducing ParkMyCloud for Microsoft – Reduce Azure Costs by 60% or more

Last week, we held a web session introducing ParkMyCloud for Microsoft Azure. We’re excited to open up the ParkMyCloud platform to Azure customers, so you can get the same savings that AWS customers have been enjoying for the past year and a half.

Watch the video here, and use the guide below to skip ahead to the parts of the session that interest you:

    • 00:28 What is ParkMyCloud?
      • WHAT: Simple, single-purpose SaaS tool.
      • HOW: Automatically schedule on/off times for idle servers.
      • WHY: Optimize cloud services spending.
      • ROI: Save 60% or more; 6 week payback.
    • 01:13 How ParkMyCloud Works
      • •Discover & Manage cloud computing resources
      • •Analyze & Recommend resources to ‘Park’
      • •Policies automatically schedule resources for off/on
      • •SAVE $$$!!!
    • 01:48 ParkMyCloud vs. AWS cost savings options
    • 02:15 How much has ParkMyCloud saved our customers?
    • 02:39 The Azure World
      • Your Azure Account (Active Directory Tenant ID)
      • Your Azure Subscription (Subscription ID)
      • Your Application (Application ID)
      • Service Principal for Your Application
      • Limited Active Directory Role for Service Principal
      • Your Azure Cloud Resource Groups and Resources
    • 03:47 Azure Credentials
      • Azure limited access role credential is analogous to an AWS IAM Role + policies
      • Requires a lot more information:
        • Subscription ID ~ analogous to an AWS account
        • Tenant ID ~ the ID of our Azure AD instance
        • App ID ~ the ID of the ParkMyCloud App in AD
        • Password (a.k.a., Client Secret) ~ You set this
    • 04:39 Four Azure CLI Approaches to creating Azure credentials
      • Windows Powershell – manual or scripted
      • Unix azure-cli – manual or scripted

 

  • 05:42 ParkMyCloud Demo

 

    • 05:51 PMC Dashboard
    • 06:05 Adding an Azure credential to ParkMyCloud
    • 07:29 Walkthrough of the ParkMyCloud dashboard
    • 08:27 How to attach a schedule to an instance
    • 09:18 How to create a custom schedule
    • 10:51 Your savings projections in ParkMyCloud
    • 11:51 How to see information about your individual instances
    • 12:34 Teams and Roles in ParkMyCloud – containers for organizing users and resources with role-based access control (RBAC)
    • 14:22 Logical Groups – the ParkMyCloud construct for organizing resources for group scheduling and sequencing
    • 16:51 Policy engine – apply schedules in an automated fashion
      • 17:02 Never Park policy – protect production instances from parking
      • 17:26 Creating a new policy for scheduling
      • 19:44 Always Off Schedule – use to park for the maximum amount of time. Useful when users are across time zones.
      • 22:09 Audience Question – using the policy engine for sorting to teams, “snooze only” for schedule enforcement, and others.
    • 23:37 Actual Savings number
    • 24:04 Quick filters for viewing the dashboard
    • 24:32 Recommendations – how to edit and add recommendations, and parking resources that are recommended to park.
    • 25:00 How to download reports in ParkMyCloud
    • 25:12 Audit Log
    • 25:33 Pricing – by instance count
  • Audience Questions
    • 26:45 Is there any functionality for AWS that doesn’t translate to Azure?
    • 28:59 Do you plan to support other clouds besides AWS and Azure?
    • 29:42 How are the projected savings and actual savings numbers calculated?

 

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Announcing ParkMyCloud Microsoft Azure Scheduling!

Now Supporting Microsoft Azure Scheduling

ParkMyCloud microsoft azure schedulingWe are excited to share that ParkMyCloud now supports Microsoft Azure scheduling!

For the past 18 months since our launch, Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers have been using ParkMyCloud to manage their compute resources by turning them off when not needed (called “instance scheduling”) – saving a total of $1,749,279.06 so far – and counting!

Now, that same “Nest for the Cloud” capability is available to Microsoft Azure customers.

Plus, if you use both AWS and Azure, you can manage and govern your accounts together in a single ParkMyCloud dashboard.

Why We’re Excited

Being able to control costs with Microsoft Azure scheduling is our most frequently-requested capability – so we’re excited to share this with our customers and new users.

The size of cloud waste is enormous, with up to $5.6 billion wasted every year on computing time that no one is using.  While much of this wasted spend is on AWS resources, Azure is certainly the second-biggest player in the public cloud market. We look forward to helping Azure customers eliminate wasted spend. Learn more in our official press release.

How Does ParkMyCloud Work on Azure?

Just like AWS, it’s simple:

  1. Discover: Connect with Azure to discover your virtual machines (VMs)
  2. Schedule: Schedule on/off times for the desired VMs
  3. Smile: Reduce your costs by up to 60%

If you’re new to ParkMyCloud, check out these additional resources:

See it In Action

Join us next Thursday, February 2 at 2 PM Eastern for a web session highlighting the Azure release – plus, learn how to use our automated policy engine for automated cost savings. Sign up here.

Try it Now

Azure users, try it now now with a 30-day free trial of ParkMyCloud.

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Triple the Clouds, Triple the Fun: What’s Coming in ParkMyCloud in 2017

triple the clouds: google, aws, azureLast year was a great year for the ParkMyCloud product and our customers – check out all the features and functionality we added throughout 2016.

As we launch into 2017, we’re looking to bring our public cloud users even more ways to save on their cloud spend. Here’s a preview of some of the more impactful features and functionality we’ll be releasing throughout the year.

New Cloud Service Providers

Thus far, ParkMyCloud has supported customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone. (No small fries here; about 30% of public cloud infrastructure is in AWS). However, in two weeks, we’re expanding by releasing support for Microsoft Azure. You will be able to manage AWS and Azure resources side-by-side in a single dashboard.

In the following months, Google Compute Engine support will follow.

New Ways to Save

In addition to the new cloud service providers, we’re also adding support for additional services and new ways to save on your cloud infrastructure.

We’ll start the expansion from compute services by parking databases (Amazon RDS and others). We will also offer resource rightsizing, so you can ensure that you’re not wasting money on resources that are larger than you need them to be.

Adding to the ParkMyCloud Experience

We’ll also be enhancing the ParkMyCloud experience with surrounding features, starting with single sign-on (SSO) using SAML 2.0 coming in February.

Following that, we’ll add external notifications leveraging AWS SNS. And for the quants out there we’ll be adding a data analytics layer. We’re also excited to share that we’ll have native mobile support for iOS and Android by the summer.

And more!

Of course, as a small and agile company, this list is not complete! We’re happy to hear your thoughts and suggestions about what you’d like to see in ParkMyCloud this year – so what’s at the top of your list?

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Cloud applications in 2017: How long until full cloud takes over?

clouds-take-overWe were recently asked about our vision for cloud applications in 2017: are we still seeing ported versions of legacy on-premises Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications? Or are most applications – even outside of pure-play startups – being built and hosted in the cloud? In other words, how long until full cloud takes over?

Actually, it already has.

Native cloud applications like ours – an 18-month-old startup – that have been built, tested, and run in the cloud are no longer the fringe innovators, but the norm. In fact, outside of a printer, we have no infrastructure at all – we are BYOD, and every application we use for development, marketing, sales and finance is a SaaS-based, cloud-hosted solution that we either use for free or rent and pay month-to-month or year-to-year.

This reliance on 100% cloud solutions has allowed us to rapidly scale our entire business – the cloud, and cloud-based SaaS solutions, have provided ParkMyCloud with the agility, speed, and cost control needed to manage to an OpEx model rather than a CapEx model.

We were able to rapidly prototype our technology, test it, iterate, and leverage “beta” communities in the cloud in a matter of months. We even outsource our development efforts, and seamlessly run agile remotely using the cloud and cloud-based tools. For a peek into the process, here’s a sampling of software development tools we use in a cloud-shrouded nutshell:

  • Amazon Web Service (AWS) for development, test, QA and production
  • VersionOne for agile management
  • Skype for scrum and video communication
  • GitHub for version control
  • Zoho for customer support
  • LogEntries for log integration
  • Confluence for documentation
  • Swagger for API management

And I could repeat the same for our Marketing, Sales, and Finance process and tools – the cloud has truly taken over.

We don’t know if these applications are built and run in the public cloud or the private cloud – that’s irrelevant to us, what’s important is they solve a problem, are easily accessible, and meet our price point. We do know that these are all cloud-based SaaS offerings – we don’t use any on premise, traditional software.

The net net is that many companies are just like ParkMyCloud. The question is no longer about how us newbies will enter the world – the question is, how fast will legacy enterprises migrate ALL their applications to cloud? And where will they strike the balance between public and private cloud?

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How to Protect Your Production Servers (The “Never Park” Policy)

The other day, we talked to a prospective ParkMyCloud customer about how to protect his production servers. He had just started a trial of ParkMyCloud, and before he added additional users to his account, he had an important question: How can I keep my production servers safe from my end users accidentally parking them?

It’s a great question! Before you start shutting down your non-production resources for cost savings, it’s a good idea to protect your mission-critical production resources from being parked, which could wreak havoc on your applications — while some resources can be stopped, or “parked”, during off-hours, there are, of course, others that need to run 24×7.

Luckily, with ParkMyCloud’s policy engine, it’s straightforward and easy to protect your production resources. All you need to do is apply a “never park” policy so those resources cannot be scheduled or manually started/stopped.

Only users with the SuperAdmin role can create and manage policies, so if you’re the primary account holder, you don’t have to worry about end users changing these policies once they’re set up. Your production resources will be safe from being parked, so you can start parking and saving away.

Here’s how to create a policy for yourself. (If you don’t have an account yet, you can start a ParkMyCloud free trial and follow along.)

From the ParkMyCloud console:

  1. policy-engineGo to the left sidebar and select “Policies” and “Create Policy”.
  2. Name your policy – let’s call it ‘Never Park’
  3. Input the criteria to identify your production resources  – usually this will be by name or tag.
  4. Select “Restrict” as the action.
  5. From the Restrict dropdown menu, select “Never Park”. For this option, users can neither attach schedules nor manually start/stop resources.

You can also use policies to assign instances to teams based on their tags or names. If you set up your teams in advance, this is a simple way to automatically control which users have access to which instances.  So in this example you could set up a “Production Team” and have all your production instances sort directly to this team. And as an admin you are able to create the permissions for who has access to this team, adding another layer of protection.

Save your policy to protect your production resources from being parked and you’re all set!

There are a few other reasons you may want to use policies on your resources. For example, you can use policies to automatically attach or detach schedules to instances, again based on credential, location, name, type, or tag. So, for example, you could set all of your instances tagged “development” to have the “Up M-F, 8 am – 5 pm” schedule automatically applied.

You can also restrict resources with parking schedules to “snooze only”. That is, end users can only snooze the attached schedule, they cannot edit, detach or change it.

The policy engine is a powerful feature that can help you automate many of the common actions within ParkMyCloud, ensuring that you maximize your cost savings with the least amount of effort.

If you have any additional questions about using policies, please comment below or contact us!

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