Azure Region Pricing: Costs for Compute

Azure Region Pricing: Costs for Compute

In this blog we are going to examine how Microsoft Azure region pricing varies and how region selection can help you reduce cloud spending.

How Organizations Select Public Cloud Regions

There are many comparisons that go into pricing differences between AWS vs Azure vs GCP, etc. At the end of the day, however, most organizations select one primary cloud service provider (CSP) for most of their workloads, plus maybe another for multi-cloud redundancy of critical services. Once selected, organizations then typically put many of their workloads in the region closest to their offices, plus maybe some geographic redundancy in their production systems. In other situations, a certain region is selected because that is the first region to support some new CSP feature. As time goes by, other regions become options because either those new features are propagated through the system, or whole new regions are created.

CSP regions tend to cluster around certain larger geographic regions, that I will call “areas” for the purpose of this blog. Looking at Azure in particular, we can see that Azure has three major US areas (Western, Central, and Eastern). The Western and Eastern US areas each have two Azure regions, and the Central area has four Azure regions. The UK, Europe and Australia areas each have two Azure regions. There are a number of other Azure regions as well, but they are far enough dispersed that I would consider them to be areas with a single region.

How Does Azure Region Pricing Vary?

With this regional distribution as a starting point, let’s look next at costs for instances. Here is a somewhat random selection of Azure region pricing data, looking at a variety of instance types (cost data as of approximately March 1, 2018).

While this graphic is a bit busy, there are a couple things that jump out at us:

  • Within most of the areas, there are clearly more expensive regions and less expensive regions.
  • The least expensive regions, on average across these instance types are us-west-2, us-west-central, and korea-south.
  • The most expensive regions are asia-pacific-east, japan-east, and australia-east.
  • Windows instances are about 1.5-3 times more expensive than their Linux-based counterparts

Let’s zoom-in on Azure Standard_DS2_v2 instance type, which comprises almost 60% of the total population of Azure instances customers are managing in the ParkMyCloud platform.

We can clearly see the relative volatility in the cost of this instance type across regions. And, while the Windows instance is about 1.5-2 times the cost of the Linux instance, the volatility is fairly closely mirrored across the regions.

Of more interest, however, is how the costs can differ within a given area. From that comparison we can see that there is some real savings to be gained by careful region selection within an area:

Over the course of a year, strategic region selection of a Windows DS2 instance could save up to $578 for the asia-pacific regions, $298 for the us-east regions, and $228 for the Korean regions.  

How to Save Using Regions

By comparing regions within your desired “area” as illustrated above, the savings over a quantity of instances can be significant. Good region selection is fundamental to controlling Azure costs, and for costs across the other clouds as well.

Announcing SmartParking for Microsoft Azure: Automated On/Off Schedules Based on Azure Monitor Data

Announcing SmartParking for Microsoft Azure: Automated On/Off Schedules Based on Azure Monitor Data

Today, we’re excited to announce the release of SmartParkingTM for Microsoft Azure! SmartParking allows Azure customers to automate cloud cost optimization by creating parking schedules optimized to your actual cloud usage based on Azure Monitor data.

Here’s how it works: ParkMyCloud analyzes your Azure Monitor data to find patterns in the usage for each of your virtual machines (VMs). Based on those patterns, ParkMyCloud creates recommended on/off schedules for each VM to turn them off when they are idle. This maximizes your savings by ensuring that no VM is running when it’s not needed — while also saving you the time and frustration of trying to figure out when your colleagues need their resources running.

We released SmartParking for AWS in January, and customers have had positive feedback — and SmartParking for Google Cloud Platform is coming soon.

Customize Your Recommendations like your 401K

Is it better to park aggressively, maximizing savings, or to park conservatively, ensuring that no VM is parked when a user might need it? Everyone will have a different preference, which is why we’ve created different options for SmartParking recommendations. Like an investment portfolio, you can choose to receive SmartParking schedules that are “conservative”, “balanced”, or “aggressive”. And like an investment, a bigger risk comes with the opportunity for a bigger reward.

An aggressive SmartParking schedule prioritizes the maximum savings amount. You will park instances – and therefore save money – for the most time, with the “risk” of occasional inconvenience by having something turned off when someone needs it. Not to worry, though — users can always “snooze” these schedules to override them if they need to use the instance when it’s parked.

On the other hand, a conservative SmartParking schedule will make it more likely that your instances are never parked when they might be needed. It will only recommend parked times when the instance is never used. Choose “balanced” for a happy medium.

Customer Feedback: Making Parking Better Than Ever

ParkMyCloud customer Sysco Foods has more than 500 users across 50 teams using ParkMyCloud to manage their AWS environments. “When I’m asked by a team how they should use the tool, they’re exceedingly happy that they can go in and see when systems are idle,” Kurt Brochu, Sysco Foods’ Senior Manager of the Cloud Enablement Team, said of SmartParking. “To me, the magic is that the platform empowers the end user to make decisions for the betterment of the business.”

Already a ParkMyCloud user? Log in to your account to try out SmartParking for Azure. Note that you’ll have to update the permissions that ParkMyCloud has to access your Azure data — see the user guide for instructions on that.

Not yet a ParkMyCloud user? Start a free trial here.

Google Cloud Platform user? Not to worry — Google Cloud SmartParking is coming next month. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll notify you when it’s released.

ParkMyCloud Announces “SmartParking” for Microsoft Azure

Cloud Cost Optimization Platform Expands Powerful Automation Engine for Maximum Savings on Cloud Resources

March 13, 2018 (Dulles, VA) – ParkMyCloud, the leading enterprise platform for continuous cost control in public cloud, announced today that it has released SmartParking for Microsoft Azure, allowing Azure users to automate cloud cost optimization.

The ParkMyCloud platform helps Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform customers save money on cloud resources by automatically integrating cost control into their DevOps processes. ParkMyCloud saves money by scheduling cloud resources to turn off when they are not needed – which they call “parking”.

The newly released expansion of SmartParking — which was first released for AWS in January — uses Azure Monitor data to find patterns in virtual machine utilization. ParkMyCloud then uses that data to automatically recommend specific parking schedules for each virtual machine to turn them off when they are typically idle. This minimizes idle time to maximize savings on cloud resources.

SmartParking schedule automatically created from usage data

Using ParkMyCloud’s recommendations, some AWS customers are saving more than 80% on the cost of their cloud resources. Now, Azure users — which make up the fastest-growing portion of the cloud market — can get the same cost reduction, saving huge portions of cloud spend that would have otherwise been wasted.

“With this release, we extend the powerful SmartParking technology to Azure, allowing users to optimize their spend and savings,” said ParkMyCloud CTO Bill Supernor. “Our AWS customers have been excited about SmartParking, and we’re glad to now deliver it to our Azure users as well.”

ParkMyCloud customer Sysco Foods has more than 500 users across 50 teams using ParkMyCloud to manage their AWS environments. “When I’m asked by a team how they should use the tool, they’re exceedingly happy that they can go in and see when systems are idle,” Kurt Brochu, Sysco Foods’ Senior Manager of the Cloud Enablement Team, said of SmartParking. “To me, the magic is that the platform empowers the end user to make decisions for the betterment of the business.”

ParkMyCloud plans to release SmartParking for Google Cloud in April.

About ParkMyCloud

ParkMyCloud is a SaaS platform that automatically identifies and eliminates public cloud resource waste, reducing spending by 65% or more — think “Nest for the cloud.” AWS, Azure and Google users such as McDonald’s, Sysco Foods, Unilever, Avid, and Sage Software have used ParkMyCloud to cut their cloud spending by millions of dollars. ParkMyCloud helps companies like these optimize and govern cloud usage by integrating cost control into their DevOps processes. For more information, visit https://www.parkmycloud.com.

Contact

Katy Stalcup

kstalcup@parkmycloud.com

(571) 334-3291

Interview: Qcentive Saves Significant Amounts on AWS while Enabling Cloud Computing in Healthcare

Interview: Qcentive Saves Significant Amounts on AWS while Enabling Cloud Computing in Healthcare

We talked with Bill Gullicksen, Director of IT at Qcentive, about how the company is using ParkMyCloud to save money on their AWS costs while enabling cloud computing in healthcare.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Can you start by telling me about Qcentive and how you are using the cloud?

We are a 2-year-old healthcare startup founded through the venture capital arm of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA). We build systems for the healthcare industry to help reduce costs in healthcare and provide efficiencies. Our cloud-based payment platform will facilitate the development and management of value-based contracts between healthcare companies. We are excited to be one of the earliest vendors authorized to take healthcare information and move it securely to the cloud.

What do you think made Qcentive stand apart as the best option for moving data to the cloud?

Healthcare has historically been cloud-averse due to issues like privacy and security concerns. In order to prove the use case for cloud computing in healthcare, we needed to build out a prototype and go through many months of meetings–producing artifacts to prove that we could move data to the cloud in a HIPAA/HITECH-compliant and secure manner.

We’ve recently released our first prototype module of the application by taking years of patient and healthcare contract information, loading it all into AWS, and then putting our application on top of it. Our application allows our health plan customers and their value-based contracting provider partners to analyze healthcare claim records, emergency room visits, etc. and to quickly calculate how to potentially realize savings in those areas.

So as you’re helping healthcare companies transition to the cloud, how did you come to find ParkMyCloud as a useful tool for your mission?

We had a few architects just going to town on AWS during the first year we were in business. They were building away, and all of a sudden our monthly AWS costs began to ramp up. We were spending a lot of money on Amazon and we didn’t even have a working application yet!

Last summer I was put in charge of our AWS operations and was asked to address our AWS costs. I asked, “what can we do to get some of these costs under control?” We started out with some rightsizing exercises and scaled some stuff back and that got us some savings. We found areas where we have had some stability and used Reserved Instances there, allowing us to get a 30-40% discount, but we didn’t want to do long-term commitments so we only did those for a year.

For the remaining instances, I realized we pay by the minute and we really don’t need to be running instances 24/7. That’s when we started thinking about how to schedule instances to shut down. I could do that and turn them off with AWS tools, but then telling an instance to turn itself back on at 6 in the morning–I didn’t have a way to do that. And that’s when I found out about ParkMyCloud and said this looks perfect – we can schedule instances to get them running 12 hours a day, 5 days a week instead of 24/7 and we’ll probably cut our costs in half.

Have you discovered any other benefits while using ParkMyCloud?

ParkMyCloud was the perfect tool for what we needed at the time and it also gave us a side benefit where we could give developers, QA people, and even data analysts and business folks the ability to turn an instance off when they’re done, or turn it on without having to write a bunch of complex policies within AWS.

Before, if we only wanted certain people to be able to manipulate a handful of instances, I had to put those instance IDs in the policies. Instance IDs frequently change, so running custom policies was taking a lot of overhead and we got the benefit from ParkMyCloud of just assigning them teams. Now, whether the instance IDs change or not, there’s no extra work for our IT team.

That’s why we chose ParkMyCloud and why we’ve been using it for 6-7 months now. For me it was great, very simple to set up, simple to use, easy for non-technical users and with very little effort from me and my technical staff, so it’s been perfect.

Great. So it seems like you were using a good mix of different cost savings efforts between the reserved instances, the rightsizing, and ParkMyCloud. Is there anything else you’re doing to manage cloud re-infrastructure costs?

Those are the bulk of it. We have other cloud-tracking subscriptions that we use sometimes. They are very simple but I just use it for looking at the daily spend, seeing if there’s any unexpected spikes, things like that. I can use it for finding resources that are no longer being used. It’s nice to have for identifying orphaned volumes and gives me a simple, easy way to clean some of that up, but we get our biggest use out of ParkMyCloud.

What percent of your resources are currently on ParkMyCloud schedules?

We’ve taken some schedules off just to keep some systems up for a while, but our rule of thumb has been to put a schedule and a team on everything. Even if a schedule is running 24/7/365, we want to at least have a schedule on it and know that it’s a conscious business decision we made to keep that up versus “it just slipped through the cracks and we never looked at it.”

About how many people in your team or organization are using ParkMyCloud?

Somewhere around 15 or so users.

Where do those users sit within your organization?

I’m Director of IT and we’ve got a Director of DevOps and a DevOps engineer–we are the three technical resources around infrastructure. Then we’ve got around 10 or so software developers that all have access so they can spin up their dev environments and spin them down when they’re not working.

We have a flexible schedule. Some of our software developers do their best coding at 3 in the morning. If they get up with an idea and they want to code, they need the ability to start up instances, do what they need to do, and then turn them off when they’re done. So they’re all in there, our QA department and some business analysts that do a lot of data analysis and database querying are also using ParkMyCloud.

That makes sense. So, how much are you saving on your AWS bills using ParkMyCloud?

Our initial savings with ParkMyCloud were significant and the product paid for itself quickly. Based on business needs, our costs can escalate rapidly so we estimate we’re saving up to 20% on our costs on a monthly basis.

We’ve got a lot of instances that we keep normally parked now and we only turn them on when there’s a workload to run. And then we’ve got probably another 40 or 50% of our instances that only run Monday through Friday, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, so we’re getting that savings there which to me is bigger savings than dealing with Reserved Instances.

Things like Reserved Instances look great the day you buy them, but then the first time you have to change the size on something, all of the sudden you’ve got Reserved Instances that you’re not using anymore. With ParkMyCloud that never happens, it’s all savings.

How did you first hear about ParkMyCloud?

We were interviewing an external technology company, G2 Technologies in Boston last summer that was being brought in to augment our CI/CD process. While they were in we asked, “hey, do you know any good methods for doing scheduling?” – and they said take a look at ParkMyCloud.

Any other feedback for us?

I was surprised how simple ParkMyCloud was to get up and running. It was a couple of hours from signing up for the trial to having most of the work done and realizing savings, which was great. The release of your mobile app has been fantastic because it’s nice if we need to turn something on for somebody that doesn’t have access on a Saturday when I’m 30 miles away from my computer. I can do it anywhere with the mobile app.

Glad to hear it! I think that wraps things up for now. Thank you Bill, I appreciate your time.

You’re welcome!

How to Decide Between a CI/CD SaaS Tool vs. Self Hosted

How to Decide Between a CI/CD SaaS Tool vs. Self Hosted

You may find yourself deciding whether to choose a CI/CD SaaS tool, or a self-hosted option. The continuous integration/continuous delivery platform market has grown over the last several years as DevOps becomes more mainstream, and now encompasses a huge variety of tools, each with their own flavor. While it’s great to have choices, it means that choosing the right tool can be a difficult decision. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right fit, including hosting, cost, scalability, and integration support. In this post, we will look at one of the biggest points of consideration: whether to choose a SaaS CI/CD service or a self-hosted system. This will be the first entry in a series of posts about how to choose the CI/CD system that is right for your team. Like everything, there are pros and cons to all solutions, and with the vast amount of CI/CD options available today, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all”.

Considerations for Choosing a CI/CD SaaS Tool

First, let’s take a look at the up-side to choosing a CI/CD SaaS tool. Like most SaaS products, one of the biggest benefits is that there is no hardware or software infrastructure to maintain. There’s no need to worry about server maintenance or applying software updates/patches: that’s all handled for you. In addition to the reduced ongoing maintenance burden, most SaaS CI/CD systems tend to be easy to get set up, especially if you’re using a SaaS VCS (Version Control System) like GitHub or Bitbucket. 

These are great points, but there are potential down-sides that must be considered. The cost of usage for a SaaS CI/CD solution may not scale nicely with your business. For example, the price of a SaaS CI/CD service may go up as your team gets larger. If you plan on scaling your team significantly, the cost of your CI/CD system could inflate dramatically. Furthermore, not all services support all platforms, tools, and environments. If you plan on introducing any new development technologies, you should make sure that they are supported by the CI/CD provider you choose.

Considerations for a Self-Hosted CI/CD Tool

While there are many attractive points in favor of a SaaS CI/CD service, a self-hosted solution is not without its merits. One potential benefit of a self-hosted solution is extensibility. Some self-hosted services can be customized with plugins/extensions to enable functionality that is not included “out of the box”. Jenkins is a prime example of this, with over 1,000 plugins available. Even without plugins, self-hosted CI/CD tools often have more support for development platforms, languages, and testing frameworks than many SaaS solutions. If there’s not first-class support (or a plugin/extension) for a technology that you use, you can usually make things work with some shell scripts and a little bit of creativity. In addition to extensibility, self-hosted solutions typically have fewer limitations on things like build configurations and concurrent build jobs. This isn’t always the case, however. The free version of TeamCity, a CI/CD tool from JetBrains, is limited to 100 build configurations and 3 build agents. Licenses for additional configurations and build agents are available for purchase, though.

Conversely, there are some potential down-sides to a self-hosted system. Perhaps the biggest of these is that you are required to manage your own infrastructure. This includes applying software updates/patches, and may include management of hardware if you’re not hosting the service on an IaaS platform like AWS, GCP, or Azure. In contrast to a SaaS solution, self-hosted systems may require a time-intensive process to get set up. Between getting the system linked up to your VCS (Version Control System), issue/ticket tracking software, and notification system(s), there can be a steep entrypoint in getting your CI/CD system initialized. In addition to the first-time setup, you may be required to manage authentication and authorization for users in your organization if the system you choose doesn’t support your organization’s user management system (LDAP, Google GSuite, etc.).

Final Thoughts

It is worth noting that some CI/CD SaaS tool providers offer self-hosted variants of their services. For instance, CircleCI offers an enterprise solution that can be self-hosted on your own networks, and Travis CI offers Travis CI Enterprise, which is optimized for deployment on Amazon EC2 instances. These offerings throw even more into the mix, and should be part of your consideration when determining which tool has the best fit.

As you can see, there are several factors that must be considered when choosing the CI/CD tool that is right for you. In this post, we discussed some of the trade-offs between SaaS and self-hosted systems. In future posts, we will look at other factors such as scalability, cost, and restrictions/limitations.

Want tips, tricks, and insights for an optimized cloud?

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