Tips for Purchasing Software Through Cloud Marketplaces

Tips for Purchasing Software Through Cloud Marketplaces

One of the activities we are engaged in is the cloud marketplaces run by the large public cloud providers. These marketplaces provide an alternative channel for software and services companies apart from the more typical direct sales or reseller/distributor models. Many customers ask about options to buy our product via one of these marketplaces – which has given us some tips for others interested in purchasing this way. 

Given the “app store model” that has been so widely embraced by consumers (App Store, Google Play Store etc) it’s not surprising that the cloud providers see an opportunity to leverage their customer footprint and derive revenue share when customers choose to purchase via their marketplaces. For customers, it can be a way to consolidate bills, get discounts, and simplify administration.

How Cloud Marketplaces Work 

The business model is simple. The Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) charge a percentage of revenue based on the value of the purchase price being paid by the customer. Companies list their products to reach buyers who they would not otherwise reach, or provide a purchasing method which better suits the customers needs since they can add the cost of the purchased product onto their monthly cloud bill thus avoiding complex new procurement / purchasing arrangements. The CSPs obviously hope that the value proposition is strong enough to warrant the sellers giving up some margin in exchange for net additional sales or sales which would be otherwise overly complex to close and bureaucratically burdensome. 

Currently, we only participate in the AWS Marketplace, but there are similar options available in the Azure Marketplace and the Google Cloud Marketplace. The largest and seemingly most well stocked is that of AWS where there are close to some 10,000 listings from a broad range of software vendors. In fact, Gartner estimates that some 25% of global 1,000 organizations are using such online marketplaces. Forrester reports that as much as 40% of all B2B transactions are through digital sales channels. And a 2112 Group Survey reported that 11% of channel executives believe marketplaces will drive the majority of their indirect revenue as soon as 2023. 

These organizations claim the benefits as being: a lower sales/buying cycle time; ease of use, increased buyer choice; and ease of provisioning and deployment. Additionally the promise of leveraging the CSPs own account managers to support co-selling on specific opportunities and the potential for them to act as lead sources, albeit we imagine these need to be larger deals and part of a broader relationship between the CSPs and their most valuable ISV customers. Still finding and aligning with CSP sales reps who get to retire quota by selling your product via the marketplace especially if it means those same reps get to sell more of their core cloud services.

Opportunities to offer alternate sales models can also be made available through the marketplace. For example, charging on a metered basis where the customer only pays for what is used and has this cost added to the bill (rather than a fixed monthly fee)  or via longer term contracts secured over two or three years at discounted rates.

Those companies that have managed to optimize their offerings in partnership with CSPs and have developed co-developed / co-branded products have the potential for a lot of upside. Databricks partnership with Azure and Snowflake and Datadog with AWS have driven enormous growth and helped them build unicorn sized businesses within a few years. 

One area which has been somewhat frustrating is the ability for customers to discover appropriate software products to meet their needs within the marketplaces. In part this is a similar challenge as faced in consumer facing app marketplaces where there is an over abundance of products and the categorization and search algorithms are often weak. This leaves the sellers (particularly the lesser known ones) frustrated and customers unable to determine what software is best to meet their needs. In our own cost optimization space this has many different dimensions and lots of offerings often 

Tips for Purchasing on the Marketplace

So what do buyers need to know about these marketplaces and making them work to your advantage? To help answer this we have included a short checklist of tips and considerations.

  • Always carefully check that any products you wish to research or purchase are listed in the marketplace. Despite the likes of Amazon and Google running these, the listing can often be hidden and categorized in unusual ways so if you do not find it listed always contact the vendor and ask.
  • Marketplace pricing can often differ from buying directly from the vendor. Products might be bundled in certain ways or for different time periods (e.g. multi-year) which are not offered via a direct purchase. Additionally, all three of the large CSPs allow for a concept called Private Offers. These are uniquely negotiated between buyer and seller and allow for custom agreements such as additional discounts, different payment schemes, etc.
  • The vendor’s pricing model can sometimes differ from buying directly given the availability of metering options i.e. paying only for what you use. If this is something available it will typically require some analysis to determine which model might deliver the greatest ROI.
  • If you have an existing relationship with your account manager at the CSP it might be worth seeing what additional discretionary incentives might be available for use of the marketplace. 
  • Determine the potential reduction in administrative burden by adding the product cost to your monthly bill can be a worthwhile exercise. Minimizing purchasing and procurement team involvement as well as monthly processing of invoices by the finance team can alone be advantageous even if there is not a significant cost saving when buying in the marketplace.

Depending on your situation, there may be other considerations but what is for sure is that managing multiple marketplaces requires time and resources. If you have not already investigated these, either as a buyer or a seller, now might be the time to have a look.

Users Rate ParkMyCloud #1 in Satisfaction Among Cloud Cost Management Platforms

Users Rate ParkMyCloud #1 in Satisfaction Among Cloud Cost Management Platforms

G2 Cloud Cost Management Fall 2020 Report Ranks ParkMyCloud First in Usability, Relationship, and Implementation 

September 25, 2020 (Dulles, VA) – ParkMyCloud, provider of the leading enterprise platform for continuous cost control in public cloud, was rated #1 in user satisfaction in G2’s Cloud Cost Management Fall 2020 report, published this week. ParkMyCloud was also selected as the #1 product in Usability, Relationship Index, and Implementation for the second consecutive quarter

“At ParkMyCloud, we aim to deliver the best way to automate cloud cost optimization by finding and eliminating cloud waste, focusing on self-service accessibility for all cloud users in the enterprise, said ParkMyCloud VP Jay Chapel. “I’d like to thank our customers for sharing their feedback. Not only is this helpful for other potential users, but for driving the direction of the product as well. We review all feedback and use it to innovate and improve so we can create the best cloud cost optimization platform and experience for all public cloud users.” 

With more than one million reviews of business software, G2 is a trusted authority for business professionals making purchasing decisions. Its quarterly reports are based on reviews by real, verified users, who provide unbiased ratings on user satisfaction, features, usability, and more.

In the report, ParkMyCloud earned the leading satisfaction score at 94%, as well as 91%  satisfaction in ease of administration; 93% in ease of doing business, 91% in ease of use, 90% in quality of support, and 91% of users likely to recommend the product. ParkMyCloud was also rated as providing the fastest ROI of any product in the category. 

Customer reviews on G2 highlight the amount of savings, the usefulness of automated recommendations, integrations with external tools, ease of training new users, reporting, and easy-to-use UI. One recent reviewer stated, “We have saved tens of thousands of dollars … without any loss of productivity.”

About ParkMyCloud

ParkMyCloud, a Turbonomic company, provides a self-service SaaS platform that helps enterprises automatically identify and eliminate wasted cloud spend. More than 1,500 enterprises around the world – including Sysco, Workfront, Hitachi ID Systems, Sage Software, and National Geographic – trust ParkMyCloud to cut their cloud spend by tens of millions of dollars annually. ParkMyCloud allows enterprises to easily manage, govern, and optimize their spend across multiple public clouds. For more information, visit www.parkmycloud.com.

Contact Information

Katy Stalcup
Director of Marketing, ParkMyCloud
‪(571) 748-5093‬
kstalcup@parkmycloud.com 

Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

To understand how Azure SQL pricing works, we’ll first talk about how the Azure SQL service is offered. Expanding from one limited offering to a set of services, Azure SQL is a family of managed products built upon the familiar SQL Server database engine, useful for migrating SQL workloads, modernizing existing applications, and more. 

Running Azure SQL database

When Azure SQL Database first launched in 2010, its only offering was a single pricing option. But, now the Azure SQL portfolio has a more complex service model, with many possible combinations of deployment options, including compute models and service tiers. It has grown from “Azure SQL” to a multi-faceted service. It offers three deployment models, two service tiers, and two compute options. 

To run Azure SQL databases, you’ll first need to choose your deployment option. This is how you’ll structure the SQL server and its databases. Then, you’ll need to choose your purchase model to pay for your service. Select your service tier for the level of compute power you want. And, your compute tier to be able to either compute 24/7 or on-demand basis. 

Azure SQL Deployment Models

Azure SQL deployment options differ primarily in their cost and the amount of control they give you over the underlying platform. Deployment options determine how to structure the “SQL Server” and its databases. The three options available are:

  • Azure SQL Database is a general-purpose relational database, provided as a managed service. 
  • Azure SQL Managed Instance – this option modernizes existing SQL Server applications at scale with the managed instance as a service.
  • SQL Server on Azure VMs for lifting-and-shifting the SQL Server workload provides full control over the SQL Server instance

Azure SQL Pricing Models

Depending on the deployment model you’ve chosen for Azure SQL database. There are two purchasing models available:

Here are some examples of how the various pricing options play out: 

To better understand the related storage costs and compare different storage options, calculate Azure SQL costs for your specific scenario using Azure’s pricing calculator.

Azure SQL Service Tiers 

There are two service tiers used by Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance, each with a different architectural model. These service tiers include: 

  • A General Purpose tier for common workloads 
  • A Business Critical tier for high throughput OLTP applications requiring low latency and high resilience 

And, Azure SQL Database offers an additional service tier called:

  • A Hyperscale tier for very large OLTP systems with faster auto-scaling, backup and restore support.

Azure SQL Compute Tiers 

Under the Azure SQL Database deployment option, under the vCore pricing model with General Purpose storage, you’ll find two options for your compute resources, these include:

  • Provisioned: Azure SQL provides Azure resources that run your database with a fixed amount of compute resources for a fixed hourly price.
  • Serverless: the database is provisioned as a serverless component with auto-scaling compute and billing for use per second

Optimizing Costs on Azure SQL

The choice to mix and match Azure SQL deployment options depends on your application and migration requirements. If you are still not sure which Azure SQL deployment option is right for your workloads, here are some tips from Microsoft on how to choose. 

Now, to monitor and control your storage expenses and optimize usage in your SQL databases, yes, you can use Azure Cost Management. However, even though cloud efficiency is a core tenant of the Microsoft Azure Cost Management tool, optimization is not its strongest suit.

Another way to save money on Azure SQL Database and SQL Managed Instance is by committing to a reservation for compute resources compared to pay-as-you-go prices. With reserved capacity, you make a commitment for SQL Database and/or SQL Managed Instance use for a period of one or three years to get a significant discount on the compute costs. Or, In the provisioned compute tier of the vCore-based purchasing model, you can exchange your existing licenses for discounted rates on Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance by using Azure Hybrid Benefit. 

ParkMyCloud continues to add ways to optimize cloud environments no matter what cloud service you use. Azure SQL database types are just the latest cloud resources you can manage in the ParkMyCloud platform. Scheduling and parking recommendations will be available soon on these resources so you can optimize your costs more efficiently and automatically. 

If you’re new to ParkMyCloud, you can get started with a free trial

Pro Tip: You Can Scale AWS ASGs Down to Zero

Pro Tip: You Can Scale AWS ASGs Down to Zero

It sounds obvious when you first say it: you can scale AWS ASGs (Auto Scaling Groups) down to zero. This can be a cost-savings measure: zero servers means zero cost. But most people do not do this! 

Wait – Why Would You Want to?

Maybe you’ve heard the DevOps saying: servers should be cattle, not pets. This outlook would say that you should have no single server that is indispensable – a special “pet”. Instead, servers should be completely replaceable and important only in herd format, like cattle. One way to adhere to this framework is by creating all servers in groups.

Some of our customers follow this principle: they use Auto Scaling Groups for everything. When they create a new app, they create a new ASG – even if it has a server size of one. This can remove challenges to scale up in the future. However, this leaves these users with built-in wasted spend. 

Here’s a common scenario: a production environment is built with Auto Scaling Groups of EC2 instances and RDS databases. A developer or QA specialist copies production to their testing or staging environment, and soon enough, there are three or four environments of ASGs with huge servers and databases mimicking production, all running, and costing money, when no one is using them.

By setting an on/off schedule on your Auto Scaling Groups, you can scale them down to a min/max/desired number of instances as “0” overnight, on weekends, or whenever else these groups are not needed.

In essence, this is just like parking a single EC2 instance when not in use. Even for an EC2 instance, users are unlikely to go into the AWS console at the end of a workday to turn off their non-production servers overnight. For ASGs, it’s even less likely. For a single right-click to stop an EC2 instance, an AWS ASG requires you to go to ASG settings, edit, modify the min/max/desired number of instances – and then remember to do the opposite when you need to turn them back on.

How You Can “Scale to Zero” in Practice

 

One ParkMyCloud customer, Workfront, is using this daily to keep costs in check. Here’s how Rob Weaver described it in a recent interview with Corey Quinn:

Scaling environments are a perfect example. If we left scaling up the entire time 24/7 – it would cost as much as a production instance. It’s a full set of databases, application servers, everything. For that one, we’ve got it set so the QA engineers push a button [in ParkMyCloud], they start it up. For a certain amount of time before it shuts back down.  

In other cases, we’ve got people who go in and use the [ParkMyCloud] UI, push the little toggle that says “turn this on”, choose how long to turn it on, and they’re done.

How else does Workfront apply ParkMyCloud’s automation to reduce costs for a 5X ROI? Find out here

Another Fun Fact About AWS ASGs

One gripe some users have about Auto Scaling Groups is that they terminate resources when scaling down (one could argue that those users are pro-pet, anti-cattle, but I digress). If your needs require servers in AWS ASGs to be temporarily stopped instead of terminated, ParkMyCloud can do that too, with the “Suspend ASG Processes” option when parking a scale group. This will suspend the automation of an ASG and stop the servers without terminating them, and reverse this process when the ASG is being “unparked”. 

Try both scaling to zero and suspending ASGs – start a free trial of ParkMyCloud to try it out.  

The Azure Well-Architected Review is Worth Your Time

The Azure Well-Architected Review is Worth Your Time

In July, Microsoft introduced the Azure Well-Architected Framework best practices – a guide for building and delivering solutions built with Azure’s best practices. If you’ve ever seen the AWS Well-Architected Framework, Azure’s will look… familiar. It strikes many similarities with the Google Cloud Architecture Framework as well, which was released in May. This is perhaps a sign that despite the frequently argued differences between the cloud providers (and people love to compare – by far the most-read post on this blog is this one on AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud market share), they are more similar than different. Is this a bad thing? We would argue, no. 

There are many aspects of a well-designed architecture and these frameworks to discuss. Given ParkMyCloud’s focus on cost here, we’ll examine the cost optimization principles in Azure’s framework and how they compare to AWS and Google’s.

Architecture Guidelines at a High Level

The three cloud providers each provide architecture frameworks with similar sets of principles. AWS and Azure use the “pillar” metaphor, and in fact, the pillars are almost identically named:

While at first it is somewhat amusing to note these similarities (did Azure just ctrl+c?), it is reassuring that between the major cloud providers, all can agree what components comprise the best architecture. Better yet, they are providing ever-improving resources, training, assessments and support for their users to learn and apply these best practices.

Who Should Use the Azure Well-Architected Framework – and How to Get Started

Speaking of users – which ones are these architecture frameworks for? In their announcement, Azure noted the shifting of responsibility of security, operations, and cost management from centralized teams toward the workload owner. While the truth of this statement will depend on the organization, we have recognized this shift as well

So while Azure’s framework is aimed largely at new Azure users and/or new applications, we would recommend every Azure user skim the table of contents and take the well-architected review assessment. The assessment takes the form of a multiple-choice “quiz”. At the end of the assessment, you are given a score and results on a scale from 1 to 100. You are also linked to next steps with detailed articles for each question where there is room for improvement. This assessment is worth the time (and won’t take much of it), giving you a straightforward action plan. 

There is also a set of Microsoft Learn pathways that should take about six hours to complete. 

Cloud Cost Optimization Pillar Comparison

The architecture resources provided by Google Cloud are much briefer than AWS and Azure’s frameworks, and they combine performance and cost optimization into one principle, so it’s not surprising several topics are missing – including any discussion of governance or ownership of cost. AWS focuses on this the most, particularly with the new section on cloud financial management, but Azure certainly also discusses organizational structure, governance, centralization, tagging, and policies. We appreciate the stages of cost optimization Azure uses, from design, to provisioning, to monitoring, to optimizing. 

All three cloud providers have similar recommendations in cost optimization regarding scalable design, using tagging for cost governance and visibility, using the most efficient resource cost models, and rightsizing. 

Azure puts it this way: cost is important, but you should seek to achieve balance between all the pillars. Shoring up any of the other pillars will almost always increase costs. Invest in security first, then performance, then reliability. Operational excellence can increase or decrease costs. Cost optimization will always be important for any organization in public cloud, but it does not stand alone.