Cost management is a topic that consistently comes up in inquiry, regardless of whether the original question was about cost management or about other aspects of cloud strategy. Up until recently, cost management was exclusively served by third-party software offerings. Over the past two years, however, native cloud providers have started to invest in native management capabilities. Despite cloud’s prominent use, little is written about these vendor-owned cost management solutions.

Azure was the first cloud vendor to provide a cost optimization tool via its 2017 acquisition of Cloudyn. In turn, Microsoft created Azure Cost Management, a solution that has two visual experiences:

  • Azure Cost Management. Displays Power BI reports and data models from disparate sources.
  • Azure Advisor. Presents cost optimization opportunities, provides recommendations, and summarizes findings.

Azure Cost Management

Azure provides visibility into its cost management by offering cost analysis tools, export capabilities, and a platform called Azure Cost Management that leverages Power BI.

  • Power BI powers the analysis. It’s likely your data science team already uses Power BI. However, Power BI can also be used to provide visibility and analysis of your cloud usage and cost. Despite its labeling, Power BI is not one tool but rather a collection of services, applications, and connectors that work together to provide a unified analysis of unrelated data sources. For cloud, this means informing on cost- and usage-related metrics. Although reports are customizable, you can download them via the Power BI pack or marketplace, after which these reports can be exported in a .csv format and backed up via Azure storage on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • Azure Cost Management shows analysis in a dashboard. In Azure Cost Management, you’ll find reports on metrics such as spend per month, spend per service, spend by group, amortized spend of reservation instances, internal and external usage costs, and Azure Marketplace charges. You can also do what-if analysis and predict monthly costs. By default, cost analysis shows accumulated costs, meaning all costs for each day plus previous days are shown as a growing view of the daily aggregate cost.

Azure Advisor

Azure Advisor is in a separate dashboard that provides actionable insights in its reports. The reports are directly linked to the logic behind its recommendations (located in Azure Cost Management). Advisor calls out idle resources, unused IP addresses, unattached storage, or suggests a switch to longer periods of commitment for that instance. Each of these changes are basic cost optimization features (e.g., reservation purchases, right-sizing VMs, idle VM elimination, Azure Hybrid Benefit), but they can ultimately cut cloud bills significantly. Azure also tracks the savings that came about from their recommendations so that their key stakeholders can show the value these changes made to the wider organization. Users can write custom policies in Azure Policy if there are capabilities not currently available.