Wanted: more transparency in cloud costs and usage patterns

We depend on cloud for both technology and business services. However, being able to measure and compare costs and usage is murky at best.

There's no question that cloud adoption -- public, private or hybrid -- is proliferating across enterprises of all types and sizes. With this rapid adoption, however, come calls for greater transparency into cost and usage metrics.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Two new reports drive this message home. A recent report by Forrester Consulting finds that just about all of 275 IT executives surveyed report having issues -- such as cost overruns -- due to a lack of transparency from cloud providers. There is a need for cloud metadata, which includes the performance, configuration, operations, and billing data that is part of each cloud workload. Such information helps enterprises keep tabs on cloud costs, maintaining performance and demonstrating compliance. Cloud providers have such metadata, Forrester notes.

This isn't just an issue with public cloud services. Private clouds also hide a lot of costs and data, which may get subsumed into general operations and expenditures.

A separate survey of 279 IT professionals, just released by Dimensional Research and underwritten by Cloud Cruiser, drives this point home, especially since IT departments are depending on cloud to deliver and manage IT services as well as business functions. In fact, the new survey, based on participants who had had attended the recent Microsoft Ignite 2015 event in Chicago, finds more than one third of enterprises have a quarter or more of all IT services in the cloud.

Only 35 percent of this group would rate their current ability to track and analyze cloud usage and costs as "very good" to "excellent."

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Such metrics are important, since reducing costs and looking for IT efficiencies continue to be the top benefits companies seek with their migration to the cloud. In fact, 92 percent of those surveyed stated that they are pursuing a cloud adoption strategy with the primary goals of improving IT efficiencies and reducing costs.

At the same time, 72 percent of respondents indicated that tracking cloud usage and costs is extremely or very important to their IT function. This applies to all cloud deployment models including private, third-party private, public and hybrid.

The study also finds that if respondents have access to consumption or cloud usage information across their entire enterprise, they would like to improve IT forecasting (57%), compare costs across different cloud service platforms (39%), implement showbacks/chargebacks (37%), expand on demand (34%), and better match allocation vs. utilization (30%).

Greater visibility is key if cloud is to move forward as a key technology resource. In the Forrester survey, 60 percent of IT leaders say lack of transparency has hindered their plans to expend cloud adoption. There are additional real business consequences as well: 43 percent report performance problems or outages; 41 percent experienced challenges with reporting to management on costs or performance; 39 percent paid for resources that weren't used; and 36 percent received unexpected bills or line items.

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