Azure Costs – Revised Spending Analytics Engine for Cloud Solution Providers

Today we’re very excited to announce the availability of the revised spending analytics engine for cloud solution providers. All of the enhancements focus on more accuracy and productivity, when working with your customers on a daily basis.

Since Azure Costs is supporting direct cloud solution providers also called CSP Tier 1, we work together with many different CSPs around the globe. The analytics engine in Azure Costs is one of the most important components and ensures that the spending data is aggregated well and all processes like up-scale a resource are outlined and calculated correctly.

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As a service in Microsoft Azure consists of many parts we’ve decided to focus on the development of the analytics engine to understand the different meters correctly. This gives us the possibility to invest more in predictions and recommendations based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Especially complex situations like an out-scale event can now be visualised very easily.  

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The new engine will be rolled out to all customers within several waves and after an opt-in phase it will become our standard engine. For now every CSP needs to switch directly in the data view generated with the new engine by selecting the action shown above.  In addition the spending dashboard of every single customer can be moved to the new engine manually as show bellow:

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This prevents that we disturb customers of a cloud solutions provider by accident.

Interested in the new feature?
Getting started with Azure Costs for CSPs is very easy, just visit our portal just for Cloud Solution providers and enroll into the CSP program as described above. To become part of the public preview of the CSP support an existing enterprise plan is required.

Any questions, wishes or ideas? Try our feedback portal or drop a mail to help@azure-costs.com.

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Azure Costs: Cost Management for CSPs

Today we are happy to announce the availability of Azure Costs for Cloud Solution Providers.
Cloud Solution Providers are facing a serious challenge concerning the Microsoft Partnership. The whole process of generating transparency for consumed cloud resources of their customers, managing the billing process and offering support is on the cloud solutions providers desk. Our cost management for CSPs has the intention to deliver all the tools a CSP needs to implement this part of the value chain.  The offering targets three important dimensions a cloud solution provider needs to cover:

Manage customers, accounts & partners

Azure Costs allows to manage all accounts, customers & partners in the complex n-tier business model of the Microsoft CSP Program. This includes a custom spending portal to analyse and manage the performance of every partner and customer including alerts and the powerful mail spending report. Supporting custom markups, discounts and margins allows to adjust the cost structure to the dedicated business model of every CSP.

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Offer billing portal capabilities

Staying on top of the cloud usage is easy for CSP customers when their KPIs are right in front of them. The Azure Costs Spending Dashboard provides a clear and crisp overview, containing all important cost- and usage-KPIs at a glance for all CSP cloud customers and partners. Last but not least the billing portal offered to every partner and customer allows to deliver the required transparency a CSP is enforced to offer not only for Azure but also for other services like Office 365.

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Multi Clouds & Custom Solutions management

Including self-developed cloud solutions and 3rd party services in the spending management infrastructure gives customers a single pane of glass to track, optimize and govern their spendings. As an essential part of the Azure Costs infrastructure, it opens the platform for other cloud vendors like Amazon and Google as well as sub cloud providers like SendGrid. The ability to build and sell cloud solutions e.g. hosted SAP or virtual datacenter implementation allows every CSP to deliver more value instead of just provisioning resources in Azure. virtual-meter

Interested in the new feature?
Getting started with Azure Costs for CSPs is very easy, just visit our csp portal for Cloud Solution providers and enroll into the CSP program as described above. More information about every feature in detail and the available plans can be found here.

Any questions, wishes or ideas? Try our feedback portal or drop a mail to help@azure-costs.com.

Software as a Service – Never break your sign-up process

Building Azure Costs was and is a long journey implementing a scaling and growing software as a service application. The major goal of all design and architecture decisions is that it scales infinitely. Successful marketing campaigns or great new features may turn the service down. Thanks to the Microsoft Azure platform and their managed platform as a service offerings, it was possible to invent this kind of solution. This blog article series has the intention to give an inside look into this journey and highlights some learnings we had on our way. 

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One of the most important and earliest steps to convert a prospect to a user of a payed plan or a free trial is the Sign-Up or Log-In process. When this process is broken customers can’t check out your service and you will lose the option to convert a prospect to a customers. If you think this could never happen that a basic process like Sign-Up can be broken ever, we at Azure Costs experienced another situation. As soon the core processes are not monitored very well, it’s not the question if they will fail, it’s only the question when they fail. Huge platforms like GitHub or Azure as self will recognise that by just watching 15 minutes on the system. If no Sign-Up happens something must be wrong. When you start with a SaaS application your prospect pressure is probably not that high. There are several root causes which needs different counter actions to cover them, bellow some examples are highlighted:  

Your app is supporting external identity provider:
Many SaaS applications also Azure Costs are supporting an integration in external identity providers like Azure Active Directory, Microsoft Accounts or Google Accounts. Even GitHub Accounts are very popular when you more focused on the open source world or when your product become more technically. In an optimal world you would get an error from the identity provider which can be tracked from your APM service like Stackify, NewRelic or Airbrake. But more often we was seeing the situation that the prospect stuck in the inner process of the identity provider. Because of that we invented a system based on BrowserStack to emulate at least one times every hour a couple Log-In and Sign-Up scenarios as it would be done from the prospect as self. This gives us the proof that our authorisation system works as expected.  

Implement:
Automated Login based on web automation tools like BrowserStack or Sauce Labs 

Your business logic throws exceptions because of breaking changes:
In the case your business logic throws exceptions normally your prospect will get an error page which does not show the internals of your application. It’s for sure a bad idea to highlight the stack trace directly at the prospects face. Beside it does not look nice, it is a security risk because an attacker can learn a lot of your service from the stack trace you would expose. Tracking exception means implementing a monitoring and an APM solution. Microsoft is offering a service called Azure Insights which should be reviewed because it comes as part of the Azure Cloud. More powerful services we are using are Stackify and Airbrake. These services ensure that our staff gets a push notification for every single exception in our code. It’s even not expensive because the simplest plans are starting by around 15$ per month. From our perspective, this couple cups of coffee are well invested money to keep your service healthy. Don’t forget covering all your components, especially background worker and WebJobs are often forgotten because an extra mile is necessary.

Implement:
Exception tracking based on APM services like Stackify and Airbrake. 

Your Data-Store has performance limitations:
Another challenge is often that managed services in Microsoft Azure but also in the Amazon Web Services has technical limits. Microsoft describes every limit in this document here. There are two main counter actions to handle this and preventing your prospects for Sign-Up or Log-In. The main counter action has something to do with architecture decisions. When you design your software be aware of these limits and probably invest more in micro services which are using separated storage backends. This would decrease the pressure from a single monolithic data-store. More often modern APM systems are able to monitor performance KPIs of your used data-store and this measurement should trigger alerts when you hit a KPI.

Implement:
Invest in micro services and implement performance KPI monitoring.

When Azure Costs was broken the first time a couple years ago we realised more focus on all of these categories was necessary and since we implemented Exception Tracking for backend, workers and frontend, performance monitoring for our data stores and web automation for external login providers we never lost a prospect in the Sign-Up process anymore.

If you are interested seeing this in action just visit azure-costs.com and try to Sign-Up. We are interested of your personal experience so please use the comment option in this blog to give us more hints in which areas you are investing to increase the service quality of your Software as a Service application.

Azure Costs: Feature Update for CSP Support

Today we’re very excited to announce some great feature updates for our Cloud Solution Providers platform. All the updates focus on more accuracy and productivity, when working on a daily basis with your customers.  

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The following list describes all features in detail and gives you a brief overview on how to use them:  

Defining Cloud Solution Provider Margins allows the CSP to differentiate between the pricing Microsoft offers to CSPs and the price the CSP offers for the customer. Just define the different pricing tier per customer individually

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Generate Cloud Solution Provider Filters allows to hide services which are not charged for the customer. Only services targeted by the CSP filter will appear in the customer portal. azure costs - azure cloud cost optimization made easy 2017-07-21 07-36-13
Offer a customer spending portal beside a reseller spending portal allows your customers to manage the spendings by their own. This portal gives your customers 100% the same features incl. team management as if they would sign up to Azure Costs with an enterprise edition directly and an EA contract. azure costs - azure cloud cost optimization made easy 2017-07-21 07-36-48

Interested in the new feature?
Getting started with Azure Costs for CSPs is very easy, just visit our new portal just for Cloud Solution providers and enroll into the CSP program as described above. To become part of the public preview of the CSP support an existing enterprise plan is required.

Any questions, wishes or ideas? Try our feedback portal or drop a mail to help@azure-costs.com.

 

Azure – The ultimative Service Guide

Microsoft is delivers day by day new, improved and updated services in the Microsoft Azure Cloud. For new customers and even for experienced Azure engineers it’s sometimes hard to find the right service for a problem. It’s possible to solve the same problem with different services and often it depends on the expected customer base.

Over the years the Microsoft Azure Poster team developed a very useful view on the Azure infrastructure which helps to understand better when to use which service.

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This cool and helpful poster should be available in every team working with the Microsoft Azure Cloud. It’s available for free here.

In addition I had a helping hand during the last weeks and months from Ricardo Niepel , an evangelist for Microsoft Azure. He is also the author of the new interactive Azure Platform overview here. This makes the decision which service to use much easier and it helps everybody to not loose track when Microsoft delivers new services regularly.

Hey node developers, switch to .NET Core – now!

Several years ago I started building a bigger project as a Software as a Service application. Beside all the different technical requirements, being able to work directly on my MacBook Pro without starting virtual machines, was a big wish. At this time a tool chain based on Node.js, Express, NPM and WebStorm was available. Over the years building backend services with Node.js, and this means with JavaScript, felt like rapid prototyping. Getting started is very fast and lightweight but when the project grows compile time features like a strong type system are missing. Year over year I did reviews how to get esp. the beauty of C# and the powerful compiler infrastructure of .NET back.

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In the last month Microsoft released Visual Studio for Mac and with it the investments into .NET Core increased. Building backend services in Visual Studio for Mac based on .NET Core and ASP.NET Core including the out of the box support in Azure App Services is definitely what I was looking for.

Because of that I decided to give it a spin. After a couple weeks working with the framework I can say it was the right decision because of the following key reasons:

  • Full managed and type safe environment based on the powerful C# compiler
  • Broad ecosystem for components similar to NPM via NuGet
  • Ability to convert runtime errors in compile time errors 
  • Hosting the results on Linux, Docker Containers or just Azure App Services
  • ASP.NET Core comes with out of the box easy to use Dependency Injection system
  • ASP.NET Core learned and steeled the best things from the node + express chain
  • C# Attribute and Extension-Classes are unbeatable to beatify your code 

And last but not least everything works well on my MacBook Pro without the need of a single virtual machines – Thanks Microsoft for letting me keep the platform I love!

Azure Costs: Public Preview CSP Support

Today we’re very excited to announce the start of the public preview for Cloud Solution Providers.  After several weeks and months of continous improvements in the azure costs platform, we now start the public preview phase of the CSP support.  

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The great new CSP portal gives you access to the spendings your customers are generating. There are a couple of use cases we would like to point out:  

Enroll into the CSP program:
When visiting our new CSP portal the system will require enrolling into the CSP program. You can do this with an existing Azure Costs account or in case you would like to differentiate between internal spendings and customer spendings, just use an additional account!

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Register Accounts:
Microsoft requires every CSP to sign into the CSP program for every geographical region separately. As an internal reseller you will have accounts for USD, EUR or AUD and several more. Azure Costs allows you to register every single CSP account, to track costs in different currencies and countries separately.
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Activate Customers:
During the registration process Azure Costs imports all existing customers. This does not mean Azure Costs tracks spendings. If you would like to track spendings for a specific customer, activate this customer in the “New/Not-Activated Customers” widget. The spending information of every activated customer will be imported automatically.
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Interested in the new feature?
Getting started with Azure Costs for CSPs is very easy, just visit our new portal for Cloud Solution providers and enroll into the CSP program as described above. To become part of the public preview of the CSP support an existing enterprise plan is required.

Any questions, wishes or ideas? Try our feedback portal or drop a mail to help@azure-costs.com.