Azure Costs: Support for Azure Cloud Germany available

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced the availability of the Azure Cloud Germany. This gives all customers with strong requirements regarding data privacy and who are not able to rely on Privacy Shield the option, to use Azure in two dedicated data centers located in Germany. The most  important detail is that Microsoft chose T-Systems, a daughter company of the German Telecom as the trustee for the German Cloud operations.

berlin-teaser-ae807fcf

Azure Costs becomes part of the Azure Cloud Germany and is available under the new url

https://azure-costs.de

We are excited to announce that we offer our service in the same quality and with the same performance in the Azure Cloud Germany. Additional information related to the Azure Cloud Germany is available here.

Interested in the new feature?
Try the new feature today by simply logging into your azure costs account with our new german url. All plans are available in Germany as well.

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

Azure Costs: Advanced Alerting and Burn Rate Reports

Just two weeks ago we announced the release of our revised notification service for azure costs. This version provided advanced options to configure daily reports and alerts more granularly. This week we are very excited to announce more advanced features regarding our notification services which will help you to keep your cloud spendings under control.

Advanced Alert Dimensions:
Azure Costs now supports more alert dimensions to define more powerful alert policies to support your business needs optimally.

alert-dimensions

The following dimension are now available in azure costs:

  • Costs: Triggers an alert when the monthly costs become higher than defined in the limit.
  • Daily Burn Rate (absolute): This dimension triggers an alert when the daily burn rate of that day we send the mail becomes higher than defined in the limit.
  • Daily Burn Rate (relative): The relative difference of the daily burn rate triggers an alert when the change of the daily burn rate between two days becomes higher than defined in the limit. The relative difference calculates all values in percentages.
  • Daily Burn Rate Difference: The absolute difference of the daily burn rate follows the same rules as the relative difference but calculates all values in the currency the contract is managed for.
  • Daily Burn Rate Maximum: The maximum burn rate validates the burn rate of every day in the current month and triggers an alert when one value of a single day becomes higher than the limit.

If you expect more dimensions for your business needs, just let us know. We would happily extend this feature with the help of our customers. Just drop us an e-mail or open a support ticket.

Mail Based Burn Rate Report:
The best indication of costs spikes and unusual behaviour of different users and administrators in your Azure subscriptions is the daily burn rate report. A couple of month ago we introduced this report as part of our improved dashboard. Today we are announcing the integration of the burn rate report as part of our mail report.

burnrate-overview

This gives every cost- and spending manager the fastest way to get an overview and generates a call for action only when it’s really required.

Manage Alerts & Notifications for your Team-Mates:
Ensure that all of your team mates are informed on your finger tips. The team management area allows you to define notification and alert policies for every single team member, so that your co-workers will never miss an important information.

azure-costs-azure-cloud-cost-optimization-made-easy-2016-10-30-20-10-22

Interested in the new feature?
Try the new feature today by simply logging into your azure costs account. The feature is part of any plan.

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

Azure Costs: Revised Notification Services

We’re very excited today, to announce the release of our revised notification service for azure costs. This new version gives you advanced options to configure daily reports and alerts more granularly.

User Based Notification Settings:
Many Team Administrator would like to give their team mates and co-workers the freedom to configure their daily spending report. The new User Based Notification Settings allow administrators and team members to define personal notification settings independently.

azure-costs-azure-cloud-cost-optimization-made-easy-2016-10-09-19-30-13

Administrators are now able to recommend corporate standards which can be used or extended from the team members.

Policy Based Alerts:
There are several conditions which trigger an alert. The new policy based alert service allows to define required business rules in azure costs to trigger spending alerts at the right time in the right context.

Airmail 2016-10-09 19-33-48.png

How to get started?
The User Based Notification Settings feature can be used right now as part of every paid plan. Policy Based Alerts are part of every professional plan or higher. Try the new features today by simply logging into your azure costs portal.

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

 

Hey ISVs, build your own oAuth2 service :-)

Are you a SaaS Software Vendor? Do you have the idea of providing your customers an API first approach? Do you want to offer a scalable solution in the cloud? Why the h… do you need an oAuth2 server?

Many successful SaaS vendors offer an identity infrastructure based on oAuth2. Good examples are Digital Oceans, Microsoft, Amazon or Matrix42 with MyWorkspace. This article intends to explain the reasons why you should offer your own oAuth2 infrastructure when you publish a SaaS application to the world.

Five reasons to offer an oAuth2 service

  • Adapt the Micro-Service-Architecture
    SaaS applications today are different to Web applications 10 years ago. The most vendors are following the micro services architecture pattern. Let’s re-cap what Micro-Services intend to be. At the end this architecture pattern means that a vendor offers many different web services independent from each other for a specific offering. Have a look on the big ones like Microsoft Azure: They offer the Azure Resource Manager, the Storage API or the Office 365 Graph API as independent services. Compared to that public ones, Matrix42 with MyWorkspace offers services for handling identity, files, workflows and BI dashboards. Azure Costs, the service the author is also working on, is divided in separate small services for processing spending information, handling trend analytics or managing teams. All these are good examples for Micro Service and they have something together.jwt
    A session cookie based approach would not work, because this means every web service needs to take care of the session. A token based approach for authorization is a better option and the best option to provide a token is the JWT (LINK to Blog) token.

    How to get the JWT:
    Just use an oAuth2 service you provide for your micro service infrastructure. Check out different offerings in the IDaaS market or write your own.

  • State of the art Single Sign On (SSO) and federated security
    Today customers expect single sign on for their workforce. This means every SaaS application needs to support various flavours of federated security and single sign on. A better approach is to totally rely on JWT tokens and delegate the complex identity work to your oAuth2 service. The oAuth2 service should talk to the different company directories like Active Directory, Azure Active Directory or SAML2. This keeps your micro service infrastructure simple, clean and scalable again and you can drive them with just one concept and not multiple.

    How to connect to other directories:
    There are solutions in the market like Matrix42 MyWorkspace acting as identity bridge. Integrating these solutions reduces the work in your oAuth2 service to mitigate between the different identity providers.

  • Customer requires API First approach
    When talking with customers and the customer likes your solution often the second or third question is “How can I integrate …”. Translated into the language of developers this means “Do you have an API we can easily adapt?”.

    { REST }

    Because of that API first is an approach every SaaS vendor should follow. Remind the first bullet point in this article and assume your API relies totally on JWT tokens. You need to deliver a special JWT token to your customers for integration. Normally this tokens are called app-only tokens and can be used with a client credentials against an oAuth2 service. Azure Costs, as a simple example, explains how to deal with app-only tokens in the this article.

    How to issue customer integration API tokens:
    Provide a separate oAuth2 service that supports the client credentials flow incl. app-only tokens.

  • Support for mobile, web and fat clients required
    Today’s market is not focused on a special operating system or platform anymore. Even Microsoft changed their mind dramatically and now they offer with Azure one of the best cloud platforms for all kind of devices including IOT devices. Mostly every SaaS application has sooner or later the requirement to integrate different clients. The compelling event for this is normally the requirement for a mobile app but also the requirement to support a browser extension or just the integration in an embedded device. oAuth2 delivers different permission grant flows to support any kind of device and use case. This means offering an oAuth2 service gives you the freedom to support any new device because your identity infrastructure is decoupled from your micro services infrastructure.

    How to connect a mobile app to my service:
    Provide a separate oAuth2 service which support, the so called indirect flow. Normally you should not use the code flow but you need to provide some kind of device management.

  • Stay scalable for your access
    Last but not least, scalability or better the option to be ready for growing your company is a key success criteria every SaaS vendor should have an eye on. The micro-service architecture and the decoupled identity infrastructure gives you the freedom the split and combine services on different services in different clouds and in different locations.

    How to stay scalable:
    Decouple identity from resource services and enjoy the freedom to let the infrastructure grow by business needs.

Yes we can! Get your own oAuth2 service

When you think about building an oAuth2 service for your application you can start by building your own stuff. This is a great option when you need to stay under control of everything. There are also IDaaS providers on the market like Matrix42 with MyWorkspace, Auth0 or Azure Active Directory. These providers are a good starting point for your identity management project.

A hybrid approach is often the most practical. This means your engineers will provide a home grown oAuth2 service to support existing user accounts. This service should act as identity proxy to an IDaaS provider to open up the world of federated security and Single Sign On for your enterprise customers. Never waste time and budget on building an infrastructure for federated security by your own.

This article covered many technical topics on a very high level perspective. If you like it, let me know, as I think about creating a series out of it, to cover topics in more technical depth. Feel free to follow this blog to never miss an update about the upcoming series.

Feature Announcement: Smart Compare

We’re very excited today, to announce the release of a game-changing new feature for azure costs: Smart Compare.

Smart Compare allows our customers to conveniently compare their monthly cloud costs with the costs of any previous month. By simply choosing the relevant months, azure costs now highlights cost spikes and deflections, so that our customers can focus on the costs they are really interested in – and ignore those they’re not.

compare-final.png
These results can then be sorted and powerful filters allow our customers to limit what they see, to only what they’re interested in.

filter-demo.png

We are sure that this great feature will help our costumers to identify the real cost drivers and make informed decisions on cost optimization strategies.

How to get started?
Comparing cloud costs is this simple: The Smart Compare and sorting functionality can be used right now as part of our Preview UI. Just select multiple months as shown above, to identify cost drivers, spikes and deflections.

Interested in the SmartCompare feature?
Try the new feature today by simply logging into your azure costs portal. Smart Compare is part of every paid plan, starting with the Professional subscription.

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

Review: GitHub vs. Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) – Should you switch?

Disclaimer: This article is about Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) and GitHub. The author has a very positive opinion about both services and does not get any offers from Microsoft or GitHub writing this article. The whole article is written IMHO.

Over the last years GitHub has become a success factor for projects related to git repositories for me personally. I also tested several other solutions but mainly I struggeled with the performance or the usability. About 2 years ago I started using Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) with a work related project. The service looked promising but had a lot of early release issues, so in the last 24 months it was interesting to see how a promising solution became adult. Last week I decided to move away from GitHub for all my closed source projects and rely on Visual Studio Team Service (VSTS). This article gives a deeper look on the main reasons of why I did the move and may help deciders to get detailed information before implementing:

Git-Repository sprawl
Nowadays thanks to bower, npm, bundler or NuGet the amount of Git repositories are growing steadily. When you are focused on component based software development Git is a great helper but the amount of repositories is sprawling because very often every component has its own live in a separated Git repository, which means you have a separate release cycle and a different versioning compared to your main project.

vsts-git

I guess this is the secret source of component managers which are working closely together with git repositories. Of course VSTS and GitHub are supporting multiple git repositories but GitHub lets you pay on a package on git repositories, VSTS lets you pay for users. Especially for small teams paying for users is the better deal, compared to paying for repositories. At the end Microsoft offers a smaller groups of 5 everything for free. This fact stopped my permanent GitHub problem: Having too less private repository space.

GitHub:
O – Allows to have as many GitHub repositories as needed
+ – Generates releases out of tags automatically (good semver integration)
– – Charging base is the count of private git repositories

VSTS:
O – Allows to have as many GitHub repositories as needed
+ – Comes with unlimited git repositories, plans are user based
– – Repository management is not that intuitive as it is in other solutions

Pull Requests and Forks
Forks and pull requests are the most important features GitHub introduced very early to support community driven development. I would say in the open source world Github is the platform when it comes to forks and pull requests. Currently I would never think about moving open source repositories away from GitHub because of this great feature.

pull-request.png

When it comes to closed source projects, forking and pull requests are becoming only important in bigger teams with different products or product lines. We are using this feature strongly in our teams at my company. Smaller startups or teams will not use these workflows often but nevertheless it is a road blocker for me to do the 100% switch to VSTS. I guess it took Microsoft around 12 month to deliver it in a more simple way GitHub is doing this.

GitHub
+ – Cross repository forking
+ – Pull requests incl. discussion thread and a lot of community features

VSTS:
O – Supports pull request on repository level

Agile Process support with EPiCs, features and backlogs
When it comes to bigger teams or more structure, people are having the option that to implement a process is the key. This brings me to the biggest enterprise blocker I see in GitHub, the Issue-Tracking system. Companies who migrated to an agile framework like SCRUM or KANBAN need to have the option to work with features, backlogs or bugs. Microsoft delivers with VSTS a highly customizable and adaptable work item management system. The SCRUM and KANBAN template makes perfect sense for agile teams but also the traditional waterfall model can be implemented (even if I don’t understand why someone should do this.)

backlog.png

GitHub
– – It’s just an Issue Tracker
+ – Has good integration into many cloud services

VSTS:
+ – Offers customisable work item management
+ – Comes with templates for agile team structures

Handle your Test-Cases
Even if your projects comes with a great code coverage and good unit tests, the requirements to execute manual tests or just to orchestrate automated integration tests exists. VSTS implements based on the work item management a test case management which has the option to integrate it with automation bots via WinRM and other protocols.

bot

The ability to document test cases and write specific step by step guides how to verify a feature is a big plus esp. in small teams where no dedicated QA resources are hired.

GitHub
O – Ability to integrate with external QA services
– – No integrated test case management

VSTS:
O – Ability to integrate with external QA services
+ – Test Case management is part of the work item management

Centralised Source Code management as migration path
For a couple month Microsoft offers virtual TFS collection, which allows companies that want to go pave the road for git based repositories to stay with the existing centralised source code management besides new git repositories. In the early day VSTS just supported a TFS collection per project space but now maintaining TFS collection is that easy as it is creating new git repositories. This will become very important features for existing TFS customers.

new-repo.png

Revised Build-System incl. Linux Support
I guess Microsoft learned very fast that the XAML file based build system was very inflexible and complicated for a SaaS service like VSTS. Because of that a couple month ago a new step based build system was introduced which will orchestrate the build agent out of VSTS

build-task.png

Since Microsoft supports Windows, Linux and Mac build agents there are no road blockers anymore, besides that the hosted build services for VSTS are very rare. There is a build server Microsoft offers out of the box but from my experience you will get more problems customizing that. When you are focused on Azure check also what the Azure App Services can do for you because KuduSync offers out of the box build for your .NET application during deployment.

 GitHub
+ – Many different build services available with GitHub integration (CodeShip, T..)
– – Build definitions are not part of the code project
– – No release management to aggregate several projects 

VSTS:
– – Hosted build services for VSTS rare
+ – Build definitions are part of the code project
+ – Release Management allows to aggregate several sub projects

Other services and options:
There are also other options and products on the market and I guess one of the most popular one is Assembla which is pretty comparable to Visual Studio Team Services. Also the products from Atlassian (Jira, BitBucket) are great options supporting your development cycle. This article had the intention to support companies who are dealing with GitHub and / or On Premise TFS and now are thinking about combining the positive of both.

I personally think GitHub could become a great option for enterprises as well, when the Issue-Tracker problem is solved which was mainly the reason why I searched for an alternative!

Big Data in your browser: Parallel.js

Big Data often has something todo with analysing a big amount of data. The nature of this data makes it possible to split it up into smaller parts and let them be processed from many distributed nodes. Inspired from the team of CrowdProcess we like the idea to use the computing power of a growing web browser grid to solve data analytic problems.

The Azure Cost Monitor does not have the requirement to solve big data problems of user A in the browser of user B, we would never do this because of data privacy but we have a lot of statistic jobs which need to be processed. From an architecture perspective the question comes up why not to use a growing amount of browser based compute nodes connected with our system instead? Starting with this idea we identified that WebWorkers in modern browsers are acting like small and primitive compute nodes in big data networks. The team from the SETI@Home project also gave us the hint that this option works very well to solve big data challenges.

A very simple picture was painted very fast on the board to illustrate our requirements. The user should not be disturbed from the pre-calculation of statistic data in his browser and the whole solution should prevent battery drain and unwanted fan activities:

ParallelJS-Pic01

It’s also important to understand that some smaller devices like a RaspberryPI which is used for internet browsing or an older smartphone is not able to process the job in time to generate a great user experience. Because of this, the picture changed a bit and we invented a principal we call “Preemptive Task Offloading”.

ParallelJS-Pic02

“Preemptive Task Offloading” lives from the idea that the server and the browser are using the same programming language and the same threading subsystem to manage tasks. Because of that the service itself can decide whether it moves tasks in the browser on the end user or pre-calculates them on the server to ensure great user experience.

ParallelJS-Pic03

The illustrated solution is able to improve the user experience for your end users dramatically and lowers the hosting costs for SaaS applications in the same time.


How it works

The first step is to find the lowest common denominator, in our case it’s called JavaScript. Javascript can be executed in all modern browsers and in the server via node.js. Besides this node and web browser has concepts, e.g. WebWorkers to handle multi threading and multi tasking. The second important ingredient is a framework which abstracts the technical handling of  threads or tasks because they are working different in the backend or frontend. We identified parallel.js as a great solution for this because it gives us a common interface to the world of parallel tasks in frontend and backend technologies. Last but not least a system needs to identify the capabilities of the browser. For this we are using two main approaches. The first one tries to identify the capability to spin of web workers and identifies the amount of CPUs. For this we are using the CPU Core Estimator to also support older browsers. The second step of capability negotiation is a small fibonacci calculation to identify how fast the browser really is. If we come to a positive result our system starts the task offloading into the web browser, a negative result leads to a small call against our API to get the preprocessed information from our servers.


Conclusion

After testing this idea several weeks, I can say that this approach helps a lot to build high performance applications, with acceptable costs on the server side. Personally I don’t like the approach to give customer sensitive data into the browser of other customers to much, but I think this approach works great in scientific projects. What do you think about big data approaches in the browser? What are your pitfall or challenges in this area? Just leave a comment bellow or push a message on Twitter.

Azure Cost Monitor announces Azure Active Directory support

The Azure Cost Monitor Team is very pleased to announce the launch of the Azure Active Directory support starting today.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory is an identity and access management cloud solution that provides a robust set of capabilities to manage users and groups. It also helps to secure access to cloud applications including Microsoft online services like Office 365.

With the new feature, the Azure Cost Monitor allows to link teams against an existing Azure Active Directory. By doing so, a centralized identity and access management can be realized easily.
The support of Azure Active Directory Groups, enables you to grant access to dedicated groups of people or departments within your enterprise. This ensures an easy integration into your existing IT service infrastructures .
Last but not least, a seamless sign-in experience for all users (single-sign-on) can be generated by combining the Azure Directory setup with the customer buckets feature.


How to get started?
Linking an existing Azure Active Directory to the Azure Cost Monitor is that simple:

  1. Log in to the Azure Cost Monitor Dashboard and if you don’t have a team account migrate to a team:
    team-02-migrate-team
  2. Select the “Link to Azure Active Directory” button to start the setup process
    buckets
  3. Follow the description and login for the first time with a global administrator of your Azure Active Directory to give the required consent that allows users of your Azure Active Directory to sign in to the Azure Cost Monitor.
    linktoaad
  4. After the successful consent save the directory settings. All users of the Azure Active Directory can use the Azure Cost Monitor now.
    aadsettings
  5. Configure a new bucket so that all users will be redirected to the Active Directory Sign-In process automatically. This step is optional and can be done later as well.
    buckets2

Interested in the Azure Active Directory feature:
The new feature integrates the Azure Cost Monitor more seamless into existing IT service infrastructures and increases the end user experience of your team members and co-workers. Especially the group based permission support allows you to delegate the access management to a centralised IT organisation.

Try the new feature today by simply logging into your Azure Cost Monitor enterprise account. If you don’t have an enterprise subscription, try it for free for a certain time, as we are currently in the technical preview phase.

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

Azure Cost Monitor announces customer url feature aka buckets

The Azure Cost Monitor Team is happy to announce the launch of the new customer url feature starting today.

Now, users are able to create as many customer urls for their team as required. These customer urls are called buckets in the Azure Cost Monitor because the system can connect different information and actions with an bucket. Whenever a user visits the Azure Cost Monitor with the generated bucket url the system triggers the preferred sign-in workflow, e.g. Azure Active Directory. In addition the system applies the configured branding, so that every end user gets the same unique experience.


How to get started?
Adding a new bucket to the Azure Cost Monitor is that simple:

  1. Log In to the Azure Cost Monitor Dashboard and if you don’t have a team account migrate to a team:

    team-02-migrate-team

  2. Select the “Buckets” button to open the bucket management view:

    buckets

  3. Add or remove buckets in this overview

    buckets2

    Tip: Every team has a default bucket which is the same as the team id and can be used directly when no custom bucket is created.


Interested in the “customer url – feature”?

The new feature integrates the Azure Cost Monitor more seamless into existing IT service infrastructures and increases the end user experience of your team members and co-workers.

Try the new feature today by simply logging into your Azure Cost Monitor enterprise account. If you don’t have an enterprise subscription, try it for free for a certain time, as we are currently in the technical preview phase.

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

Azure Cost Monitor announces branding feature

The Azure Cost Monitor Team is happy to announce the launch of the new branding feature, starting today.
Now, Azure Cost Monitor users can customize their application with the title, color schemes and images of their choosing, for a more seamless integration into already existing IT processes of an enterprise. This new feature also enables Cloud Service Providers and Resellers to offer the Azure Cost Monitor as a White-Label-Solution.


How to get started?
Adding a customized branding to the Azure Cost Monitor is this simple:

  1. Log in to your Azure Cost Monitor dashboard and if you don’t have a team account migrate to a team account.team-02-migrate-team
  2. Click “Settings” and “Edit Branding”brandings-menu
  3. Define a bucket name to give your customizing a unique launch URL.brandings-bucket
  4. Define your customized header title, color schemes, button colours or even add a custom CSS for advanced styles. Changes will be shown in the dashboard immediately.brandings-colors
  5. Once you have configured the custom branding, the users will see the branded pages after they have entered their bucket URL, which can simply be deployed e.g. as browser favourite.brandings-bucket-2

Interested in the branding feature?
The new branding feature leads to an higher acceptance and identification within an enterprise and makes azure cloud cost management seamless and comfortable.

Try the new branding feature today by simply logging into your azure cost monitor enterprise account. If you don’t have an enterprise subscription, try it for free for a certain time, as we are currently in the technical preview phase.

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