When we were working on the original concept for Stackdriver last spring, we interviewed dozens of large AWS and Rackspace Cloud customers to understand their most significant pain points in running their applications in the cloud. We summarized the output as follows:
- Customers are frustrated with the lack of visibility into their AWS & Rackspace environments.
- Even with the right level of visibility, they would struggle to improve their operations due to a lack of knowledge (best practices) related to managing applications in the cloud.
- Topics of particular concern include Cost, Security, Availability, and Performance.
- Many companies are building internal tools to help them with these issues.
The feedback was incredibly consistent–so much so that we originally planned to launch Stackdriver as a reporting service that tackled these issues head on (we would call it “MyCloudAudit.com”). In the end, we decided to go a different direction, which may have been for the best: Today, customers have numerous online services to choose from to help them analyze, report on, and improve their AWS environments, including Amazon’s own “Trusted Advisor” dashboard, which is free for the month of March. Options for Rackspace cloud are more limited–at least partially due to the limited usage information available via Rackspace Cloud APIs. Here, we’ll compare a few of the popular services and provide our thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Other than AWS Trusted Advisor, the services described below all have free/trial usage tiers, and you can sign-up and kick the tires on your own. All are SaaS offerings that collect information related to your cloud environment (resources, metrics, costs, etc.) from the provider APIs and portals, analyze that data, and surface insights via their own interfaces. While some dabble in other areas (esp. security and availability) the services tend to be fairly cost-centric. Likewise, most of the value of the services lies in server/instance-related insights, although two of the services have recently introduced detailed S3 reporting.
AWS Trusted Advisor (Beta)
The AWS Trusted Advisor service inspects your environment and identifies opportunities to reduce costs, address security risks, improve fault tolerance, and enhance performance.
- Compares the configuration of your AWS services with 27 best practices to identify Cost, Security, Fault Tolerance, and Performance concerns.
- Checks span many AWS services and features including EC2, RDS, EBS, S3, auto-scaling groups,
- Sign-up is simple – just a few clicks from your AWS console.
- You are not required to share your credentials with a third-party service.
- Can be very expensive if you’re not already a “Business” or “Enterprise” AWS Support customer (plans from $100-$30k+/month).
- Only supports AWS services.
- No customization available (no way to change the checks, filter based on group/tag, etc.).
- No real cost reporting/trending or S3 usage analytics.
The Trusted Advisor Dashboard is an obvious choice for customers with free access to the service via their premium support subscriptions. Larger customers with complex environments will want to consider more advanced cost reporting capabilities offered by Cloudability or Cloudyn.
This self-proclaimed ‘leader’ in AWS operations analytics provides rich reporting and analysis for AWS customers. They address spend/efficiency, inventory, and risks (security/availability).
- Business Group Filters can be used to analyze the configuration and usage of logical sets of resources within your environment (region, sub-accounts, names, tags, security groups, etc.).
- The free version of the service compares your AWS configuration with 21 best practices across the same four categories noted above (Financial Efficiency, Fault Tolerance, Security Policy, Utilization).
- S3 reporting is available with the paid plans.
- Sign-up and deployment are simple.
- Numerous reporting options and dashboards are tailored to your particular usage scenario (“Health Check,” “Diagnostics,” etc.).
- Newvem is starting to introduce some advanced visualization options:
- Only supports AWS.
- Pricing is no longer disclosed publicly.
- Requires you to provide your AWS access key, secret key, username, and password (all credentials may be read-only).
- User interface can be confusing–difficult to understand the purpose of the various reporting views.
- Fairly inflexible–minimal customization.
This is the best option available for customers who want a broad assessment (cost, security, availability, performance) of the configuration of their AWS environments based on business group, application, or other organizational group.
Cloudability provides cost and usage analytics across several popular infrastructure-as-a-service platforms.
- Supports AWS, Rackspace, and Softlayer.
- Free, Professional, and Enterprise plans are available (paid plans range from $49 to $499+/month).
- Paid plans include user-friendly invoice views, flexible usage reports, and cost breakdowns by tag (enabling you to analyze cost based on application, subsystem, business group, etc.)
- The free version provides basic cost reporting and the ability to define an overall budget (and be alerted when spend exceeds budget).
- Elegant, easy-to-use interface.
- Simple API access to cost and usage data.
- Paid plans include a high degree of customization.
- Requires you to provide your username, password, secret key, and access key.
- Exclusively focused on cost–no checks for security, availability, or performance issues.
- Limited value in the free service (most links lead to up-sell videos).
Cloudability is a strong solution for cost analytics. It should appeal to the largest AWS deployments, where cloud cost control is a key priority. It will also be valuable for customers running on multiple (supported) clouds.
Cloudyn provides a set of helpful tools that enable AWS customers to reduce costs and improve efficiency within their environments.
- Standard package is free and includes cost reporting and 2 standard alerts.
- Premium package starts at $49 per month, includes more detailed analysis of cost drivers (including S3 analytics), and provides recommendations to improve efficiency.
- Highly customizable cost reporting dashboards.
- Boasts excellent S3 reporting capabilities, including S3 Glacier support, folder-level reporting, versioning, and lifecycle policies.
- Polished and easy-to-use reserved instances calculator & reporting tools.
- Capabilities are highly targeted on the most likely cost savings opportunities.
- Alerting feature is more flexible and advanced than the cost alerting provided by AWS.
- Only supports AWS, although their GA announcement hinted at upcoming support for other providers.
- Can take up to 10 days to receive actionable recommendations.
- Limited support for tags/grouping.
- Requires you to provide a secret key and access key.
Addressing a single aspect (cost) of a single cloud vendor (AWS), Cloudyn is certainly the most focused on the group, and it shows; many aspects of the service are more mature and advanced than the alternatives. This is a ideal option for large AWS customers who are looking for more advanced cost reporting/optimization capabilities than are available in the Trusted Advisor Dashboard–as long as you can wait for support for other cloud providers.
What do you think?
As I mentioned at the outset, this is a hot space and this is by no means an exhaustive list of available options–new startups seem to be cropping up every few weeks to tackle the cloud analytics issue. Have you used any of these services? Any impressions? We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment here or we can take the discussion to Twitter (@stackdriver, @belcherdan).