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Cloud Optimization Takes Center Stage with Free Microsoft, AWS Services

by Richard Seroter on Mar 11, 2013 |

While a cottage industry has grown around providing services to optimize cloud usage and costs, large cloud providers themselves are beginning to promote their own optimization offerings. Microsoft recently purchased a cloud performance management company and made its product free to customers. Competitor Amazon Web Services (AWS) is aggressively promoting their own “Trusted Advisor” program with a free trial period.

MetricsHub, a participant in The Microsoft Accelerator startup program, made a quick exit when they were acquired by Microsoft last week. MetricsHub offers a set of services to automatically scale a cloud environment, monitor cloud servers, send alerts when performance problems are detected, and decipher a Windows Azure invoice. While TechCrunch reports that MetricsHub only had 374 users at the time of acquisition, a blog post from MetricsHub shared that they had already processed “hundreds of billions of data points and [took] thousands of automatic actions to help you manage the health and costs of your cloud applications”. Microsoft announced this acquisition in a blog post that described the challenges of cloud optimization and why the bought MetricsHub.

Cloud solutions are compelling for a variety of reasons – scale, flexibility and value - particularly for companies looking to do more with less. However, it’s difficult to understand, monitor and correlate all the application data points that tell you how and when you need to scale your application.  Then to get real value out of those data points you need to automate how your application and cloud platform intelligently respond.  That’s where MetricsHub’s technology comes in.  Their approach to automating performance optimization, with little effort on the part of customers, addresses these issues.  It also ensures customers are only paying for what they need and maximizing the services they’re using.

This pre-release service is available to all Microsoft customers today at no charge. Existing customers will be migrated to this free plan.

AWS is also currently touting a service for optimizing cloud usage and creating a secure, cost-effective environment. The AWS Trusted Advisor program, which has been available since 2012, monitors provisioned AWS services and makes a series of actionable recommendations to improve performance and save money. This service is sold to customers that pay for premium AWS support, but during the month of March it is free for all AWS customer. In a blog post about this free trial, the AWS team explained the value and track record of Trusted Advisor service.

Because the AWS Trusted Advisor draws upon the aggregated operational history of hundreds of thousands of AWS customers, you can be confident that the recommendations that it makes can help you to save money, bolster your security profile, improve the fault tolerance of your application, and  increase overall performance. This is a unique and powerful benefit that is only possible with cloud-based, API-enabled infrastructure.

To give you a better idea of the value of the recommendations, let's focus on the last 90 days. During this time, AWS customers reviewed 135K AWS Trusted Advisor recommendations and took actions that resulted in an estimated $18M in annualized savings.

Trusted Advisor recommendations span four categories: Cost Optimizing, Security, Fault Tolerance, and Performance. Examples of cost-optimizing recommendations include “under-utilized EC2 instances” (less than 10% average CPU utilization on at least four of the past fourteen days) and “RDS idle DB instances” (active databases with no connections in the past seven days). There are seven security recommendations including those that look for loose S3 bucket permissions and whether Identity and Access Management is used across services. Fault-tolerance recommendations look for VPN tunnel redundancy, database backups, multi-geography databases, and uneven distribution of compute nodes across regions. Finally, performance optimization recommendations address overutilized servers that are using 90%+ average CPU, and security groups that have an excessive number of rules.

While Microsoft and AWS customers will celebrate the availability of these free services, partners aren’t so thrilled. Microsoft is notorious for encroaching up the space occupied by their partners, and AWS appears to be going down the same path. Companies like Cloudability, Newvem, Cloudyn, and CloudVertical all offer paid services to monitor and optimize a customer’s AWS cloud portfolio. An article in The Register covers partner frustration and points out the challenges for companies who build add-ons to software from big, ambitious providers.

If you read between the lines of the statement, it sounds like Amazon will keep building, and partners will need to keep running up the stack away from the wave of commoditization flowing forth from Amazon.

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