Azure Billing Changes

Published on Friday, June 26, 2015 in

A bit less technical for once, but a few days ago I noticed several announcements for billing related changes that I though were worth mentioning. And besides that, my personal test subscription got disabled once more because I ran out of credit… So what else is there to do? ; )

Azure Billing Detailed Usage Change

Every time I talk to a customer who is new to Azure and is starting to get into IAAS, I explain how Virtual Machines are billed. Roughly there’s 4 things to take into account:

  • Compute hours: depends on the uptime/tier
  • Storage space consumed: the bigger the VM,….
  • Storage transactions: the more disk IO VM performs, ….
  • Network IO: “upload”/”download” where download is free

Now a lot of customers want to, or foresee, that they want to split the bill to the responsible department, project or another factor. Before the recent changes there were 2 ways to do this:

  • Separate subscriptions
  • Creating your VM’s on separate storage accounts/in separate cloud services

Personally I’m not too fond of the separate subscriptions idea. It will bring you overhead in terms of network connectivity and the overall picture might become more difficult to see. I’m aware that there are definitely cases where you clearly want to provide a group of people “full control” on “their” stuff and you want to be able to just send the bill of everything they use. But in many cases I feel having many subscriptions will become a PITA to manage. What if your billing scheme changes, instead of per department, you have to have a picture per application. Do you really want to tie your subscriptions to that?

Now I’m more in favor of creating VM’s in separate storage accounts and cloud services. Still not ideal if you have to restructure, but the impact should be less. Here’s how the detailed usage looked before June:

Type Unit Granularity
Networking Data Transfer In( GB) Cloud Service
Networking Data Transfer Out (GB) Cloud Service
Storage Standard IO – Page Blob/DISK (GB) Storage Account
Virtual Machines Compute Hours Cloud Service\Tier
Data Management Storage Transactions (in 10,000s) Storage Account

As you can see Cloud Service and Storage Account are really important if you want to separate our resources. Now things have changed, both Networking and Compute now include the VM name (next to the Cloud Service):

Type Unit Granularity
Networking Data Transfer In( GB) Cloud Service (VM Name)
Networking Data Transfer Out (GB) Cloud Service (VM Name)
Storage Standard IO – Page Blob/DISK (GB) Storage Account
Virtual Machines Compute Hours Cloud Service (VM Name)
Data Management Storage Transactions (in 10,000s) Storage Account

So assigning VM’s to cloud services is no longer an absolute requirement for building detailed bills. Other than that, there’s two more new fields:

  • Resource Group
  • Tags

From tags I know they are a V2 (Azure Resource Manager) feature. Resource groups are also available for V1 VMs. On my detailed usage overview the column resource group was empty. So it might be that this only will be filled in for V2 resources. Once V2 resources are commonly used we’ll be able to add one ore more tags to resources like VM’s. This will greatly benefit Azure Automation and Azure Billing! You’ll be able to specify information that can help identify the VM: e.g. Environment: Dev/Test/Acceptance/Production or Department: HR/IT/Sales or …

Enterprise Agreement: MSDN subscriptions

Something that has been available for a while: MSDN subscriptions below an Enterprise Agreement. If your company has both an Azure Agreement and your developers/IT Pro’s have an MSDN, they are allowed to have machines run at MSDN rates. These machines cannot belong to production! The advantage is pricing: Windows VM run at the price of the equivalent Linux VM and software available in the MSDN library is for free (e.g. SQL). You can configure this on the EA portal: https://ea.azure.com


Azure Billing API

In the pas there was an API available for the EA customers. Luckily the new Azure Usage API (MSDN) and Azure RateCard API (MSDN) or for all subscriptions! You can read more on these here: ScottGu: New Azure Billing APIs Available

Side note

It’s a common practice to shutdown VM’s that are not being used in order to save Azure credits. The less hours a VM turns, the better. One thing I overlooked this month is the cost of the Azure VNET Gateway. I had been playing with a site to site VPN (between two Azure VNets) and this resulted in two Gateways burning quite some credit. So I’d say: keen any eye on those gateways! They can cost quite a lot.

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