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Amazon Cloud Costs Scrutinized By Startup

Startup Newvem is offering a combined view of all of a firm's workloads in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. More important, the service assesses how those workloads have been running and suggests the best way to optimize them to take advantage of Amazon's varied pricing scheme.

It's one thing to review a spreadsheet of how many hours your servers have been running this month. It's another entirely to see that a certain percentage has been idle and another percentage could be running as Reserved instances--a cheaper alternative to on-demand instances--and what savings might result. Newvem claims to bring this automated pricing intelligence to cloud monitoring.

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The Managerial View service becomes available online today as a free Web portal where a CIO or IT manager can log in and obtain detailed analytics on current and historical usage of Amazon Web Services. The snapshot summarizes and analyzes trends that let managers make decisions on what they want to do next in the cloud. A beta version of the analytical system was released in January for developers and system operators using the cloud.

The manager's version will soon become available as an iOS iPhone application, allowing IT managers to be mobile and still maintain a managerial hand over their cloud workloads, said Zev Laderman, Newvem chairman and CEO. An announcement of that version will come as soon as Newvem can get its beta version approved by Apple for the AppStore, he said, in an interview at InformationWeek offices in San Francisco. One cause of the delay is that there have been no reviews published of the app for Apple to evaluate.

Newvem tracks Amazon workloads and associated costs

"It's not a consumer app. They're still trying to figure out what it does," said Laderman.

[Can Newvem help answer a persistent question about cloud computing? See Cloud's Thorniest Question: Will It Pay Off?]

The Managerial View offers a summary of a company's current cloud bill (for AWS only), with a projection at current usage for what it will be by the end of the month. It can identify abnormal behavior in the use of EC2 and other services, such as unusually heavy movement of data resulting in excess charges.

The system recommends possible corrective actions when it spots idle servers and servers used on a predictable basis--candidates for Reserved instances, which cost 30 to 35% less than on-demand servers at Amazon. Amazon also has a pricing scheme that lets customers bid for server time at a particular price; Amazon will accept the bid if it has servers idle with no work available at a higher price.

AWS servers also come with a varied amount of memory, CPU and storage, and Managerial View can help rationalize which type a particular workload should be running on. Microsoft Azure cloud spokespeople occasionally mock the complex Amazon pricing structure, which varies slightly from one Amazon site to another, such as AWS U.S. East vs. AWS U.S. West. But that may mean there's a ready market for analytics that can simplify and take advantage of the many pricing schemes. A new InformationWeek buyer's guide on IaaS provides pricing details on CPU, storage and other services from 10 providers, including Amazon.

Newvem can collect extensive operational data through the customer's read-only reporting service from Amazon, then analyze what the data tells it about operations over an extended time period.

"We analyze the usage pattern and how to use services more efficiently. When it comes to storage, which objects are you calling on infrequently? Perhaps they could be pushed to S3 [long-term storage]. That would degrade their availability but lower the monthly bill," said Laderman.

: Newvem helps customers take advantage of Amazon pricing schemes

Newvem is an Israeli startup company, but its name is a play on the Portuguese word "nuvem", which loosely translates as "new way." Zev Laderman explains that his co-founder, Ilan Naslavsky, is Brazilian. He says they had to go with a spelling that wasn't already claimed.

Laderman previously built Aduva into a company that was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2006. Aduva used "a rules engine that could tell you which open source components to use with Linux or Solaris," Laderman said. After the sale, Laderman realized the rules engine approach could address many other issues in the data center.

When he looked at how companies used Amazon Web Services' EC2, he realized there was plenty of work to be done in constructing rules and analytics to guide cloud usage, a realization "that sent him back to work in the garage," joined by CTO Naslavsky, a former Aduva associate.

Newvem has received $4 million in backing from Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors, Greylock Partners and Index Ventures.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek.


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