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Will Expense Tracking Speed Cloud Adoption?

When it comes to cloud adoption, the elephant in the room (apart from security) is the fear that a service could scale up so quickly that it blows out a cloud budget. Many IT folks are far more comfortable with a known expense than they are with a variable expense, and a cloud service that spins up resources on demand can quickly become a variable expense.

While there are many cloud management platforms available to address this issue, they tend to be designed for organizations that have fully adopted cloud services. They aren't so great for companies taking initial, tentative steps towards online services. So, Cloudability's open beta announcement about its freemium cloud spend management tool is welcome news.

Cloudability's premise is simple: It lets users know when they are paying for cloud resources that they are not using and whether they are exceeding certain dollar thresholds. On a personal level, I could have used this earlier this year when my son and I started using Amazon Web Services for his Minecraft server. He and I automated the creation and destruction of the instance so that it would be available during the times of day when he and his friends could play. Halfway into the summer, however, we didn't realize that the system that was responsible for the creation and destruction of the instances was having a problem after an update, and was no longer bringing the instance up and down. The instance was up all the time, even when it wasn't being used. It wasn't a massive billing problem, but it made me understand the "blow my budget" concerns that I had heard about.

Slideshare's CTO, Jon Boutelle, shares a story where his company needlessly spent $5,000 in a single weekend because it brought up lots of instances and then forgot about them. So Boutelle decided to keep better track of his spending. AWS provides usage data in CSV and XML, but Boutelle got tired of importing the data into Excel and manually analyzing it. Of course, the AWS tools don't provide any ability to analyze what you're not using, and won't alert you if you exceed a certain dollar threshold.

That's where Cloudability comes in. It is, naturally, software as a service. And it provides email notifications that track expenditures, with customizable budget alert thresholds. It also provides alerts for how to reduce waste by turning off unused or unneeded resources.

I spoke to co-founder JR Storment in October. He says that customers are interested because "there's either been a big overage or customers are worried about one." He tells a story about a video hosting customer, where spammers created massive numbers of free trial accounts and put terabytes of anime out there, resulting in a $20,000 bill. Storment says that the app isn't just for IaaS; it can also track SaaS licensure and utilization, with commensurate recommendations for "right sizing" based on usage. Cloudability supports AWS, Heroku, Rackspace, Google Apps, Azure and other services.

So how much does it cost to, as Cloudability says, "cover your *aaS"? Storment says that the business model is to allow people who are spending less than $25,000 annually on cloud services to use Cloudability for free. This freemium model is a perfect opportunity for folks who've been too scared of overage charges to start using the cloud. This may well have a significant impact on cloud adoption in coming months, simply because the fear factor can no longer be used as an excuse. You may have other worries about cloud computing, but tools are available to make sure busted budgets aren't one of them.