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Cloud Efficiency Investigators: Unlocking your AWS EC2 Data Transfer Costs

By Dave Stenson on March 20, 2018

In our Cloud Efficiency Investigators series, we dig into what may at first seem like “mysteries” on your cloud bill. Follow along to uncover the truth behind your cloud spending and identify opportunities to maximize your cost and usage efficiency. Previously we took a closer look at Cloudwatch. This time we’re investigating AWS EC2 data transfer costs.

Your data transfer costs, if left unchecked and not understood, can start to add up over time.

Cloudability’s standardized dimensions and real-time analytics platform can help you dig deeper into the different factors that make up data transfer costs within seconds, and find out what is really driving your data transfer costs.

With these tools at your disposal you can split your data transfer costs out by:

Breaking out these types of costs can allow you to make important architectural decisions and answer the following questions:

Digging into the Data

Below see how you can quickly drill down into your EC2 data transfer spend. The same method can be used to investigate Cloudfront and Direct Connect costs as well.

The following is a basic report showing costs per Usage Family, a Cloudability standardized dimension to group usage types into a high-level family, with a filter for Service Name = AWS EC2. The dataset below shows a substantial monthly spend for Data Transfer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Now, let’s add region. We can see here that this report is showing us that the large majority of cost is in the AP Southeast region (Sydney). So let’s focus our attention on that.

Adding Usage Type allows us to start breaking our costs out into intra-regional, public and inter-regional costs. Below you can see that intra-regional data transfer is our highest cost, followed by public Internet costs, with smaller amounts based on data transferring from Asia Pacific to US East and US West respectively. The Usage Type Description is the giveaway here, with the originating region plus type of spend listed.

Adding the Item Description dimension into your report gives us this detail without needing to translate the usage type into regions, so let’s add that.

Now that we have identified that regional data transfer is our biggest contributor, let’s break it down again to find out what’s going on.

For EC2, costs are incurred when you transfer data between availability zones within a region, incurring costs for transferring both in and out of the AZ. This type of cost is called “Interzone” spend, and with our report above we can see that this is the biggest contributor to our regional data transfer spend.

Note: You can also identify your spend for EC2 instances within peered VPCs in the same region. As you can see, the Operation dimension is incredibly powerful at breaking out our spend at a granular level.

To add even further context here, we can add resource ID, account name or (if you have a tagging strategy in place) we can break out the Interzone and VPC costs and talk to account managers about options to reduce spend.

Start Your Own Cloud Cost Investigation Today

High data transfer costs are not something you need to accept as a given. Yes, data transfer costs are inevitable when it comes to doing business on the cloud, but using Cloudability, you can inspect all elements of your spend for cost optimization opportunities and dig in within seconds to discover what is really driving your costs, and where you can make immediate improvements.

As we have just concentrated on EC2 data transfer costs here, we have barely scratched the surface. There are similar insights to be found with other services such as Cloudfront and Direct Connect. Look for a thorough investigation into these and other common cost-drivers in a future post in our Cloud Efficiency Investigators series.

If you’d like help digging into your EC2 data transfer costs, or if you don’t yet have a tagging strategy in place, don’t worry, we can help! Start a free trial of Cloudability to get access to our product as well as support to get started.

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