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Avoid Business Process Interruption – Switch to AWS Cost & Usage Reports

By Madison Yeazel on February 22, 2018

Traditionally, Amazon has relied on the Detailed Billing Report (DBR) for their users’ cost and billing data. This file would be updated by AWS periodically throughout the day as a client consumed cloud resources. It would then be uploaded to the client’s S3 bucket as a .csv file, and is essential for anyone hoping to better understand their business’ cloud costs and consumption habits. For large enterprises, this file could have a few hundred million rows of data updated daily.

What Is the Cost and Usage Report?

However, in 2018 AWS is deprecating the Detailed Billing Report, and changing their default billing file to the Cost and Usage Report, or CUR, which has been in the mix since it was introduced in 2015. This change will have a major impact on the technical, financial and executive teams that rely on up-to-date and accurate cloud consumption data to make business decisions.

Here at Cloudability, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions from concerned customers about this switch and how it will impact their business, so we wanted to create a simple, plain English guide on the most common questions we receive regarding the CUR file:

  1. Why is AWS retiring the DBR for the CUR file?
  2. What benefits can I expect from the CUR file?
  3. How can I prepare for the switch to ensure no business processes are interrupted?
  4. How do I leverage this billing report effectively?

Why is AWS Retiring the DBR for the CUR file?

Since AWS’s inception, they’ve used the Detailed Billing Report as their primary means of collecting and reporting cost information for your AWS invoice. Over time, this file has become an incredibly dense .csv spreadsheet with millions of lines of data, that very few people are equipped to understand. Because of this, there have been some long standing complaints about how the information is presented within the DBR, as well as limitations (such as not being able to see which EBS volumes are going unused, not being able to see when/where Reserved Instances are applied and not accounting for amortization) around what companies were able to do with the data.

After receiving this feedback from countless organizations, AWS realized they needed an updated file that could help their clients solve these problems. Thus the CUR was introduced in 2015, and over the next six months, AWS will transfer all billing data to the CUR file, removing the DBR completely.

What Benefits Can I Expect From This New File?

While change can seem scary, there are some very tangible benefits to the new CUR file being introduced by AWS. In this section, I’ll run through the three biggest changes and how they will impact your organization:

  1. With the CUR file, you will be able to track each unique RI and when it is applied to an instance, down to the second.

This is a huge update that will finally provide visibility for how AWS allocates “floating RIs” fixing a common challenge organizations had with the original billing data format for years. Today, there is no way to determine when a Reserved Instance was applied. This has created a major headache for companies trying to do show-back or charge-back to their business units, and is a common request from our users. The CUR file will attach a reservation ID number to each instance that is impacted, for every second.

  1. CUR billing data includes amortization data for RIs.

Another change that may at first seem insignificant is the fact that the new CUR file will account for RI amortization. This will remove another major headache for enterprise organizations in the cloud. Currently there is no amortization in the DBR file, which means financial and accounting teams need to spend time and effort every month parcing millions of lines of data to amortize costs and close their books on time.

  1. The CUR file includes AWS Marketplace costs (Any SaaS product purchased through AWS Marketplace will be included).

The last major change is the CUR file’s inclusion of AWS Marketplace costs. Since many AWS users buy multiple SaaS products to help orchestrate, manage and run their cloud environments, AWS has created a private marketplace of SaaS products and services designed to help users easily access the tools they need to be successful on AWS. Purchasing products like Cloudability through the AWS Marketplace allow those costs to be included within your total AWS bill. This makes the vendor management aspect of your cloud even easier and allows you to parse SaaS billing information alongside your overall cloud billing data. Purchasing via the AWS Marketplace will even help you work towards your AWS commitment!

How Can I Prepare for the Switch to Ensure No Business Processes Are Interrupted?

Thankfully, AWS has made this step very easy by giving everyone time to prepare. Today, you can login to your AWS management console and active the CUR file alongside the DBR. This will allow you to use both files from now until the date that AWS decides to retire the DBR completely.

You can turn on the CUR file by following these instructions from AWS. It is highly recommended that you turn the CUR file on immediately so that your company will have as much historical data in the new format as possible.

Finally, you should review these two documents from AWS (here and here) regarding the specific differences between the two files. These will inform you on specific column/row changes within the file itself and help your team determine if any of your internal processes will be impacted by the switch ahead of time.

How Do I Leverage the CUR File Effectively?

This is a question customers have been asking about the DBR for years. These files are incredibly massive and grow in complexity every day, both as your organization grows and as AWS launches new services.

The most effective way to leverage your cost and billing data is to get a cloud management platform like Cloudability to provide rich visualizations, powerful analytics and actionable recommendations to cut costs and improve operational efficiency across your cloud infrastructure.

Cloudability can leverage your cost and billing data to:

  1. Provide the most accurate Reserved Instance recommendations available, based on your historical cloud consumption and utilization.
  2. Provide rightsizing recommendations to ensure you are running your cloud as efficiently as possible at the resource level.
  3. Give insight into the True Cost of your cloud, accounting for discounts, credits, amortizations and more.
  4. Create forecasts based on historical consumption and growth patterns of similar companies.
  5. Use machine learning to constantly analyze your infrastructure for spending anomalies and alert your team in real time.

If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare for the changes that the CUR will bring to your organization, or how a cloud management platform could provide value to your team, kick off a free trial of Cloudability today.

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