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FinOps

The Finance Team’s cloud cost battle station

By Leah Weitz on November 5, 2015
The finance team's cloud cost battle station

The FinOps Journey:

(EDITORIAL NOTE – Annotated in 2019 to show this post’s role on the path to the FinOps cloud operating model.)

One of the central tenets of FinOps is the concept that technology, finance and business teams should be brought together to operate the cloud — a necessity when dealing with the variable spend of cloud infrastructure. Early on, Cloudability recognized the importance of brining Finance into the cloud conversation, as seen in this post. Over the years, these approach has meted out and been refined to form a key part of the FinOps model.

Find out more about Finance’s role in the cloud by reading FinOps: A New Approach to Cloud Financial Management.

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From the engineers in your AWS console to the executives overseeing your growth and trajectory, building and growing a complex cloud infrastructure involves stakeholders all across your organization. Ensuring that those stakeholders are equipped to make informed and deliberate decisions about your cloud comes down to getting the right data in front of them—but when it comes to building the perfect dashboard of cost and usage KPIs, every team will have different needs.

Today, we’re going to dig into a dashboard that we’ve found serves as an excellent starting point for one such team: Finance. Read on to see how each widget on this example dashboard can help answer questions and drive decisions central to your Finance Team’s concerns.

The KPIs: Costs, trends, and spending sources

As a Finance Team, monitoring and optimizing your org’s spending will likely be your top concerns. That’s why your ideal cloud cost dashboard will place emphasis on monitoring costs, identifying top sources of spending, and ensuring that all of your teams and projects are adhering to budget.
The finance team's cloud cost battle station

Monthly total estimated spend, this month and last month

Monthly total estimated spend, this month and last month:  With this widget, you can see how much you’re projected to spend this month compared to last month. You can cross-reference these numbers with what you’ve budgeted to the month to see if you’re projected to come in over- or under-budget—and adjust course accordingly.

Month-to-date cost comparison, this month and last month-to-date

Month-to-date cost comparison, this month and last month-to-date:  This widget displays how much you’ve spent thus far within the current calendar month, compared to how much you spent during the same period last month. See whether your spending is trending up or down, or staying steady—and compare to your org’s growth plans to see whether it should be.

Total cost by transaction type, this month

Total cost by transaction type, this month:  This widget splits out your AWS spending by transaction type in order to see how much of your bill is comprised of usage charges such as EC2 on-demand spending, recurring charges such as monthly Reserved Instance payments, credits (i.e discounts), one-time charges, and taxes.

Cost by transaction type, last 60 days

Cost by transaction type, last 60 days:  Similar to the previous widget, this one displays your costs split out by transaction type—but rather than as a single pie chart representative of spending breakdowns across a time period, it displays your cost breakdown for each unique day. This makes it easy to pinpoint when your bill has been impacted by recurring charges, to see how and when fluctuating usage accounts for extra spending, and more.

Top accounts, last month

Top accounts, last month:  If your org uses linked AWS accounts within a consolidated billing structure, a measure of your most costly accounts can be crucial in monitoring budget adherence and holding stakeholders accountable.

Cost by account, last 60 days

Cost by account, last 60 days:  This widget will allow you to measure your spending across your linked AWS accounts for each of the past 60 days. See who your biggest spenders are and how those patterns change over time, while keeping an eye out for cost spikes.  

Month-to-date cost by product, this month & previous period

Month-to-date cost by product, this month and previous period:  You can reference this widget to see which of Amazon’s products you’re spending the most on this month, compared to where your dollars went last month. Monitor the impact of new workloads on your spending, and keep an eye out for unexpected discrepancies. 

Cost by product, this year

Cost by product, this year:  Keep an eye on this widget to see how much spending you accrue for each AWS service across each month of the year. Watch for trends, and make sure that any upward spending trends for a given AWS service are intended and controlled.

Going deeper with tags

If you want to dive even deeper into your spending patterns, you have a powerful weapon at your disposal: tags.

Every organization will use tags differently, depending on how you choose to allocate costs across your unique business structure. Using the tags specific to your needs, you might set up a cloud cost dashboard featuring widgets that drill into your costs across any number of key metrics, such as department or application:

Sample finance dashboard with tags

Build your battle station

Want to set up a cloud cost battle station for your own finance team? Simply create a new Dashboard in Cloudability and build as many of the above widgets that you’d like, populated with your own tags, accounts, and KPIs for easy, instantly digestible monitoring. If you want a head start, our Customer Success team can add this sample Dashboard to your account—just shoot us an in-app message.

Log in or sign up for a free 14-day trial of Cloudability to build, customize, save and share your own cloud cost battle station today.

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