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Microsoft Launches First Rev of Azure Cost Management for Partners (with a Caveat)

Sticker shock is one of the main customer objections to signing up for Microsoft Azure services. The flexibility of the cloud service makes Azure highly scalable but can lead to highly, er, scalable bills, as well.

While Microsoft has been pushing partners hard to sell Azure services to their customers for years, the company is finally also beginning to deliver the specialized tools that partners need to manage those costs across and on behalf of their customers.

In the last few weeks, Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) of Azure Cost Management for partners.

"With this update, partners and their customers can take advantage of Azure Cost Management tools available to manage cloud spend, similar to the cost management capabilities available for pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and enterprise customers today," wrote Aparna Gopalakrishnan, senior program manager for Azure Cost Management at Microsoft, in the blog post announcing GA of the tool.

One caveat of the initial version of the tool is that it is only available for cloud solution providers (CSPs) who have onboarded customers to the new Microsoft Customer Agreement. That agreement, a direct arrangement between Microsoft and the customer, largely sidelines partners in a manner that runs counter to the spirit of CSP, which was originally positioned as a program that allowed partners to control the billing relationship with their customers.

That said, there are still opportunities for partners to supplement customer needs and offer managed services around the Microsoft Customer Agreement, and Azure Cost Management could represent just such an opportunity. It provides a classic example of a partner being able to leverage expertise across dozens, hundreds or thousands of customers to optimize a customer's spending on Azure services and help make the bills predictable.

What the first version of Azure Cost Management provides is tools that allow partners to view, manage and analyze all of their customers' billing through a single pane of glass. Partners will be able to view and analyze costs by customer, subscription, resource group, resource, meter, service and other dimensions.

[Click on image for larger view.] One of the key capabilities of the partner-focused Azure Cost Management tool is the ability to set budgets and create alerts. (Source: Microsoft)

They can also track Partner Earned Credit (PEC) and, critically, set up notifications and automation using programmatic budgets. The tool also lets the partner enable the Azure Resource Manager policy that allows customers to access Cost Management data. Microsoft is making all of the functionality of the native tool available as REST APIs for automating the capabilities.

Microsoft committed to periodic updates of the tool. Among the first updates will be support for exporting data from the tool. The roadmap also calls for cost recommendations, optimization suggestions and showback features that allow partners to charge a markup on consumption costs.

Microsoft also plans to undo the main caveat by launching Azure Cost Management at retail rates for customers who are supported by a CSP partner but who are not on the Microsoft Customer Agreement.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 03, 2019


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