Knowledge is power. As the information technology sector trends more and more towards Software as a Service (Saas), consumption-based billing comes right along with it. The more visibility we gain into that consumption, the more intelligently we can make decisions about our investment. Setting up chargeback or showback is one of the most useful things you can do to manage your spend in a consumption-based subscription service like Azure.
Where do I Start?
First, you’ve got to get organized. The key to chargeback and showback is having your resources organized in a way that allows you to easily query them based on their business purpose.
Enter Azure Tags [stage left]. Azure tags are simply metadata that you can apply to your Azure resources. They don’t have any effect on the performance or functionality of your resources; you can think of them simply as labels.
The anatomy of an Azure tag is two-fold: a key and a value. The key is what type of characteristic you are trying to describe, and the value is the descriptor itself. For example, if you were trying to label a person with Azure tags, you might have a key value pair as follows: eyecolor:green. The key is “eyecolor,” and the value is “green.” You can apply multiple tags to a single Azure resource, so you can describe numerous attributes. It’s important to note: Azure tags are case sensitive. Plan ahead and think carefully about how you name things so that you don’t have to clean things up later.
As an added benefit, you will be able to leverage the tags for direct management of your Azure resources through PowerShell and the Azure portal.
Once you have your resources tagged, it’s time to get hooked up with a cloud governance or management tool. These tools, like New Signature’s Cloud Management Portal (CMP) are specifically designed to help IT managers monitor and track their cloud services and expenditure. Because you’ve taken the time to organize your resources and apply Azure tags, the reports generated by CMP, or whatever cloud governance tool you use, will have more metadata to work with and generate more meaningful reports for your business.
Creating Your Hierarchical Structure in the CMP
To add even more insight, New Signature’s Cloud Management Portal is designed to enhance chargeback and showback reporting through a simple hierarchical structure of Projects, Departments, and Cost Centers. Azure resources, like your virtual machines, are assigned to a project or a department. Projects are children of departments, and departments can optionally be children of cost centers; departments can also belong to no cost center, and just stand on an island by themselves (wouldn’t that be the life). Cost centers can only contain departments; they can’t have resources assigned directly to them. Once you have your resources tagged with Azure tags, it’s simple to create a rule to automatically assign certain key:value pairs to a given Project or Department in the Cloud Management Portal.
As with the tags, the first thing you need to do is make your decisions on how you want your resources to be organized, e.g., what will be the names of your cost centers, departments, and projects. This will vary based on the way you work as an organization and the way you make use of Azure resources. In general, start by thinking about the business purposes for the resources; we’re not looking for a report on databases and virtual machines—those are IT terms—we’re looking for reports on the cost of sales team’s CRM and the engineering team’s line-of-business application. If you aren’t sure where to begin, reach out to us. Our Azure experts are happy to take a look at things and help untangle them for you.
In the Cloud Management Portal, click on Settings > Company.
Here you will see a page with all your subscriptions listed—these are simply pulled from Microsoft. Click the CREATE ENTITY button at the bottom of the page to create your first project, department, or cost center.
Complete the form with the name of your entity, and which type you are trying to create (project, department, or cost center), then click the save button. Don’t worry about the Account field—that’s a legacy remnant that will be gone soon enough.
Now go back to the Settings > Company page, and look for your new entity in the list. Click on the name once you find it.
If it’s a project, here you can choose what department it should be a part of; for departments, here you can choose which cost center it should roll up to (if any). Once we have resources assigned to your entity, you’ll be able to see a list of them here in the Instances section.
Now let’s go back to the Settings > Company page, but this time click the gear next to your entity.
Here we’ll control which resources will be a part of the entity. There are two ways to do so:
- Manually assign resources by searching through the list and checking the Is Included
- Using the automatic Resourcing Rules at the top of the page. When you create rules here, any resources that match these rules will automatically be assigned to the entity.
You can create as many rules as you like, and if a resource matches any single rule, it will be added to the entity. In other words, the rules are evaluated with an or Boolean, rather than and.
When creating your rules, you can specify if it should only apply within a given subscription using the dropdown box on the left; if you do not specify a subscription, it will evaluate all resources against the rule; if you only specify a subscription, and do not complete the rest of the form, it will assign all resources from that subscription into the entity.
In the middle dropdown, you can specify if the rule should be based on a naming convention, or Azure tags. Since the resource names include their resource group name, using the “and name contains” criteria will also allow you to filter based on resource group.
A Parting Note
Deciding on how you want to apply your tags is likely the most daunting part of this endeavor. If you are just starting out and your cloud environment is relatively small, keep the structure light and simple. Experiment and try running reports in your governance tool. If you don’t like what you see, simply go back and adjust your tags. If you’ve already got an expansive environment on your hands, or know that you have a good deal of clean up in front of you, consider enlisting the help of a knowledgeable partner. We’re happy to apply our experience to your latest challenge.