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Cloudyn review

Trying to keep tabs on the cost of the service can prove to be a headache

growth strategy
  • Really useful cost and resource analysis; Direct connectivity with your cloud will save hours of grunt-work; Very usable.
  • Out-of-date documentation for Amazon detailed billing; Needs at least two more providers for comparison; Pricing could be a bit more transparent.

When the various public cloud services were fairly new, one thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the visibility of what it was actually costing me to use the service. Although the pricing of the individual virtual services I was running up was clear when I looked at the pricing screen, it was non-trivial to understand what I was actually being charged over time. For users of multiple cloud suppliers the problem scaled as the number of suppliers increased.

Cloudyn takes an interesting approach to addressing this problem, by providing you with a way to dip into your cloud setup and understand the efficiency (both cost and resource) of your cloud setup, so that you can tune it to maximise the value you get from it.

As you'd expect, the service is based in the cloud. Signing up is a simple process, and once you're in you point it at your cloud service (in my case my AWS setup) using the usual approach of providing the necessary access keys. It takes only a few seconds to connect and scan what you have, though when you've first signed up it can take a couple of days before any meaningful data is available because what it's basically doing it monitoring usage over time (and hence it needs some samples to work on before doing anything overly statistical).

In order to get the full value from the cost analysis in my AWS installation the Cloudyn portal encouraged me to turn on the “detailed billing” function. As the portal can't do this automatically (I guess it's fair not to expect it to do management portal stuff via an API) it walks you through how to do it manually; unfortunately the instructions are a little out of date (the AWS management portal seems to have changed since the process was written) and so in a couple of places I had to ask Mr. Google. As it happens this is the second product I've reviewed just lately that had this issue, so Cloudyn isn't alone in needing to keep up with Amazon's portal writers.

The options you get once up and running can be split roughly into three categories: cost analysis; resource analysis; and porting scenarios. In the cost analysis area you can start with the basic cost of your existing services, and then dig into time-based costing and amortisation. They've clearly given plenty of thought into the way things are displayed: you can start at the top level of an instance (i.e. one of the cloud installations you've defined in the system) and then drill down through the levels to get to individual VMs and storage areas. Resource analysis works in a similar way, showing you what's in your cloud instances and how it's configured with regard to resource reservations and the like.

The bit that Cloudyn gives you that isn't easy to figure out from the cloud providers' setups, though, is how to optimise your setups. There are various screens that help you understand the financial impact of the provider you're using, but the favourite has to be the one that demonstrates how you might migrate from the existing setup to a new one – both by describing the high-level resource mapping (so it'll tell you, for instance, that your t1.micro AWS server in the US-West-2 cloud would map to an f1-micro in Google's US-Central-1 location) and by detailing the specifics of mapping your instances to the various options available (so you can see the compromise between cost and CPU/RAM size).

All good so far, then. Of course, if you take the time to find the information there's not really anything that Cloudyn gives you that you can't figure out yourself with a spreadsheet, a browser and some time. The point is, of course, that Cloudyn takes all the donkey work out of the task – which is a big deal even for a medium-sized cloud. It presents things clearly, and the user interface is super (even though I was tempted to christen it “Fifty Shades of Green”).

There's just one drawback: it only knows about the Amazon and Google clouds. So the migration illustrations are for Amazon to Google and vice versa – it really needs to have Azure and some of the other popular ones such as Rackspace in there. I reckon that the value of the service would grow geometrically with the addition of new clouds to the analysis service; of course this makes the configuration process at Cloudyn's end a chore (it'll be a many-to-many task, after all) but I think it would be well worth it.

I'll be honest: as I set off for work this morning I was thinking to myself that I couldn't really see the attraction in Cloudyn because of this provider limitation. As I wandered up the road, though, I realised I was wrong. Yes, they definitely need to include more providers for the comparison aspects of the system. But the tools that they give you are really useful even if you have no intention whatsoever of changing providers but instead just want to understand how best to maximise the value of what you have within your existing provider.

Verdict

It's a huge time- and effort-saver if you have a non-trivial cloud setup but the company really does need to get more providers on board - it could then be a real winner

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