Which Cloud Provider Has The Best Tools For Lowering Costs: AWS vs Azure

CloudHealth Tech Staff
Apr. 6, 2020
6 minute read

Due to the speed at which new products are released, it can be hard to keep up with which cloud provider has the best tools for lowering costs: AWS vs Azure. Furthermore, the best tools for one business may not be the best for another depending on the nature of resources deployed and type of cloud environment. 

When it comes to lowering costs, AWS lists ten “tools for reporting and cost optimization” on its website, not including the recently released Resource Optimization Recommendations. By comparison, Azure only lists one—Azure Cost Management. If you were to take the number of available tools as a benchmark, AWS would clearly win a comparison of tools for lowering costs between AWS and Azure. 

However, the Azure Cost Management tool performs multiple tasks, whereas many of the AWS tools duplicate each other’s capabilities. For example, AWS Trusted Advisor, EC2 Rightsizing, and Resource Optimization Recommendations all identify over-provisioned EC2 instances and make rightsizing recommendations based on CloudWatch utilization metrics. So you wouldn’t need all three. 

Furthermore the Azure Cost Management tool is being updated so that businesses using both the Azure and AWS clouds can manage costs via a single dashboard. This capability is currently in private preview; but when it’s released on General Availability, businesses operating in a multi-cloud environment will likely favor this tool in a comparison of native tools for lowering costs between AWS and Azure.

Things change quickly in the cloud

Cloud providers are constantly trying to make cloud cost management easier for businesses. Within the past few years, we’ve seen the launches of AWS’ Cost Explorer, Cost Optimization Monitor, Trusted Advisor, and Resource Optimization Recommendations. At the same time, Microsoft released Azure Advisor, acquired the Cloudyn cost management platform, and now launched Azure Cost Management. 

The reason there are so many tools for lowering costs is that AWS and Azure are constantly launching new products, and businesses using these new products need tools to manage them—not only for costs, but also for performance and security. Cloud providers can’t withdraw the older cost management tools unless they integrate the functions of previous tools into the newer ones, which can make them complicated to use while still leaving gaps in their capabilities.

This is what happened when Microsoft first launched Azure Advisor in 2017. The tool was supposed to optimize costs, lower spending, improve performance speed, and detect security threats and vulnerabilities. Due to its complexity, businesses sometimes found that they were spending more on Azure rather than less; and despite it being pointed out soon after the tool’s launch that it couldn’t find unattached storage disks, the remedy for this issue wasn’t published until earlier this year

Other issues with AWS vs. Azure tools for lowering costs

So, here’s a scenario. Your business has been adhering to Azure Advisor’s recommendations for lowering costs for two years, and all of a sudden the tool finds thousands of unattached storage disks in your inventory. Where did they come from? Why didn’t Azure Advisor notice them before? What other unused resources has your business been paying for (possibly for years) that Azure Advisor overlooked?

Plenty. And it’s not just Microsoft’s tools for lowering costs that have gaps in their capabilities. In our comparison of tools for lowering costs, AWS and Azure were equally as culpable for overlooking resources such as unattached IP addresses, idle load balancers, and aged snapshots. Individually, these resources may not account for a large proportion of your AWS or Azure bill. But, paying for a growing inventory of unused resources over several years can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition to the above, neither cloud providers’ tools for lowering costs recommend applying on/off schedules for non-production resources; and, with regard to Reserved Instances, both cloud providers’ tools tell you when you should spend more on long-term commitments, but never when your long-term commitments are being under-utilized. As one contributor to the Microsoft Azure forum wrote:

“It would be great if the Advisor recommendations included options for cost savings instead of typically only suggesting ways to spend more money.”

Even AWS new Savings Plans have issues

AWS new Savings Plans will be a game-changer for many businesses who previously did not deploy workloads with predictable, steady usage suitable for Reserved Instance purchases, and who can now take advantage of the new discount program. Indeed, due to the superior flexibility of AWS Savings Plans, the new discount program will also appeal to businesses who covered some of their EC2 usage with Reserved Instances, but who didn´t extend their commitments as far as they might have done.

In addition to giving more business the opportunity to lower costs on AWS, Savings Plans can be applied to usage across all accounts within a consolidated business family. This mitigates the chances of a Savings Plan being under-utilized. However, the use of Savings Plans for lowering costs on AWS has to be carefully monitored because—unlike Reserved Instances—it is not possible to sell Savings Plans in the AWS Marketplace if you commit to more than required.  

Learn more about AWS Savings Plans in our free ebook The Ultimate Guide to AWS Savings Plans to help determine which discount program makes most sense for your organization.