FRAMINGHAM, 1 MARCH 2011 - As more companies shift more work to the cloud, they are struggling with a new financial problem, namely how to accurately charge business units for use of the cloud services.
Cloud Cruiser hopes to help solve that problem. It is inviting companies to test its offering, which tracks the use of services that may be hosted internally, in an external hosted environment or in a public cloud.
Companies that use the product "know how much a workload costs and they know at a granular level who is using that workload and then they can make decisions to optimize costs," said Dave Zabrowski, founder and CEO of Cloud Cruiser.
Customers will be able to choose to use the Cloud Cruiser product as a hosted service, or buy it and run it internally.
The Cloud Cruiser software tracks usage by collecting machine usage data from resources that can include storage and networking as well as cloud services. It matches that data with individual users based on LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) information.
The software can also match usage based on IP address, which could be helpful if a user wants to view the total cost profile of one data center, for instance.
So-called chargebacks are becoming an important issue as IT departments figure out how to distribute the cost of cloud services among different user groups. While some services are easy to attribute to some user groups, others are more challenging.
Microsoft CIO Tony Scott recently talked about the way his company handles chargebacks. Because it's typically difficult or expensive to attribute the use of resources such as network bandwidth and storage to individual users, Microsoft simply charges groups by dividing the cost of those resources by the number of workers, he said.
That's traditionally the way that IT services are charged to business units, said Sandra Palumbo, an analyst at Yankee Group. Companies have begun tracking individual employee use of cloud services, but usually only if the service they are using offers that ability, she said. "The problem is, it has become something that is done on a service-by-service basis, not holistically," she said.
Detailed usage tracking is important not just to charge the appropriate business unit, she said. It also helps IT managers look for ways to cut costs, either by choosing different service providers or negotiating with existing providers.
With Cloud Cruiser, an IT administrator can view a variety of reports. For instance, an administrator can see a chart of the top ten users of resources by business division. The administrator can then drill down in each business division to see which resources individual employees are using.
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