Cost Management in the AWS Cloud
AWS Whitepaper

Getting Started with Cost Management

To gain insight and take action on your costs, start with your monthly AWS bill, which is accessible via the AWS Billing and Cost Management console. Your AWS bill breaks down costs by service, AWS Region, and linked account.

Although this is a great place to start for high-level cost information, the AWS Management Console also comprises a suite of billing and cost management tools that give you fine-grain access, understanding, and control over your AWS costs and usage. These tools include AWS Cost Explorer, the AWS Cost and Usage Reports, and AWS Budgets.

AWS Cost Explorer

AWS Cost Explorer helps you visualize, understand, and manage your AWS costs and usage over time. This is done via an intuitive interface that enables you to quickly create custom reports that include charts and tabular data. You can analyze your cost and usage data in aggregate (such as total costs and usage across all accounts) down to granular details (for example, m2.2xlarge costs within the Dev account tagged “project: Blackthorn”).

Cost Explorer gives you data exploration functionality, such as the ability to group and filter your cost and usage information. This can help you quickly and easily access the data you need to make data-driven decisions. You can also change the chart type and time frame, as well as access advanced filters.

When you sign up for Cost Explorer, AWS prepares the data about your costs for the current month and the last 3 months, and then calculates the forecast for the next 3 months. Cost Explorer can display up to 12 months of historical data, data for the current month, and the forecasted costs for the next 3 months.

To help you get started, Cost Explorer provides a selection of default reports to help you pinpoint cost and usage trends. These reports include:

  • Monthly costs by AWS service – Visualize the costs and usage associated with your top five cost-accruing AWS services and get a detailed breakdown on all your services in a table view.

  • Amazon EC2 monthly cost and usage – View all Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) costs over the past three months, as well as current month-to-date costs.

  • Monthly costs by linked account – View the distribution of costs across your organization. To recreate this chart, add Linked Account as the grouping dimension in Cost Explorer.

  • Monthly running costs – See all running costs over the past three months and view forecasted costs for the coming month, with a corresponding confidence interval.

  • Reserved Instance (RI) reports – To learn more about the RI Utilization and Coverage reports, see Reserved Instance (RI) Reporting.

To create and save personalized reports, you can use the following functionality:

  • Set time interval and granularity – Set a custom time interval, and determine whether you would like to view your data monthly or daily.

  • Filter/group your data – Take advantage of filtering and grouping functionality and use a variety of available dimensions.

  • Forecast future costs and usage – Use forecasting to get a better idea of what your costs and usage may look like in the future.

Available filters in Cost Explorer include:

  • API Operation – Requests made to and tasks performed by a service

  • AWS Services – Individual AWS services, such as Amazon EC2 or Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

  • AWS Regions – Geographic areas in which AWS hosts your resources

  • Availability Zones – Distinct locations within an AWS Region

  • Usage Types – The units that each service employs to measure the usage of a specific type of resource

  • Usage Type Groups – Predefined filters that collect specific categories of usage into a single filter (e.g., EC2-ELB – Running Hours)

  • Cost Allocation Tags – AWS resource tags that have been activated for cost allocation

  • Instance Types – The type you specified when launching an EC2 host

  • Linked Accounts – Members of a consolidated billing family

  • Purchase Option – Identify On-Demand, Spot, and Reserved Instance usage

Next, save your progress as a new report that you can refer to later.

AWS Cost and Usage Report

The AWS Cost and Usage Report tracks your AWS usage and provides estimated charges associated with that usage. You can configure this report to present the data hourly or daily. It is updated at least once a day until it is finalized at the end of the billing period. The AWS Cost and Usage Report gives you the most granular insight possible into your costs and usage, and it is the source of truth for the billing pipeline. It can be used to develop advanced custom metrics using business intelligence, data analytics, and third-party cost optimization tools.

The AWS Cost and Usage Report is delivered automatically to an S3 bucket that you specify, and it can be downloaded directly from there (standard S3 storage rates apply). It can also be ingested into Amazon Redshift or uploaded to Amazon QuickSight.

AWS Budgets

AWS Budgets lets you set custom cost and usage budgets and receive alerts when you approach or exceed your budgeted amount. You can create budgets from the AWS Budgets Dashboard or programmatically via the AWS Budgets API. Budgets can track cost or usage monthly, quarterly, or yearly. You can create a budget by using the same filters available in Cost Explorer.

You can monitor budgets via the Budgets Dashboard in the AWS Management Console. For both cost and usage budgets, alerts can be set against actual or forecasted budgeted values.

From there, you can further specify the percent accrual toward the cost or usage threshold. For example, specifying 100% of the actual costs of a $1,000 budget will alert you when the $1,000 threshold is exceeded. Creating a second alert that notifies you when 90% of your $1,000 budget has been reached will give you more time to take proactive measures. You can also supplement these alerts by setting one against forecasted cost or usage values (e.g., 105% of your budgeted value), which will alert you of possible anomalies or changes in behavior.

Each budget can have up to 5 associated alerts. Each alert can have up to 10 email subscribers and can optionally be published to an SNS topic.