How metrics tracking and billing can improve your OpenStack cloud

    Posted by John Meadows, Talligent

    [Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by John Meadows of Talligent, the developer of the OpenBook billing solution for the OpenStack platform. Want to post a guest post? Contact Nick Chase .]

    This post describes best practices for improving the use of the OpenStack cloud. OpenStack deployment productivity may be limited for the following reasons: 1) lack of control and automation, leading to inefficient use of resources; and 2) poor visual accessibility of key indicators, leading to planning difficulties. Self-service automation, reporting, and billing are three key steps to increasing productivity and managing the competitive OpenStack cloud.

    If you cannot measure something, you cannot control it.

    OpenStack-based on-demand provisioning is a skillful compromise. On the one hand, customers expect instant and automatic provision of IT services (given their experience with AWS, etc.). On the other hand, IT managers must maintain high performance in order to compete with public cloud offerings. An increase in the staff of OpenStack specialists who would respond to user requests manually increases the total cost of the cloud, while at the same time reducing the competitiveness and responsiveness of requests. High efficiency and flexibility required are inversely correlated. In an effective cloud solution, a balance must be struck between the intensive use of resources and the needs of customers for an operational response and ensuring the necessary performance.

    As the saying goes, if you cannot measure something, you cannot control it. OpenStack has its own measurement project called OpenStack Telemetry (Ceilometer), but it has limited built-in capabilities for reporting cloud usage, billing / actual cost accounting using the chargeback method (charging costs for services provided by the IT department to determine their cost and accounting consumption by organizational units), preservation of record history and financial planning. IT administrators must otherwise rely on a disaggregated set of data points, queries, spreadsheets, and resource usage reports at a particular point in time.

    Cloud ready for work

    So, what processes and controls are needed to run an effective cloud on demand? Our customers succeed with the following general steps:
    1. Automate customer self-service.
    2. Planning for reporting on key performance indicators.
    3. Implementation of appropriate billing (or, in the case of organizations, charging costs using the chargeback method or tracking costs using the showback method).

    Customer Self-Service Automation

    Self-service automation eliminates the need for recruiting staff to manually process user requests. The standard implementation of the self-service system includes, at a minimum, a client portal where you can see the charges, levels, quotas and provided resources; integration with Keystone for user administration at the project level; and also the flow of operations for routing requests for quotas for approval by the manager (if necessary).

    With support for self-service and automatic provisioning of resources, the operation of the OpenStack cloud is similar to the operation of a public cloud. Clients' expectations are met, responsiveness is improved, SLA indicators are improved, fewer staff are required. Efficiency will also increase, as users will better understand why they are accrued and what leverage needs to be strengthened or weakened in accordance with their project requirements and affordable budget. Moreover, quotas can be limited if users can more easily adapt to changing project needs.

    Key Performance Indicator Planning

    Who are your biggest tenants? What types of workload are used? Does your cloud meet SLA requirements? KPI reporting plays a key role for managers at all levels to make informed decisions about cloud development, such as how and when to add resources, create new services, change prices, and move to a new level of workload. The OpenStack Ceilometer project provides a short-term collection of detailed measurement data, but is not a system for long-term storage of record history and does not provide visual accessibility of reports for making such types of decisions.

    Detailed reporting on tenant workloads can help managers better balance this workload and plan development. Certain applications or workloads may make more economic sense when deployed to a third-party cloud. Acquiring additional capacity for a rare seasonal workload can be costly and lead to a general decrease in efficiency. Computing nodes, which are added at peak load and can be used only 5% of the time, are your most expensive cloud resource because they are not depreciated when working at peak load.

    Implementing appropriate billing

    A public cloud requires a reliable billing solution that provides a return on investment in the cloud. Chargeback is a mechanism for distributing private cloud resources. The automatic provision of resources without billing or charging by the chargeback method can lead to demand that quickly exceeds available resources and leads to the tragedy of public resources . Free, easily provided resources can quickly be exhausted to such an extent that IT managers will either have to purchase additional hardware, the cost of which will go far beyond the allocated budget, or put up with poor quality of service.

    The billing solution should be flexible, allowing service providers to quickly adapt to changing competitor offers and customer requirements. Customer needs are changing at tremendous speed; you need a solution that does not bind you to a specific configuration and does not limit the types of billed items. Key questions to answer: How do you want to promote new cloud offerings? Will there be discounts, special prices and the possibility of savings due to prepayment? Will you offer cloud solutions in different currencies, or will you need to monitor local tax rates?

    For a public cloud, using the chargeback method can be strategically complex because you will need to obtain the consent of the company's management, as well as accurate tracking of the performance of individual projects, structural units or geographical locations. A milder approach is to start using a showback report to determine the level of resource consumption by various tenants and projects. IT customers will begin to understand their impact on the environment, and management will have time to prepare budgets for real-time cost accounting in the future using the chargeback method.

    Final goal

    Clients should be able to proactively manage their resources so as not to get cost overruns at the end of the month. To do this, they need, inter alia, a mechanism that would allow them to view accrued expenses for an incomplete billing cycle, notify about thresholds, set clear quotas and restrictions, and also make it possible to adjust resource requirements accordingly.

    All of this requires software that provides the visual accessibility and control necessary to maintain high operational efficiency, as well as the flexibility of billing to meet constantly changing customer requirements and market conditions. John Meadows is a Business Development Assistant at Talligent.

    , the developer of the OpenBook billing solution for the OpenStack platform.

    OpenBook makes it easy to create detailed tariff plans for various types of tenants, usage patterns and reseller levels of cloud solutions. Clients can study their consumption indicators in detail and make appropriate changes to IT resources (within the framework of their existing conditions). OpenBook is integrated with Horizon and Keystone components of the OpenStack platform to support user self-service while managing cloud resources.

    Original article in English .

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