We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cloud billing is not a sexy subject. But it is fundamental to any hoster, cloud service provider or telco’s business. You need to bill for what you are delivering. A truly cloud-centric billing system needs to support the following services:
Complex products – cloud computing products can be as simple or as complex as the customer requires. Cloud service providers need a system that can support as much complexity as they choose to provide.
Scalability – the sheer volume of individual items that a cloud service provider needs to bill is significant. It will also continue to grow rapidly as each new service is brought to market and the customer base expands.
Real-time – if the cloud can provision new services in seconds, then the billing system needs to keep up. And with new products, prices, cross-product promotions, introductory offers or new packages to consider, the billing system needs to maintain real-time data on all prices at the time of billing. One way to ensure an unhappy customer (and consequently unhappy support staff) is to generate an invoice that doesn’t reflect the promotion the customer thought they were taking advantage of.
Self-service provisioning – customers need to know what they’re going to pay up-front, and your billing system needs to be able to track every time they provision a new service, check it against current prices and any joint promotions, and generate an invoice accordingly.
Visibility & control – in a public, private or hybrid cloud environment, service providers need complete visibility over how their resources are being used, so that they can bill or monitor effectively. Prior to the cloud, how your resources were being used was generally much more invisible to you, but this was not an issue as customers agreed to pay fixed amounts per month. With cloud billing, you can take the utility model and transparency of the cloud and make it profitable.
Granular billing – with so many components making up a cloud service, the billing system needs to be granular enough to drill down into each component or service and report this back to the customer as and when they need it.
To find out more about how cloud orchestration software can provide the comprehensive requirements of metering and billing, download the white paper “Cloud Billing: Why Cloud Service Providers Need Granular Metering and Billing.”