When it comes to cloud billing, identifying the best option to offer your customers can be quite a head scratcher. As a service provider, you need payment for the services you provide (obviously!), and at the same time, you want your customers to have a clear understanding of what they receive in return for payment.
Simple enough I hear you say, but in reality service providers are not in a position to offer such simple cloud billing solutions because it is a much more complicated and expensive process to solve on your own.
During a recent cloud service market survey conducted by us, initial results show that 70% of the respondents are offering their customers self-service provisioning. Though this is an important capability, some 63% of respondents stated that two such important capabilities to offer their customers in the future would be granular metering and granular billing.
But why wait to offer granular metering and billing, when a cloud orchestration solution that incorporates this functionality and self-service provisioning can do the job right now? Cloud customers expect real-time billing, instant sign-up and their bill to be comprehensive, so they can see, line-by-line, what has been used and in what capacity. At the same time cloud providers expect their billing systems to work at scale, instantly reflect new products or promotions, and be up-and-running as quickly as the service itself. Both of these expectations can be met with cloud orchestration.
For the service provider, cloud orchestration can offer:
- Metering – For monitoring which resources (e.g. CPU, RAM, network I/O and disk I/O) are being used.
- Product catalogues – Having the ability to define the various ways of charging for each product on the system.
- Rating – Being able to charge to the metered use by combining it with the relevant product.
- Invoicing – The ultimate need – being able to charge the customer for the service they’ve used.
- Collection – Ability to take payment from the customer.
Famous poet, John Donne said ‘no man is an island’; this applies more so to cloud orchestration software. Even in a total green-field install, no cloud orchestration software contains a full accounts package, so at some point cloud orchestration software must interface with other software, whether that is software to meter, to rate, to produce invoice lines, to invoice, to collect, or simply an accounts package. Similarly, service providers often have existing customer bases to service, or non-cloud products to bill for (for instance dedicated servers or domain names).
Purchasing a cloud orchestration system that cannot interface with your financial systems and/or customer management systems is a mistake.
Cloud orchestration software therefore needs to provide flexible interfaces to integrate with those other systems. Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator can integrate at each of the points mentioned above. In addition, we have recently announced support for ‘out the box’ integration with third party billing systems such as Hostbill and WHMCS and other billing systems through our API.
For more information, read our latest whitepaper on cloud billing