Cloud billing is not a sexy subject. But billing is what keeps our businesses ticking. The challenge many service providers face is how to bill their customers for their cloud services.
Even for private clouds, billing is important. Being able to meter and rate usage, whether it is for internal chargeback or simply to demonstrate what department is using what resources, requires 90% of a billing system; it might not send invoices, but it does the same thing. If you are a service provider offering a ‘wrapped cloud offering’ where one invoice is produced at the end of each month, which is not directly correlated to usage, you still need to know how much it is costing you. So, for just about every application of cloud within service providers, billing really matters.
There are two main types of billing engines in use in service providers that are looking at providing cloud services. These are:
• Hosting billing – This is subscription billing; typically billing a fixed amount each month, on a single bill.
• Telco billing – This type of billing is the sort of billing that your phone company uses, based on CDRs (‘call description records’) which are metered, rated and billed – much like the back page of your phone bill.
I was asked a couple of days ago on Twitter whether I have any thoughts on cloud APIs. I do, and rather too many to put into 140 characters. Probably too many for a blog post, but I’ll try to summarise how I think APIs can affect a Service Provider’s choice of cloud platform.
An API is the licensee’s route to interoperability and extensibility. We are big fans of open systems, and interoperability and extensibility in particular, so we are in general big fans of APIs. And that means both our own, and interoperating with other API designs where it’s sensible to do so. The rest of this article should be read in that context.
Ok, only one particular type of cloud – snow clouds. We haven’t been able to get into to our offices since Monday due to snow (up to four feet in places). Many of our staff can’t actually get out of their houses. Our intrepid operations director, Tabs, attempted to reach the office today, but had to turn back, so we don’t even have any photos to post. Whilst we can all dial in from home, it’s not an ideal situation. So this is one type of cloud we wish would go away.