• 7 min read

Azure Cost Management 2019 year in review

In 2019, Azure Cost Management established a strong foundation that ensures everyone in the organization has a means to report on, control, and optimize costs. Let's take a look at all the changes in 2019 that helped achieve this and what's coming in 2020 to take that to the next level.

When we talk about cost management, we focus on three core tenets:

  1. Ensuring cost visibility so everyone is aware of the financial impact their solutions have.
  2. Driving accountability throughout the organization to stop bad spending patterns.
  3. Continuous cost optimization as your usage changes over time to do more with less.

These were the driving forces in 2019 as we set out to build a strong foundation that pulls together all costs across all account types and ensures everyone in the organization has a means to report on, control, and optimize costs. Our ultimate goal is to empower you to lead a healthier, more financially responsible organization.

All costs behind a single pane of glass

On the heels of the Azure Cost Management preview, 2019 started off strong with the general availability of Enterprise Agreement (EA) accounts in February and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) in April. At the same time, Microsoft as a whole embarked on a journey to modernize the entire commerce platform with the new Microsoft Customer Agreement (MCA), which started rolling out for enterprises in March, pay-as-you-go subscriptions in July, and Cloud Solution Providers (CSP) using Azure plan in November. Whether you get Azure through the Microsoft field, directly from Azure.com, or through a Microsoft partner, you have the power of Azure Cost Management at your fingertips. But getting basic coverage of your Azure usage is only part of the story.

To effectively manage costs, you need all costs together, in a single repository. This is exactly what Azure Cost Management brings you. From the unprecedented ability to monitor Amazon Web Services (AWS) costs within the Azure portal in May (a first for any cloud provider), to the inclusion of reservation and Marketplace purchases in June, Azure Cost Management enables you to manage all your costs from a single pane of glass, whether you're using Azure or AWS.

What's next?

Support for Sponsorship and CSP subscriptions not on an Azure plan are at the top of the list to ensure every Azure subscription can use Azure Cost Management. AWS support will become generally available and then Google Cloud Platform (GCP) support will be added.

Making it easier to report on and analyze costs

Getting all costs in one place is only the beginning. 2019 also saw many improvements that help you report on and analyze costs. You were able to dig in and explore costs with the 2018 preview, but the only way to truly control and optimize costs is to raise awareness of current spending patterns. To that end, reporting in 2019 was focused on making it easier to customize and share.

The year kicked off with the ability to pin customized views to the Azure portal dashboard in January. You could share links in May, save views directly from cost analysis in August, and download charts as an image in September. You also saw a major Power BI refresh in October that no longer required classic API keys and added reservation details and recommendations. Each option helps you not only save time, but also starts that journey of driving accountability by ensuring everyone is aware of the costs they're responsible for.

Looking beyond sharing, you also saw new capabilities like forecasting costs in June and switching between currencies in July, simpler out-of-the-box options like the new date picker in May and invoice details view in September, and changes that simply help you get your job done the way you want to like support for the Azure portal dark theme and continuous accessibility improvements throughout the year.

From an API automation and integration perspective, 2019 was also a critical milestone as EA cost and usage APIs moved to Azure Resource Manager. The Resource Manager APIs are forward-looking and designed to minimize your effort when it comes time to transition to Microsoft Customer Agreement by standardizing terminology across account types. If you haven't started the migration to the Resource Manager APIs, make that your number one resolution for the new year!

What's next?

2020 will continue down this path, from more flexible reporting and scheduling email notifications to general improvements around ease of use and increased visibility throughout the Azure portal. Power BI will get Azure reservation and Hybrid Benefit reports as well as support for subscription and resource group users who don't have access to the whole billing account. You can also expect to see continued API improvements to help make it easier than ever to integrate cost data into your business systems and processes.

Flexible cost control that puts the power in your hands

Once you understand what you're spending and where, your next step is to figure out how to stop the bad spending patterns and keep costs under control. You already know you can define budgets to get notified about and take action on overages. You decide what actions you want to take, whether that be as simple as an email notification or as drastic as deleting all your resources to ensure you won't be charged. Cost control in 2019 was centered on helping you stay on top of your costs and giving you the tools to control spending as you see fit.

This started with a new, consolidated alerts experience in February where you can see all your invoice, credit, and budget overage alerts in a single place. Budgets were expanded to support new account types we talked about above, and to support management groups in June giving you a view of all your costs across subscriptions. Then in August, you were able to create targeted budgets with filters for fine-grained tracking, whether that be for an entire service, a single resource, or an application that spans multiple subscriptions (via tags). This also came with an improved experience when creating budgets to help you better estimate what your budget should be based on historical and forecasted trends.

What's next?

2020 will take cost control to the next level by allowing you to split shared costs with cost allocation rules and define an additional markup for central teams who typically run on overhead or don't want to expose discounts to the organization. We're also looking at improvements around management groups and tags to give you more flexibility to manage costs the way you need to for your organization.

New ways to save and do more with less

Cloud computing comes with a lot of promises, from flexibility and speed to scalability and security. The promise of cost savings is often the driving force behind cloud migrations, yet is also one of the more elusive to achieve. Luckily, Azure delivers new cost optimization opportunities nearly every month! This is on top of the recommendations offered by Azure Advisor, which are specifically tuned to save money on the resources you already have deployed. Here are a few of the over two dozen new cost saving opportunities you saw in 2019:

What's next?

Expect to see continued updates in these areas through 2020. We're also partnering with individual service teams to deliver even more built-in recommendations for database, storage, and PaaS services, just to name a few.

Streamlined account and subscription management

Throughout 2019, you may have noticed a lot of changes to Cost Management + Billing in the Azure portal. What was purely focused on PAYG subscriptions in early 2018 became a central hub for billing administrators in 2019 with full administration for MCA accounts in March, new EA account management capabilities in July, and subscription provisioning and transfer updates in August. All of these are helping you get one step closer to having a single portal to manage every aspect of your account.

What's next?

2020 will be the year of converged and consolidated experiences for Cost Management + Billing. This will start with the Billing and Cost Management experiences within the Azure portal and will expand to include capabilities you're currently using the EA, Account, or Cloudyn portals for today. Whichever portal you use, expect to see all these come together into a single, consolidated experience that has more consistency across account types. This will be especially evident as your account moves from the classic EA, PAYG, and CSP programs to Microsoft Customer Agreement (and Azure plan), which is fully managed within the Azure portal and offers critical new billing capabilities, like finer-grained access control and grouping subscriptions into separate invoices.

Looking forward to another year

The past 12 months have been packed with one improvement after another, and we're just getting started! We couldn't list them all here, but if you only take one thing away, please do check out and subscribe to the Azure Cost Management monthly updates for the latest news on what's changed and what's coming. We've already talked about what you can expect to see in 2020 for each area, but the key takeaway is:

2020 will bring one experience to manage all your Azure, AWS, and GCP costs from the Azure portal, with simpler, yet more powerful cost reporting, control, and optimization tools that help you stay more focused on your mission.

We look forward to hearing your feedback as these new and updated capabilities become available. And if you're interested in the latest features, before they're available to everyone, check out Azure Cost Management Labs (introduced in July) and don’t hesitate to reach out with any feedback. Cost Management Labs gives you a direct line to the Azure Cost Management engineering team and is the best way to influence and make an immediate impact on features being actively developed and tuned for you.

Follow @AzureCostMgmt on Twitter and subscribe to the YouTube channel for updates, tips, and tricks! And, as always, share your ideas and vote up others in the Cost Management feedback forum. See you in 2020!