Azure pricing, make sure you know what you are doing – Lessons learnt

|  Posted: July 19, 2012  |  Categories: Microsoft Azure
Tags: Azure Pricing

As you can see from the below picture, this is the bill we are going to pay for this month around £216.78 and we can see this growing by roughly £1.5 every hour.

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Even though it’s manageable amount you need to be aware things can go out of your control very soon. Still lot of the terminologies are fairly new and it’s very easy to make some wrong assumptions or ignorant of small setting that can cost you without you needing that functionality.

We were so excited when Microsoft announced their IaaS offering last month and we did lot of experiment and blogged quite a bit here

Let me try to explain the things, we learned and hopefully shed some light on people in similar situation to potentially save them some money.

MSDN and BizSpark offers:

Microsoft provides some great free offers for MSDN Subscribers, Microsoft Partners, BizSpark Members and Website Spark member (see the full details here). If you happened to be lucky enough (like us!) to obtain more than one offer, make sure you activate them separately by visiting the corresponding link.

For MSDN click here:

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For BizSpark click here:

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Activation will create individual subscriptions with it’s own subscription id each with the limits specified in the above link/picture. One important thing you need to remember here is they are not consolidated, you need to stick within the limits of each subscription. This is fine, but the new portal won’t show it clearly. In the old portal, when you click on subscriptions you can see the below details

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You can clearly spot the problem, we were creating all the instances within a single subscription and exceeding the quota in one subscription and not using anything on the other subscription. The new portal is still in preview mode (BETA), hopefully things should get better.

Do you need Geo Redundancy?

Depending on the nature of what you are doing, it may not be required to enable Geo redundancy, which basically copies your blob storage data to remote data centres for redundancy. In our case 70% of the resources (VM instances VHD) files are used more for experiment/learning and testing purposes. So, it’s not really a big matter if we lose some storage. When you create a new VM (using the preview portal), select the default storage allocation, by default Geo Redundancy is enabled. You can easily switch it off by going to Storage> <Your Blob Account> and selecting “Configure” as shown below

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Understand the terminology

Since there are tons of new things happening in this Azure/Cloud space and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the reading, it’s so easy to assume something wrong. At least that’s what happened to us. This may be complete ignorance, but it cost us money.

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With all the free offers we subscribed for, it’s very easy to get confused with the above chart details. The graph says we used 35% of 20 cores. The 20 cores is not your free or subscription allowance, but that’s actually the maximum soft limit set per subscription. You need to pay for every core you are using above your free offer. You can increase this limit by raising a support request, if you got a bigger implementation. This is where things went completely wrong for us, we assumed we got 20 free cores to use as part of our various MSDN/BizSpark offer.

Watch your Hard disk VHD blob storage

Every time you create a virtual machine via the new preview portal, it’s going to create a .VHD file with 30GB. In some case, when you encounter some error in the portal, there is a good chance the .VHD file is already created and sitting in your storage account. The biggest issue here is, the portal (both old and new) won’t show you the contents of the blob account, you need to use the rest api, powershell (may be) or some third party tool like Cerebrata. In our case this is how it is looking

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There are large number of 30GB files, total of nearly 1 terabyte. We are still not able to delete some of them, looks like its been referenced somewhere and not releasing the lease. We raised a support call. With this huge size and Geo location easily added to our monthly bill.

Watch out your allowance carefully?

With both MSDN/BizSpark, you get 1500 small compute instance hours. A month is roughly 750 hours, so basically you get 2 small compute instance per month free for your MSDN Ultimate subscription. The minimum size for new VM’s is “small”, so if you have created 2 of them, they you are right at the edge.

You also need to watch out the free storage allocation, which is 45GB. A single VM will consume 30GB straight out of the box as we have seen earlier. So creating couple of VM’s will automatically take you to pay something.

Summary

There is nothing wrong in the pricing, as long as  you are aware what you are up to. So better be cautious and be preaparred. It’s worth checking your accounts periodically, at least once a week till you settled down to avoid any big surprises.

/Saravana Kumar

Author: Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CTO of BizTalk360, an enterprise software that acts as an all-in-one solution for better administration, operation, support and monitoring of Microsoft BizTalk Server environments.

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