Understand Azure AppFabric Service Bus Pricing

|  Posted: June 23, 2011  |  Categories: Microsoft Azure

Note: This is not a definitive guide, this is just my understanding based on the research I’ve done and based on response I received from the Microsoft Azure support centre for some of my queries.

If you are planning to use AppFabric Service Bus, there are 3 different charges you need to be aware of

  • AppFabric Service Bus connections (of individual and pack types)
  • AppFabric Access Control transactions
  • Data transfer (in gigabytes)

In this article we’ll try to address in detail about the AppFabric Service Bus charges, some of the terminologies used and slightly touch on Access Control and Data transfer charges.

Pricing:

Let’s start with the advertised pricing for AppFabric Service Bus

  • $3.99 per connection on a “pay-as-you-go” basis
  • Pack of 5 connections $9.95
  • Pack of 25 connections $49.75
  • Pack of 100 connections $199.00
  • Pack of 500 connections $995.00

You can see Service bus pricing comes in 2 flavours, you can either opt in for a “pay as you go” model or you can buy a set of pre-bundled packs (5, 25, 100, and 500). Like any retail pricing model, you get almost 50% discounts for agreeing to prepay a bulk pack. For all the packs the pricing works out $1.99 per connection. The discount doesn’t increase in line with bigger pack.

What is a connection?

This is the most complicated question; you need to find the answer for when it comes to Service Bus.

AppFabric Service Bus runs directly on Azure compute instances; hence it depends on the following resources from the Azure Cloud

  • Compute instance resources,
  • Storage resources, and
  • Networking resources.

The pricing model for the AppFabric Service Bus is like compute and storage pricing. That is, you pay for resources as long as you are using them. “Using them” is the keyword when it comes to cloud pricing model, you pay per usage. For compute/storage nodes, it easy to calculate the usage, as soon as you fire an Azure instance your compute meter will start, as soon as you stored some data in the storage your storage meter will start. But it’s tricky to calculate the usage for Service Bus, since the connection is transient.

At end of the day, the connectivity usage should somehow relate to the usage of underlying infrastructure, i.e compute and storage in the cloud. To keep the pricing model simple, Microsoft consolidated all the underlying resource usage (compute, storage, and network) and come with term called “Connection” to represent a billable unit.

So for service bus, the usage (billing) is calculated on simultaneous concurrent active connection you hold with service bus.

When will a connection be established and charged?

A typical service bus implementation is shown below. To setup an infrastructure like this will go through series of steps like registering your service with service bus, client opening a client channel to connect to the service and accessing the endpoint (ex: http://mysb.servicebus.windows.net/service/adminsvc )

clip_image002

So doing any of the following tasks will result in a connection.

  • Opens a service on a AppFabric Service Bus endpoint
  • Opens a client channel that connects to such a service
  • Makes an HTTP request to any service opened on an AppFabric Service Bus endpoint

There are other scenarios as well like Message buffer, queues and topics released as part of CTP2 which are not considered for this article.

Concurrent (Simultaneous) Connections:

As I mentioned earlier, for AppFabric service bus you only pay for the maximum number of connections that were in simultaneous use on any given day during the billing period. So, it’s important to understand what that simultaneous connection means.

Let’s take this scenario, you decided to try out the Echo sample that comes with the SDK. You setup everything according to the documentation and you got 2 console windows open. One showing the server side messages, and in another console window you are going to type some message and press enter, which is going to get transmitted to your server console, get displayed. The server then responds back the same message which will eventually get displayed on the client console.

clip_image004

In this scenario you open 2 concurrent connections, one from client to AFSB and another from AFSB to server. The important thing to note here is the whole round trip would have taken only few milliseconds, once the message is echoed back on the client, you are not holding any connections to AFSB. Let’s assume you are on 5 connection pack package, and in this scenario you are well within you limit. You can keep executing the sample again and again and again, still you will consume only 2 connections, since your operation is sequential.

Next, let assume you have asked 4 of your friends to open the EchoClient application in their desktops and try out the demo.

clip_image006

When all of you are trying the demo, for majority of the times the connection will be in and out quickly (since our response times are in milliseconds) without overlapping and you may be well within the original 2 connections scenario. But there is lot of possibility you might end up in more than 2 concurrent connections as 4 people are trying to access the end points. In the above picture, you can see there are 2 active concurrent connections on both directions, which will result in 4 connections.

Connection charges are per month, but calculated daily on prorate basis.

Identifying the daily connection charge:

The maximum number of open connections is used to calculate your daily charges. For the purposes of billing, a day is defined as the period from midnight to midnight, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).Each day is divided into 5-minute intervals and for each interval the time-weighted average number of open connections is calculated. The daily maximum of these 5-minute averages is then used to calculate your daily connection charge.

All the above mentioned connection charges (ex: $3.99 for pay-as-you-go and $9.99 for 5 pack are per connection/month charges). It’s interesting how it’s been calculated.

Your time weighted average connections for 5 mins will look something l
ike this. Every second there is “n” number of simultaneous connections.

clip_image008

And TWA (time weighted average) is calculated as

TWA = ((C1*T1)+…+ (Cn*Tn))/(T1+?+Tn)

Or

TWA = ((C1*T1)+….+ (Cn*Tn))/45150

45150 is derived by adding 1+2+3+…300

C ? Connection, T ? Time in seconds during 5 min interval for which connection is active. “n” will be 300 (5 minutes * 60 seconds)

If you want to take a practical example, let’s assume your simultaneous connection range from 0 to 25 during any 5 minute window, using this little program will give you something like 575976 based on the random numbers generated.

int total = 0;

for (int t = 1; t <= 300; t++)

{

Random r = new Random();

int connection = r.Next(1, 25);

total = total + (connection * t);

}

So, your TWA for the above case will be 575976/45150 = 12.75 active connections. This 5 minute interval simultaneous connection will be recorded from midnight to midnight (UTC).

Next step is to calculate the daily prorate charge, which is based on the formula

Cost = (max (TWA1, TWA2,…., TWAn)* Connection Charge)/no.of days in month

Let’s assume 12.75 is the maximum active connection you received in the day, for the month of June (30 days) and you are on a pay-as-you go tariff. Then your bill will be

(12.75 * 3.99)/30 = $1.69 per day

As you can see in this case you it’s cheaper to go on pay-as-you go price rather than paying $1.99/day opting for a 25 connection pack. See Which model is better for me? For another example.

What does “0 Connections” mean?

When you setup a new namespace for Service Bus, you will be provided with the option as shown below to select the “Connection Pack Size”

clip_image010

The list provides an option called “0 Connection”. What it means is, you are going for pay-as-you-go model, which is charged at $3.99/month. Please bear in mind, you need to wait for 7 days in order to make the switch from one pack to another (or other words, pay-as-you-go to pack model).

Service Bus Quotas:

There are capped quotas for the number of namespaces you can create and maximum connection allowed per namespace. The details are taken from http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee732538.aspx. These are very generic numbers, should be sufficient to support even big enterprise requirements safely.

1. The maximum number of service namespaces allowed per Windows Azure AppFabric account is 50.

2. The maximum number of connections allowed per service namespace is 2000.

What will happen if you exceed your pack limit?

I’ve raised support ticket to understand this question; so far this is my understanding.

There is NO explicit cap on the connections. If you got a pack of 5, and your usage crosses the limit, you will automatically be billed for rest of the connection on pay-as-you go rate ($3.99 per connection). This is something customers need to be aware of and watch out for the bills at least for the few initial days.

Which model is better for me?

Whether to go with the pay-as-you go model or connection pack model will depend on your scenario. A classic example: Your business may not have any traffic during certain days (example: weekends). In this case, if you are on a pay-as-you got model you don’t incur any charges for those days. On the other hand if you are on a connection pack, you will be charged on daily prorate rate.

Here is a detailed example:

Let’s assume you expect a daily peak of 15 connections. Without a pack you would get charged at the individual rate: 15 * $3.99 / 30 = $1.995 per day (in a 30 day month). If you use less on a given day (i.e. weekends) you would get charged proportionally less on those days.

Now, if you choose a 25 connection pack, your charge would be 25 * $1.99 / 30 = $1.66 per day (substantially less), but you would get charged this amount even on days where you use less connections or no connections at all. On the upside, if you used more than 15 (but less than 25) connections on some days, your charge would still be $1.66

Data Transfer Charges

Remember the charge we have discussed so far are related to connections. Once the connection is made you are going to transfer some data from A to B (Example in EchoSample: a piece of text you transmit from client to server is data), which will incur the Azure Data transfer charges. The below picture shows at high level where your $ meter will start.

clip_image012

Any data transfer throughout a given Windows Azure platform sub-region is provided at no charge. In the above diagram if all of your communication happens within Azure Data Center #1, then there is no charge.

Any data transfer outside a sub-region is subject to ingress (inbound) or egress (outbound) charges at the Windows Azure platform rates.

In the above diagram, if you use the AppFabric Service Bus to communicate between two Windows Azure applications in the same sub-region, you will not incur data transfer charges. However, if you use the AppFabric Service Bus to communicate between regions or sub-regions; for example, to send data from one Windows Azure application in the North Central sub-region (#1) to another Windows Azure application in the South Central sub-region(#2), you will incur egress charges at North Central rates and ingress charges at South Central rates.

If you use the AppFabric Service Bus to send and not receive data from a Windows Azure application to an application in your own datacenter, you will incur egress charges for your Windows Azure platform usage.

Windows Azure Access Control Charges

We are not going to see in detail about the Access control charges, but this is something you need to be aware of. Normally Azure Service bus endpoints will be protected by access control services. ACS acts like a gate keeper for the end points exposed by the Azure Service bus. So every time you try to communicate with an endpoint, it needs to go through ACS, which will incur separate charges.

Summary

I’ll reiterate here, the above article is based on my own understanding of how AppFabric Service Bus pricing model works. There are lot of confusions around, and still some areas are not clear. Examples:

  • Will having mu
    ltiple end points with different bindings (netTcpRelayBinding, basicHttpRelayBinding) incur additional charges?
  • Will the connection on the server side AFSB to Server kept alive all the time in active state?

Etc. I’m happy to constantly update this article if people got better feedback, or if I’ve made any mistakes.

Nandri
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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