Rackspace adds much-needed budget management tools to OpenStack

Cloud Cruiser's financial management solution for OpenStack on Rackspace provides insights into usage, billing, chargebacks, and demand forecasting

The hardest part about creating a private cloud isn't creating it, but managing it, and sometimes the hardest management tasks aren't the technical ones, but the budgetary ones. How much of this cloud is actually getting used, and to what end?

Cloud Cruiser has been answering that question since around 2011, when it first invited companies to try out its cloud computing chargeback and usage management solution. Now it's making that solution available to OpenStack users on the Rackspace Private Cloud.

Rackspace Private Cloud is an edition of the core version of OpenStack, which Rackspace originally released in August 2012 for free. Rackspace's plan has been to offer for-pay services and support, and Cloud Cruiser is a logical extension of that strategy because it's precisely the kind of enhanced functionality someone with a professional use for OpenStack would be willing to pay for. Right now, support is only provided for Cloud Cruiser's software by Cloud Cruiser itself, not through Rackspace.

Cloud Cruiser's software adds four key financial management tools to Rackspace Private Cloud's OpenStack: showback/chargeback, service consumption analysis, profit/loss management, and demand forecasting. All of these tools can be used across one's whole organization or within (or across) individual business units.

Custom reports can also be built through a Web-based system, something Cloud Cruiser has demonstrated in a video overview of the product. But reports can also be analyzed through Excel via a provided data connector, which ought to make most any bean counter happy since it means not giving up one of the most cherished tools of the trade. Data can also be pulled or pushed via REST APIs into other systems, such as a general ledger.

Another API available through the product allows automatic budgeting or allocation of resources. If, for instance, a given department has maxed out its usage for the month, any requests from that department for expanded resources would get automatically turned down.

Nick van der Zweep, Cloud Cruiser's VP of Products, explained how one of Cloud Cruiser's main classes of customer is companies that have been forced to build their own bespoke chargeback or accounting systems for their clouds -- typically thrown together to yank data into (what else?) Excel.

"These [companies] are our biggest opportunities," van der Zweep told me, "because they end up sending so many people on a team to build a chargeback system. We can walk in and have it done in a matter of hours or days."

One possible future wrinkle is what happens when competition arises for Cloud Cruiser -- not just in the form of another commercial product, but in the form of a new open source OpenStack module designed to cover all this territory. The closest existing commercial competition probably comes in the form of Red Hat's CloudForms, although again, that's tied tightly into Red Hat's own OpenStack offerings. The real upset would come when -- or if -- a true open source version of a billing/chargeback solution gets contributed to OpenStack as part of the core product.

This story, "Rackspace adds much-needed budget management tools to OpenStack," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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