Cloud cost calculators: Helpful or more cloud hype?

As the cloud computing market gets more crowded, pricing comparisons become more chaotic

You've been to the trade shows. You've listened to the keynote presentations.Y ou've visited the vendor booths to hear the marketing and sales pitches. Great, you've figured out that infrastructure as a service has merit, and you've finally overcome the buzzwordiness of "cloud," "public cloud," and "IaaS."

Now what? What cloud vendor or provider do you look at? If you do a quick search online, you can spend hours or even days going through all of the possibilities. Once you've identified the players in this market, how do you narrow down the list or determine how much the solution is going to cost your company at the end of the day?

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Amazon's EC2 is often held up as the poster child of how to do cloud computing. To its credit, Amazon makes its pricing publicly available online. But the twist here is it can often feel like you need to learn a new language in order to effectively use the online Amazon cloud calculator and get "real" pricing. You might even feel like you need to earn a degree in cloud computing before you start trying to map out your environment and get an accurate estimate of what it will cost you in the end.

Amazon isn't alone in cloud computing pricing chaos. You see, finding an alternative public cloud solution isn't usually the problem. A quick search online will often bring up a host of offerings. However, after clicking on one, you might find that they don't publicly post their pricing, but instead offer you the old "give us a call" technique. Or if they do offer pricing, they may use their own confusing pricing calculator that also comes with a set of new jargon or metrics to learn and understand before you can effectively use it.

What the nascent cloud computing industry needs is a reliable method of easily comparing various cloud offerings to one another in order to move beyond the current pricing chaos that exists today. Right now, these cloud providers are still trying to outmarket one another; because of that, there is no skin in the game for them to push for a standard pricing model. Perhaps chaos and confusion with regard to pricing is an added benefit for them in some strange way in order to get your business.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to paint a doom-and-gloom picture here. Things are improving. While they're not perfect, there are a few tools attempting to clear away some of the fogginess of public cloud pricing. In fact, here are three interesting tools that you might want to take a look at if you find yourself going down this path.

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