Blog   |   Cost Management   |   June 19, 2013

Ice, CloudCheckr, and the Need for AWS Tools

Yesterday, Barb Darrow of GigaOm wrote about Netflix’s Ice, their internal tool for gathering insights into their AWS usage which they made publicly available on Github. As a follow up to the article, Barb asked us via twitter for our thoughts on Ice. We appreciate her invitation and here is our perspective:
We think it’s terrific that Netflix is offering Ice to the AWS community. The offering reinforces our core belief for building CloudCheckr: although AWS offers outstanding benefits, these benefits often require specialized tools to fully realize.
From a functional standpoint, Ice does address one of the core issues of the AWS experience: cost. According to Netflix, Ice “communicates with Amazon’s Programmatic Billing Access and maintains knowledge of the following key AWS entity categories:

• Accounts
• Regions
• Services (e.g. EC2, S3, EBS)
• Usage types (e.g. EC2 – m1.xlarge)
• Cost and Usage Categories (On-Demand, Un-Used, Reserved, etc.)”

These are important concerns for users. The fact that Ice offers some history and trending is also advantageous. CloudCheckr provides all these capabilities plus far more depth into billing and utilization, and across a wider range of services.
Make no mistake – we agree with Netflix that resource cost reporting is essential. However, rather than simply reporting costs, CloudCheckr provides comprehensive usage analysis to enable our users to deploy resources in a way that fully leverage the elasticity of AWS. CloudCheckr not only looks at the resource (as does Ice) but it also analyzes the usage of the resource. The resulting analytics and metrics are then organized to provide detailed reports and utilization heat maps. CloudCheckr also includes sizing and purchasing recommendations. These additional steps are essential to controlling your costs and optimizing your spend over time by deploying exactly what you need.

“CloudCheckr provides comprehensive usage analysis to enable our users to deploy resources in a way that fully leverage the elasticity of AWS.”

On a business standpoint, there are also several factors that users should consider. First, Ice has been built based on how Netflix uses AWS and with their business requirements in mind. Although many users might share similar needs, there will be many more that will need a more comprehensive and flexible solution like CloudCheckr that has been built to incorporate the requirements of more than a thousand companies who use AWS.
Second, Ice is essentially a ‘self-service’ offering. It is difficult to install and run. It is unclear whether Netflix will continually provide updates for Ice. It is plainly clear that Netflix will not be providing dedicated support for Ice. The possible lack of updates and definite lack of dedicated support should be genuine concerns for users as AWS has shown a propensity to continually enhance and revise its own offerings. Users should recognize that Ice, when compared to CloudCheckr, will require far more of their attention to deliver significantly less functionality.
Third, the tool is designed by someone whose core mission, competency, and focus reside elsewhere. Undoubtedly, Netflix possesses a wealth of AWS knowledge. However, its core business is not AWS cost analytics. A client of CloudCheckr has the confidence of knowing that our daily mission is to continuously improve our product and make sure that our clients have best in class capabilities for optimizing their AWS infrastructure.

“Undoubtedly, Netflix possesses a wealth of AWS knowledge. However, its core business is not AWS cost analytics.”

Finally, we at CloudCheckr would also like to note one other key reality of AWS: cost is not the only issue that needs attention for optimization. CloudCheckr recognizes that optimization also requires usage insight and security. With that in mind, CloudCheckr provides hundreds of best practices that identify issues ranging from misconfigured Auto Scaling groups to open permissioned S3 buckets to expiring SSL certificates to wide IP addresses and open ports. CloudCheckr also provides change monitoring and automated email alerts to insure that users are constantly informed and aware of their cost, usage, and security.
We applaud the team at Netflix for making Ice available; it should be a great help to many AWS users. We see great opportunities for innovators in this emerging space, and we are excited to be a part of the growing public cloud ecosystem.

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