READING TIME -1 HOUR
Module 4 – Azure Pricing and Support
- Lesson 1 – Azure subscriptions
- Lesson 2 – Planning and managing costs
- Lesson 3 – Support options available with Azure
- Lesson 4 – Azure Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
- Lesson 5 – Service lifecycle in Azure
- Understand and describe Microsoft Azure subscriptions and management groups.
- Recognize ways to plan and manage Azure costs.
- Identify Azure support options.
- Understand and describe features of Azure service-level agreements (SLAs).
- Understand and describe the service lifecycle in Azure.
Lesson 1 – Azure subscriptions
- Using Azure requires an Azure subscription, which provides you with authenticated and authorized access to Azure products and services, and allows you to provision resources.
- An Azure subscription is a logical unit of Azure services that links to an Azure account, which is an identity in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) or in a directory that an Azure AD trusts.
Azure offers free and paid subscription options to suit different needs and requirements. An account can have one subscription or multiple subscriptions that have different billing models and to which you apply different access-management policies.
Subscription Uses and Options
You can use Azure subscriptions to define boundaries around Azure products, services, and resources. There are two types of subscription boundaries that you can use, including:
- Billing boundary. This subscription type determines how an Azure account is billed for using Azure. You can create multiple subscriptions for different types of billing requirements, and Azure will generate separate billing reports and invoices for each subscription so that you can organize and manage costs.
- Access control boundary. Azure will apply access-management policies at the subscription level, and you can create separate subscriptions to reflect different organizational structures. An example is that within a business, you have different departments to which you apply distinct Azure subscription policies. This allows you to manage and control access to the resources that users provision with specific subscriptions.
You can select from a range of Azure subscription options, including:
- A free account. This subscription is for 30 days and includes a $200 credit. This allows you unlimited access to the free Azure products and then a limit of $200 to spend on the paid products. Your Azure services are disabled when the trial ends or when your credit expires for paid products, unless you upgrade to a paid subscription.
- Pay-As-You-Go. This subscription allows you to pay for what you use by attaching a credit or debit card to your account. Organizations can apply to Microsoft for invoicing privileges.
- Member offers. Your existing membership to certain Microsoft products and services affords you credits for your Azure account and reduced rates on Azure services. For example, member offers are available to Microsoft Visual Studio subscribers, Microsoft Partner Network members, Microsoft BizSpark members, and Microsoft Imagine members.
- Azure Management Groups are containers for managing access, policies, and compliance across multiple Azure subscriptions.
- Management groups allow you to order your Azure resources hierarchically into collections, which provides a further level of classification that is above the level of subscriptions.
- You can manage your Azure subscriptions more effectively by using Azure Policy and Azure role-based access controls (RBACs).
- These provide distinct governance conditions that you can apply to each management group.
- The resources and subscriptions you assign to a management group automatically inherit the conditions that you apply to that management group.
- The organizing structure for resources in Azure has four levels: Management groups, subscriptions, resource groups, and resources.
- The following image shows the relationship of these levels i.e. the hierarchy of organization for the various objects
- Management groups:
- These are containers that help you manage access, policy, and compliance for multiple subscriptions.
- All subscriptions in a management group automatically inherit the conditions applied to the management group.
- A subscription groups together user accounts and the resources that have been created by those user accounts.
- For each subscription, there are limits or quotas on the amount of resources you can create and use.
- Organizations can use subscriptions to manage costs and the resources that are created by users, teams, or projects.
- Resource groups:
- A resource group is a logical container into which Azure resources like web apps, databases, and storage accounts are deployed and managed.
- Resources are instances of services that you create, like virtual machines, storage, or SQL databases
Lesson 2 – Planning and managing costs
Purchasing Azure Products and Services
There are three main customer types on which the available purchasing options for Azure products and services is contingent, including:
- Enterprise customers sign an Enterprise Agreement with Azure that commits them to spending a negotiated amount on Azure services, which they typically pay annually.
- Enterprise customers also have access to customized Azure pricing.
- Web direct.
- Web Direct customers sign up for Azure through the Azure website.
- Web direct customers pay general public prices for Azure resources, and their monthly billing and payments occur through the Azure website.
- Cloud Solution Provider.
- Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) typically are Microsoft partner companies that a customer hires to build solutions on top of Azure.
- Payment and billing for Azure usage occurs through the customer’s CSP.
- Products and services in Azure are arranged by category, which have various resources that you can provision.
- You select the Azure products and services that fit your requirements, and your account is billed according to Azure’s pay-for-what-you-use model.
- When you provision an Azure resource, Azure creates one or more meter instances for that resource.
- The meters track the resources’ usage, and each meter generates a usage record that is used to calculate your bill.
For example, a single virtual machine that you provision in Azure might have the following meters tracking its usage:
- Compute Hours
- IP Address Hours
- Data Transfer In
- Data Transfer Out
- Standard Managed Disk
- Standard Managed Disk Operations
- Standard IO-Disk
- Standard IO-Block Blob Read
- Standard IO-Block Blob Write
- Standard IO-Block Blob Delete
Azure Free Account
An Azure free account provides subscribers with a $200 Azure credit that they can use for paid Azure products during a 30-day trial period. Once you use that $200 credit or reach your trial’s end, Azure suspends your account unless you sign up for a paid account.
- If you upgrade to a Pay-As-You-Go subscription within the 30-day trial period, by providing your credit or debit card details, you can use a limited selection of free services for 12 months.
- After 12 months, you will be billed for the services and products in use on your account at the pay-as-you-go rate.
Factors Affecting Costs
The following sections describe the main factors that affect Azure costs, including resource type, services, and the user’s location.
- Costs are resource-specific, so the usage that a meter tracks and the number of meters associated with a resource depend on the resource type.
- Note: Each meter tracks a particular kind of usage. For example, a meter might track bandwidth usage (ingress or egress network traffic in bits-per-second), number of operations, size (storage capacity in bytes), or similar items.
- The usage that a meter tracks correlates to a quantity of billable units.
- Those are charged to your account for each billing period, and the rate per billable unit depends on the resource type you are using.
- Azure usage rates and billing periods can differ between Enterprise, Web Direct, and Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) customers.
- Some subscription types also include usage allowances, which affect costs.
- The Azure team develops and offers first-party products and services, while products and services from third-party vendors are available in the Azure marketplace.
- Different billing structures apply to each of these categories.
- The Azure infrastructure is globally distributed, and usage costs might vary between locations that offer particular Azure products, services, and resources.
- For example, you might want to build your Azure solution by provisioning resources in locations that offer the lowest prices, but this would require transferring data between locations, if dependent resources and their users are located in different parts of the world.
- If there are meters tracking the volume of data that transfers between the resources you provision, any potential savings you make from choosing the cheapest location could be offset by the additional cost of transferring data between those resources.
Zones for Billing Purposes
- Bandwidth refers to data moving in and out of Azure datacenters.
- Some inbound data transfers, such as data going into Azure datacenters, are free.
- For outbound data transfers, such as data going out of Azure datacenters, data transfer pricing is based on Zones.
A Zone is a geographical grouping of Azure Regions for billing purposes. the following Zones exist and include the sample regions as listed below:
- Zone 1 – West US, East US, Canada West, West Europe, France Central and others…
- Zone 2 – Australia Central, Japan West, Central India, Korea South and others…
- Zone 3 – Brazil South
- DE Zone 1 – Germany Central, Germany Northeast
- Note: To avoid confusion, be aware that a Zone for billing purposes is not the same as an Availability Zone. In Azure, the term Zone is for billing purposes only, and the full term Availability Zone refers to the failure protection that Azure provides for datacenters.
- The Pricing Calculator is a tool that helps you estimate the cost of Azure products.
- It displays Azure products in categories, and you choose the Azure products you need and configure them according to your specific requirements.
- Azure then provides a detailed estimate of the costs associated with your selections and configurations.
Note: The pricing calculator provides estimates, not actual price quotes. Actual prices may vary depending upon the date of purchase, the payment currency you are using, and the type of Azure customer you are.
- Get a new estimate from the pricing calculator by adding, removing, or reconfiguring your selected products.
- You also can access pricing details, product details, and documentation for each product from the pricing calculator
The options that you can configure in the pricing calculator vary between products, but basic configuration options include:
- Lists the regions from which you can provision a product. Southeast Asia, central Canada, the western United States, and Northern Europe are among the possible regions available for some resources.
- Sets the type of tier you wish to allocate to a selected resource, such as Free Tier, Basic Tier, etc.
- Billing Options.
- Highlights the billing options available to different types of customer and subscriptions for a chosen product.
- Support Options:
- Allows you to pick from included or paid support pricing options for a selected product.
- Programs and Offers.
- Allows you to choose from available price offerings according to your customer or subscription type.
- Azure Dev/Test Pricing.
- Lists the available development and test prices for a product. Dev/Test pricing applies only when you run resources within an Azure subscription that is based on a Dev/Test offer.
Note: For more information about the pricing calculator, refer to Pricing Calculator.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator
- The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator is a tool that you use to estimate cost savings you can realize by migrating to Azure.
- To use the TCO calculator, complete the three steps that the following sections explain.
Step 1: Define your workloads
Enter details about your on-premises infrastructure into the TCO calculator according to four groups:
- Servers. Enter details of your current on-premises server infrastructure.
- Databases. Enter details of your on-premises database infrastructure in the Source section. In the Destination section, select the corresponding Azure service you would like to use.
- Storage. Enter the details of your on-premises storage infrastructure.
- Networking. Enter the amount of network bandwidth you currently consume in your on-premises environment.
Step 2: Adjust assumptions
Adjust the values of key assumptions that the TCO calculator makes, which might vary between customers. To improve the accuracy of the TCO calculator, you should adjust the values so they match the costs of your current on-premises infrastructure. The assumption values you can adjust include:
- Storage costs
- IT labor costs
- Hardware costs
- Software costs
- Electricity costs
- Virtualization costs
- Datacenter costs
- Networking costs
- Database costs
Step 3: View the report
- The TCO calculator generates a detailed report based on the details you enter and the adjustments you make.
- The report allows you to compare the costs of your on-premises infrastructure with the costs using Azure products and services to host your infrastructure in the cloud.
Note: For more information about the TCO Calculator, refer to Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator.
The following best practice guidelines can help minimize your Azure costs.
Perform cost analyses
- Plan your Azure solution wisely. Carefully consider the products, services, and resources you need, and read the relevant documentation to understand how each of your choices are metered and billed.
- Additionally, you should calculate your projected costs by using the Azure Pricing and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculators, only adding the products, services, and resources you need.
Monitor usage with Azure Advisor
- In an efficient architecture, provisioned resources match the demand for those resources.
- The Azure Advisor feature identifies unused or under-utilized resources, and you can implement its recommendations by removing unused resources and configuring your resources to match your actual demand.
- Note: For more information about Azure Advisor, refer to Azure Advisor.
Use spending limits
- Free trial customers and some credit-based Azure subscriptions can use the Spending Limits feature.
- Azure provides the Spending Limits feature to help prevent you from exhausting the credit on your account within each billing period.
- If you have a credit-based subscription and you reach your configured spending limit, Azure suspends your subscription until a new billing period begins.
- The spending limit feature is not available for customers who aren’t using credit-based subscriptions, such as Pay-As-You-Go subscribers.
Note: For more information on Azure spending limits, refer to Understand Azure spending limit and how to remove it.
Note: Azure spending limits are not the same as Subscription, Service, or Resource Group limits and quotas. For more information, refer to Azure subscription and service limits, quotas, and constraints.
Use Azure Reservations
- Azure Reservations offer discounted prices on certain Azure products and resources.
- To get a discount, you reserve products and resources by paying in advance.
- You can pre-pay for one year or three years of use of Virtual Machines, SQL Database Compute Capacity, Azure Cosmos Database Throughput, and other Azure resources.
- Azure Reservations are only available to Enterprise or CSP customers and for Pay-As-You-Go subscriptions.
Note: For more information on Azure Reservations, refer to What are Azure Reservations?
Choose low-cost locations and regions
- The cost of Azure products, services, and resources can vary across locations and regions, and if possible, you should use them in those locations and regions where they cost less.
- Note: Some resources are metered and billed according to how much outgoing network bandwidth they consume (egress). You should provision connected resources that are bandwidth metered in the same region to reduce egress traffic between them.
Research available cost-saving offers
- Keep up-to-date with the latest Azure customer and subscription offers, and switch to offers that provide the greatest cost-saving benefit.
- Go to the Azure Updates page for information about the latest updates to Azure products, services, and features, as well as product roadmaps and announcements.
Apply tags to identify cost owners
- Tags help you manage costs associated with the different groups of Azure products and resources.
- You can apply tags to groups of Azure products and resources to organize billing data.
- For example, if you run several virtual machines for different teams, you can use tags to categorize costs by department, such as Human Resources, Marketing, or Finance, or by environment, such as Production or Test.
- Tags make it easy to identify groups that generate the biggest Azure costs, so you can adjust your spending accordingly.
- Note: For more information about tags, refer to Use tags to organize your Azure resources.
Azure Cost Management
Cost Management is an Azure product that provides a set of tools for monitoring, allocating, and optimizing your Azure costs.
The main features of the Azure Cost Management toolset include:
- Reporting. Generate reports using historical data to forecast future usage and expenditure.
- Data enrichment. Improve accountability by categorizing resources with tags that correspond to real-world business and organizational units.
- Budgets. Create and manage cost and usage budgets by monitoring resource demand trends, consumption rates, and cost patterns.
- Alerting. Get alerts based on your cost and usage budgets.
- Recommendations. Receive recommendations to eliminate idle resources and to optimize the Azure resources you provision.
- Price. Free to Azure customers.
- Note: For more information about Cost Management, refer to Cost Management.
Lesson 3 – Support options available with Azure
Support Plan Options
Every Azure subscription includes free access to the following basic support services:
- Billing and subscription support.
- Azure products and services documentation.
- Online self-help documentation.
- Community support forums.
Paid Azure support plans
Microsoft offers four paid Azure support plans for customers who require technical and operational support. Providing different Azure support options allows Azure customers to choose a plan that best fits their needs.
The following descriptions explain how Azure paid support plans extend the free basic support services.
Support-plan availability and billing
- The support plans you can select and how you are billed for support depends on the type of Azure customer you are, and on the type of Azure subscription you have.
- For example, Developer support is not available to Enterprise customers.
- Enterprise customers can purchase Standard, Professional Direct, and Premier support plans, and be billed for support as part of an Enterprise Agreement (EA).
- Alternatively, if you purchase a support plan within a pay-as-you-go subscription, your support plan is charged to your monthly Azure subscription bill.
Alternative Support Channels
Lesson 4 – Azure Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
- Microsoft maintains its commitment to providing customers with high-quality products and services by adhering to comprehensive operational policies, standards, and practices.
- Formal documents known as Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) capture the specific terms that define the performance standards that apply to Azure.
- SLAs describe Microsoft’s commitment to providing Azure customers with certain performance standards.
- There are SLAs for individual Azure products and services.
- SLAs also specify what happens if a service or product fails to perform to a governing SLA’s specification.
SLAs for Azure Products or Services
There are three key characteristics of SLAs for Azure products and services, which the following sections detail.
1.Performance Targets, Uptime and Connectivity Guarantees
- A SLA defines performance targets for an Azure product or service. The performance targets that a SLA defines are specific to each Azure product and service.
- For example, performance targets for some Azure services are expressed in terms of uptime or connectivity rates.
2.Performance targets range from 99.9 percent to 99.99 percent
- A typical SLA specifics performance-target commitments that range from 99.9 percent (“three nines”) to 99.99 percent (“four nines”), for each corresponding Azure product or service.
- These targets can apply to such performance criteria as uptime, or response times for services.
- For example, the SLA for the Azure Database for MySQL service guarantees 99.99 percent uptime.
- The Azure Cosmos DB (Database) service SLA offers 99.99 percent uptime, which includes low-latency commitments of less than 10 milliseconds on DB read operations and less than 15 milliseconds on DB write operations.
- SLAs also describe how Microsoft will respond if an Azure product or service fails to perform to its governing SLA’s specification.
- For example, customers may have a discount applied to their Azure bill, as compensation for an under-performing Azure product or service. The table below explains this example in more detail.
- The first column in the table below shows monthly uptime percentage SLA targets for a single instance Azure Virtual Machine. The second column shows the corresponding service credit amount you receive, if the actual uptime is less than the specified SLA target for that month.
- When combining SLAs across different service offerings, the resultant SLA is a called a Composite SLA.
- The resulting composite SLA can provide higher or lower uptime values, depending on your application architecture.
Consider an App Service web app that writes to Azure SQL Database. At the time of this writing, these Azure services have the following SLAs:
- App Service Web Apps is 99.95 percent.
- SQL Database is 99.99 percent
Maximum downtime you would expect for this example application
- In the example above, if either service fails the whole application will fail.
- In general, the individual probability values for each service are independent. However, the composite SLA value for this application is:
99.95 percent × 99.99 percent = approx 99.94 percent
- This means the combined probability of failure value is lower than the individual SLA values.
- This isn’t surprising, because an application that relies on multiple services has more potential failure points.
Conversely, you can improve the composite SLA by creating independent fallback paths. For example, if SQL Database is unavailable, you can put transactions into a Queue for processing at a later time.
With the design shown in the image above, the application is still available even if it can’t connect to the database. However, it fails if both the SQL Database and the Queue fail simultaneously. If the expected percentage of time for a simultaneous failure is 0.0001 × 0.001, i.e. (1.0 – 0.9999) x (1.0 – 0.999), the composite SLA for this combined path would be:
Database *OR* Queue = 1.0 − (0.0001 × 0.001) = 99.99999 percent
Therefore, the total composite SLA is:
Web app *AND* (Database *OR* Queue) = 99.95 percent × 99.99999 percent = ~ 99.95 percent
However, there are tradeoffs to using this approach such as, the application logic is more complex, you are paying for the queue, and there may be data-consistency issues which you need to consider.
Improving Application SLAs
- Azure customers can use SLAs to evaluate how their Azure solutions meet their business requirements and the needs of their clients and users.
- By creating your own SLAs, you can set performance targets to suit your specific Azure application. This is an Application SLA.
Understand your requirements
- Building an efficient and reliable Azure solution requires knowing your workload requirements.
- You then can select Azure products and services, and provision resources according to those requirements.
- To apply your solution successfully, it is important to understand the Azure SLAs that define performance targets for the Azure products and services within your solution. This understanding will help you create achievable Application SLAs.
- In a distributed system, failures will happen. Hardware can fail. The network can have transient failures. It is rare for an entire service or region to experience a disruption, but even this must be planned for.
- Resiliency is the ability of a system to recover from failures and continue to function. It’s not about avoiding failures, but responding to failures in a way that avoids downtime or data loss.
- The goal of resiliency is to return the application to a fully functioning state following a failure.
- High availability and disaster recovery are two important components of resiliency.
- When designing your architecture you need to design for resiliency, and you should perform a Failure Mode Analysis (FMA).
- The goal of a FMA is to identify possible points of failure, and to define how the application will respond to those failures.
Cost and complexity vs. high availability
- Availability refers to time that a system is functional and working.
- Maximizing availability requires implementing measures to prevent possible service failures.
- However, devising preventative measures can be difficult and expensive, and often results in very complex solutions.
- As your solution grows in complexity, you will have more services depending on each other.
- Therefore, you might overlook possible failure points in your solution if you have several interdependent services.
- For example: A workload that requires 99.99 percent uptime shouldn’t depend upon a service with a 99.9 percent SLA.
- Most providers prefer to maximize the availability of their Azure solutions by minimizing downtime. However, as you increase availability, you also increase the cost and complexity of your solution.
- For example: An SLA that defines an uptime of 99.99% only allows for about 5 minutes of total downtime per month.
- The risk of potential downtime is cumulative across various SLA levels, which means that complex solutions can face greater availability challenges.
- Therefore, how critical high availability is to your requirements will determine how you handle the addition of complexity and cost to your application SLAs.
- The following table lists the potential cumulative downtime for various SLA levels over different durations:
Considerations for defining application SLAs
- If your application SLA defines four 9’s (99.99 percent) performance targets, recovering from failures by manual intervention may not be enough to fulfill your SLA. Your Azure solution must be self-diagnosing and self-healing instead.
- It is difficult to respond to failures quickly enough to meet SLA performance targets above four 9’s.
- Carefully consider the time window against which your application SLA performance targets are measured. The smaller the time window, the tighter the tolerances. If you define your application SLA in terms of hourly or daily uptime, you need to be aware that these tighter tolerances might not allow for achievable performance targets.
Lesson 5 – Service lifecycle in Azure