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Microsoft issues free tool it says will cut Azure costs

If it works, a new free tool called MetricsHub can help cut costs of using Microsoft's Azure cloud services by automatically making the service run more efficiently and by increasing and decreasing Azure resources as customer need fluctuates.

Microsoft bought the company, which it also helped finance through its Microsoft Accelerator program for startups, and is making its software available as part of Azure services.

[ BACKGROUND: Microsoft acquires cloud monitoring startup MetricsHub ]

MetricsHub is a service that monitors customers' Azure systems and makes changes based on rules set by customers. Alternatively, customers can switch on a standard template of best-practices rules recommended by MetricsHub.

The service gathers data from each customer's Azure resources from one of two sources: Windows Azure diagnostics or via a MetricsHub agent within customer's Azure infrastructure.

If customers use the first option, the gathered data is kept within customers' Azure storage block, typically costing 50 cents per instance per month, the MetricsHub says on its website. With this option, MetricsHub gathers only data that Azure makes available to any third-party developer via its APIs.

If customers use the second option, they install a MetricsHub agent in their Azure cloud, which requires redeploying each instance of customers' applications. This option allows gathering of more information. "Collecting data with this method gives MetricsHub deeper integration with your system, resulting in more informed decisions," MetricsHub says.

Specifically, the agent gathers metrics about virtual machines and websites, something the APIs don't reveal.

MetricsHub analyzes the data and using a feature called ActiveScale adds or drops application instances to best meet actual demand. MetricsHub produces a report that breaks down Azure bills to explain exactly what is being paid for.

MetricsHub can be used as a monitoring platform as well, providing health and performance monitoring and sending email, SMS or pager alerts when it detects potential problems.

In announcing that it had bought MetricsHub, Microsoft acknowledges that it's difficult without tools to gather and analyze data needed to scale applications up and down efficiently. MetricsHub makes those decisions and acts on them, says Bob Kelly, a Microsoft corporate vice president for strategy and business development in his blog. "It also ensures customers are only paying for what they need and maximizing the services they're using," he says. "We think it's going to save customers time, money and headaches."

Customers can opt in to using MetricsHub via the Azure Store. Any paying customers will be converted to the free version.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.


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