Automated service delivery and billing of Microsoft Azure pack

4 Mins read

Service automation plays a crucial role in provisioning and orchestrating resources of an organization. The resources may include physical, virtual or any cloud-based infrastructure.

The objective here is to meet the operational demands of the organization to achieve strategic growth. But, before we move forward, let’s first understand what service delivery automation is and how it helps in managing your operational workflow:

Service delivery automation – An overview

SDA or service delivery automation represents a technology that aims at automating the workflow in a manner that human intervention is reduced.

The concern is to develop a comprehensive solution which includes a mix of physical, virtual and cloud platforms so that organizations are able to meet the demands of their dynamic environment.

Especially for cloud service providers, hosting providers, and other subscription based service providers, managing the operational flow is a challenging task. They need to look for solutions which can help them to automate their services.

How service automation helps the organizations?

Organizations are increasingly diverting their efforts from traditional models of management to automated solutions’ approach. Through automation, they can optimize operational resources, and liberate additional resources to meet increasing demands of the business. Thus, they must:

  • Build a centralized mechanism to manage service requests, and automate the delivery process by integrating the underlying technologies.
  • They should automate all processes across the enterprise’s departments, systems and domains.
  • The service delivery strategy should be incorporated into the predominant cloud strategy.
  • Ensure the existence of fulfillment channels across the multiple IT domains, to meet the business demands.

Microsoft’s cloud service platform – Azure

MS Azure with pre-built templates and managed services gives an open and flexible platform to manage your applications and services on the cloud.

MS Azure’s System Center enables CSPs to deliver IT as a Service as shown in the figure below:

Azure billing automation

Why the need for MS Azure management automation?

With a wide range of services and products in the MS Azure, the Microsoft CSPs find it quite difficult to manage all of them through multiple platforms without a single Azure management API. Its subscription-based pricing model also requires the billing process to be automated. Thus, there’s the need for a Windows Azure management system that can provide an end-to-end automation for all the processes related to MS Azure.

The major benefits of MS Azure automation can be summed up as follows:

  • The automation of routine tasks helps in increasing the staff efficiency.
  • Orchestration of IT processes reduces the cost of service maintenance.
  • Automation improves the agility and system receptiveness to business demand.
  • Higher ROI with private cloud deployments.
  • Improved stakeholder satisfaction with high-quality service delivery.

Automation thus not only helps you save time and resources but gives maximum satisfaction to the end user.

Microsoft Azure Billing – why the need for automation?

Azure pack’s admin needs to configure the pricing resources, and then integrate it with the billing systems and generate invoices automatically.

The important features of Azure model include:

  • Usage report of all tenants.
  • Tenant users can view historical usage.
  • Detailed overview of subscription usage.
  • Monthly billing or pay-per-usage model.

The Windows Azure pack usage service gives the ability to the service providers to build and deploy their own systems for billing and other analytical processes. The service pack ascertains the resource allocation and usage information of various services used by a customer or a tenant. This data supplied is stored only for a limited time period, and is forwarded for use by finance departments to generate billing information. Thus, overall the Windows Azure pack is providing two types of data to the users:

  • Resource utilization for every subscription of the customer,
  • Any recent plans, subscriptions, add-ons and other account information events.

The infographic below shows the USAGE SERVICE ENDPOINT of Windows Azure pack:

Azure billing automation racknap

For implementing Azure usage billing, following components are needed:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V as hypervisor
  • System Center 2012 R2 VM Manager
  • System Center 2012 R2 Operations Manager
  • System Center 2012 R2 Service Provider Foundation
  • System Center 2012 R2 Service Management Automation
  • System Center 2012 R2 Service Reporting
  • Windows Azure Pack
  • PowerShell

The data supplied by the service usage pack of Azure only lies for a limited time period, as shown in the table below:

Database : Time-frame
VMM : 1 month
SCOM data warehouse : 1 year
SPF : Temporary
Windows Azure Pack : 40 days
Service Reporting : Data per hour of 90 days
Service Reporting : 3 years daily data
Service Reporting : monthly data indefinitely

The Azure pack chargeback parameters include:

  • TotalVMRuntime
  • Disk Space Usage
  • DiskIOPS
  • Core Allocated
  • Memory Usage

The process of importing usage data from operations manager data warehouse into Windows Azure pack has been clearly defined by Microsoft to facilitate installation and usage.

How RackNap helps in MS Azure service automation and Azure pack’s billing management?

RackNap automates end-to-end business process cycle of Microsoft Azure services from lead generation to service delivery and tracking and reporting of all the processes in between, for cloud and other subscription based services. Thus, RackNap can be your ideal Azure cloud delivery automation tool.

Also, Azure billing process and complexities require a software which can integrate all the billing data from Azure, and provide useful information to the end user as well as the cloud service provider. RackNap with its Azure integrated API has the capacity to unify the billing data of Azure customers and subscribers and present information on a single dashboard.

It also manages the customer lifecycle for Microsoft’s cloud services like Office 365, Azure, SharePoint, EMS and more, thus making billing process easier.

RackNap helps to manage the billing process of Microsoft Azure by:

  • Giving separate pricing structures for different billing cycles.
  • By integrating with Azure, it allows you to sell bundled products and services.
  • It displays the complete billing information of Azure in the admin panel as well as the customer panel.
  • Gives the flexibility to create any plan like contract-based, pay-per-use, one-time, recurring, free, etc.

Hence RackNap, helps you manage and automate your services in the right manner. If you are juggling issues related to the proper management of your cloud services or any other subscription-based services, RackNap can be the right solution for you.

Please drop your suggestions in the comments section below.

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About author
Umesh, Technical Team Lead – RackNap, is a team player with over 7 years of expertise in the technical sphere. He handles all technical support issues and dedicatedly value adds to the system administration and management fields.
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