In late June, at FinOps X, the annual event hosted by FinOps Foundation, a big topic was the open source project FinOps Open Cost & Usage Specification (FOCUS), which aims to standardize the billing construct and presentation of cloud cost data. This is a BIG DEAL. In doing so, FOCUS will remove the complexity and overhead involved when trying to normalize various billing taxonomies and schemas when multiple cloud environments and SaaS tools become a part of the IT bill. This is something the market has been asking about for over a decade. Currently, the project scope is bounded to just cloud infrastructure billing standardization. Plans to expand FOCUS to encompass other IT bills such as SaaS solutions and licensing are in place for the future. Here are some things you should know about FOCUS.
Although the FinOps Foundation is a major sponsor of the project, FOCUS is legally a separate entity. The project was born out of the FinOps Foundation as the “Open Billing” working group but shifted to the Linux Foundation as an open source project in January this year. This shift was an important move for FOCUS. The FinOps Foundation wanted to ensure complete vendor neutrality and that no vendor or company could claim ownership over the standard.
For entities involved in the handling and management of cloud bills, including FinOps practitioners, finance, cloud cost management tooling vendors, and managed cost consultancies, this is a major boon. Despite transparency and line-by-line billing, each cloud's cost and usage billing data can be almost incomprehensible without training and knowledge. In other words, these bills do not look like your average grocery store receipt. Billing interpretation becomes even more difficult when you consider the hundreds of new services and features each hyperscaler releases per quarter that can get factored in. Based on my conversations with cloud teams, many are either beholden to cloud cost management tooling to help with the interpretation and standardization of their multicloud bills, or these teams are rendered to one less cloud if the FinOps expert for that cloud leaves the company.
As with any open source project, FOCUS will go through multiple iterations and evolve, as cloud billing and services do. Version 0.5 is in consideration now, with plans to deliver version 1.0 by the end of 2023. For all players in the FinOps universe, this is the next phase of multicloud strategies: creating standardization and ensuring portability between clouds. Some of the biggest cloud spenders are involved, including Walmart, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and Capital One. And two of the big three cloud providers, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, are also on board. Notably, Amazon Web Services is not a part of the FinOps Foundation or a part of this project. Reasons for its lack of involvement are unclear. One thing is clear, however: FOCUS is happening, with or without AWS.