The FinOps Foundation is looking to help enterprises and cloud providers better understand and define how to talk about and share cloud cost data with a new open source specification effort announced on May 3.
The FinOps Foundation is an open source project that got its start in 2019 and became part of the Linux Foundation in 2020. The aim of FinOps is to enhance the integration between a company's financial operations and their cloud developers. A key challenge however that has long plagued the practice of FinOps is the fact that every cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider can have its own definitions and practices for cloud cost reporting.
The new FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUS) technical project announced on May 3 is an effort to develop an open standard for displaying data related to cloud expenses, usage, and billing. The effort is launching with the initial support of both Google and Microsoft, with plans to add other cloud providers in the near future.
"Right now, the cloud provider data, although accurate, is hard to understand for anybody who's not an expert in that specific cloud provider's data," J.R. Storment, FinOps Foundation's executive director, told ITPro Today.
Among the key goals of FOCUS are:
- Expand to incorporate non-cloud data sets such as SaaS, internal expenses, licensing fees, and other consumption-based product costs.
- Document FinOps capabilities including generic data set examples and queries.
- Develop an open source data converter and data validators.
- Develop vendor scorecards to track progress and compliance.
- Normalize terminology across FOCUS and related efforts including OpenCost.
- Facilitate the adaptation of billing data providers to the specification by allowing them to modify their output formats.
How FinOps FOCUS Brings Clarity to Cloud Cost Optimization
Due to the difference in definitions and approaches across cloud providers as to how cost is explained and determined, there is a significant amount of complexity, Storment said. The FOCUS project came into being to help solve that challenge by normalizing the data, making it easier to understand and compare.
FOCUS is intended to be an open specification that will benefit from the input of cloud providers and users alike. The first part of FOCUS is providing a specification so consumers of cloud can better understand and demystify cloud spend data.
The next piece is the cloud providers themselves — getting them to release aligned versions of their data that fit into the specification.
The third piece will be working with the platform providers and third-party ISPs, who largely are doing this type of work but doing it using different models and different terminology, which is confusing for the practitioners.
Challenges of FinOps Cloud Cost Optimization That FOCUS Might Solve
Among the key challenges that FOCUS will help solve is coming up with standardized terms for cloud costs.
Storment said that across the various cloud providers basic concepts such as what is an account, subscription, or even just a project are all defined and measured differently. There are also discrepancies in metrics data definitions.
"What is $1 in the cloud? A dollar is not always a dollar, which is part of the problem we're trying to solve," Storment said. "Is the dollar amortized? Does it include commitment-based discounts, negotiated rates, and does it include other business costs on top of it?"
FOCUS is currently in development, with the first release set for June 28.
About the authorSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.