Use Your CSP Azure Subscription to Harness the Innovative Power of Your Workforce!

Background: 

Our client wanted their employees to innovate through the creative use of cloud technologies. To encourage this, they sought to provide Azure subscriptions to team members (engineers and scientists) to investigate how these technologies, when applied, might solve business needs. The employees could then utilize sandbox environments to fully explore and learn how existing Azure resources can work as technology enablers for business innovation. With this processs, they believed they could establish business case protocols to launch official environments for DevTest and production purposes. Governance would be limited to how much each user could spend, rather than which resources they could access. So how do you balance exploration with cost? MSDN subscriptions are a typical option, however, they are expensive and offer limited business justification for engineers and scientists. Our client wanted another solution.

Current Marketplace Challenge:

Given the spend limit requirement, we began evaluating our solution options. With research, we discovered there are a number of tools in the marketplace that allow for monitoring and provide alerts for varying levels of Azure consumption, depending on subscription type.  However, none of these tools automatically take action. These monitoring/reporting tools may trigger emails or provide notification, but it’s the administrator who is notified, rather than the specific subscription owner. Within the Azure portal, there isn’t any way for the subscription owner to check their current spend and no available self-service function to determine if they were close to their limit. Most of the tools are targeted at administrators, and not all subscription owners are administrators. Our client wanted a solution that would automatically take action and suspend an account once the spending threshold was reached.

Solution:

AIS built a SaaS offering called the AIS Service Catalog. This product enables a self-service portal of IT-approved resources within the Azure Marketplace and spend management. This solution is targeted at Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) customers; an EA is for organizations with a large number of Azure licenses and is based on volume. Another option to purchase Azure is via a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP). AIS is a CSP which enables our customers to outsource their cloud management services and license only what is needed. Our customer needed a solution aligned with Microsoft’s CSP program that would allow for sandbox creation, full exploration of Azure resources, and automatic deactivation.

AIS put together a service that extended the feature sets of our AIS Service Catalog that we could deploy with a CSP subscription. This service collects information about a customer’s daily spend and compares it to their monthly spend and threshold. If the threshold is reached, a notification email is triggered to the administrator of the subscription and activity is suspended. All acquired Azure resources will remain in the sandbox, but the resources will not be active until the spend threshold is increased or the next billing cycle starts (whichever happens first). If either of these requirements are met, the subscription is re-enabled. All of the work in the sandbox remains intact and is ready to go with reactivation.

This solution provides a screen view for the subscription user (owner role) so they can access the site and see what their current spend is compared to their threshold levels. This gives them a sense of whether or not their activity will be suspended, based upon usage. This is a feature that no other available product offers! 

Another feature set accommodates a self-service model for sandbox approvals. With this feature, users will have the ability to request a sandbox. Once the request is made the designated administrator is notified. The administrator then approves the request and defines the spending threshold and the subscription is automatically generated. With this self-service model, the administrator can easily spin up the subscription request without multiple layers of approval.

Benefits:

This service offering is a way to both manage subscriptions and proactively manage spend. With the tools previously available in the marketplace, one could only reactively manage spend via alerts and reports. This was not sufficient for a number of reasons. Like many of our customers, this client is extremely busy with a full-time job and receives hundreds of emails per day. This leaves limited time to look at reports or evaluate alerts revolving around Azure consumption, which still requires manual action to suspend account activity. This was a huge cause for concern, as some available Azure resources (such as IoT services) can spin up hundreds of dollars per day in rapid order. Our client wanted something that could be connected and operational with little interaction, outside of some exception handling.


The sandbox approach allows the users to experiment with technology enablers available in the Azure marketplace. As Azure resources are evaluated and projects are approved, our client will explore the other features of the AIS Service Catalog that provide governance for how DevTest and production subscriptions are ultimately used. For now, this service satisfies our client’s requirements and allows them to focus on engineering projects while exploring technology enablers and managing spend.


If your organization is seeking a way to leverage your Azure services, the AIS Service Catalog is a great way to get started, for either EA or CSP subscriptions.

Technologies:

  • SaaS Solution
  • Web Application
  • Hosted in Azure
  • No Hosting of User’s Data - Data Hosted in Azure Subscription