Two years ago, when I talked to enterprise customers about their cloud management platform (CMP) needs, many of the business drivers were the same as today. These included the desire to move to an ITaaS (IT as a Service) model, to embrace automation, and especially to increase business agility. But in that same time frame, I have noticed a significant shift in one aspect of private cloud adoption: how enterprises think about cost visibility and chargeback.

In the past, some of the organizations I talked to shied away from any form of private cloud cost visibility. Their view was that on the path to private cloud adoption, providing cost information to their line-of-business users might be something they consider in the future, but it was certainly a long way down the path.

I remember a quote from Gartner at the time, which went something like this: “No IT issue is more fraught with politics, friction, emotion and argument than chargeback.” It just wasn’t an operating model that IT was comfortable with. In fact, we actually had to add an option to the vCommander CMP to remove all forms of cost visibility from the self-service experience. Some IT organizations were afraid of even having the discussion.

With the continued growth of public cloud, however, cost visibility and chargeback are now common. The consumers of IT services can go to Amazon and immediately see what a workload or application will cost. These same users now expect the same visibility of their internal IT consumption.

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IT services consumers can go to Amazon and immediately see what an application will cost.

Today, enterprise adoption of cost visibility and chargeback has been turned on its head. It’s now often the first stage of their private cloud rollout. And it’s a quick win for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, cost visibility and chargeback provide IT the opportunity to demonstrate the dollar value of the services they deliver to the organization. It also affords proper comparisons between public and private cloud costs. This not only enables better overall decision making — it also shines a bright light on shadow IT. For many IT consumers, it’s also their first realization that just because VMs are virtual, it doesn’t mean they’re free.

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vCommander provides detailed costing information at all stages of the provisioning process.

Providing costing information also allows IT to change both the operational model for the consumption of their services as well as the organizational mindset. Instead of owning IT assets, business users are being conditioned to a new mental model where they are now renting IT assets.

Successful cloud adoption involves maturing along the three axes of people, process and technology. Very often, the people axis can be the most resistant to change. But providing cost visibility early on facilitates the organizational change required for adopting a cloud model of consumption.