17.07.2023. Tech Blog

FOCUS at FinOpsX

Irena Jurica, CloudVane Solution Architect, FinOps Certified Practitioner and FOCUS Contributor

Same dimensions, different formats

One of the things FinOps teaches us is the importance of reporting on and taking control of costs as soon as one starts operating in cloud. The first step in that process is to understand the content and dynamics of billing data and their correlation to FinOps capabilities, etc. Then use this information to equip FinOps Personas with means for informed decision making and managing the value of cloud.

This is no picnic even if you work with only one cloud provider. However, with the rising popularity of a multicloud strategy in organizations, things get more complicated with every new service provider that enters the mix. This is because each provider delivers the data in their own billing data formats with similar and yet specific cost and usage dimensions and metrics. Delivery formats, publishing frequencies, etc. also differ.

The lack of cost and usage and billing data standards across multiple service providers makes accommodating your cloud cost management process or solution to the growing number of service providers extremely difficult and time consuming. Many practitioners have been struggling with this issue for years.

FOCUS at FinOps

Image source: focus.finops.org

The solution arises from within

The initiative to resolve this issue in a more sustainable manner came from within the FinOps community – we needed to put our heads and hands together and use the power of the community to find a solution.

About a year ago, at FinOpsX 2022, a Chalk Talk Open Billing led by Udam Dewaraja caught my attention. That’s when I was first introduced to the idea of a community joining forces to establish an open billing data standard. The benefits of such an undertaking and the effort which would be required were more than obvious to all FinOps practitioners attending the chalk talk.

Fast forward one year later, at FinOpsX 2023 Keynote session FinOps Data at Walmart Scale and FOCUS by Tim O’Brien (Walmart) and Udam Dewaraja (FinOps Foundation), the Grand Ballroom is packed with practitioners and Udam is presenting the FinOps Open Cost & Usage Specification (FOCUS).

What is FOCUS?

As defined by the FinOps Foundation, FOCUS is a project that will define a vendor-neutral, cross-cloud schema and terminology for key cost and usage dimensions and metrics to simplify ingestion and analysis of cost and usage data.

It started as the Open Billing Standard F2 Working Group, which was established after the first FinOpsX and that decisive Chalk Talk. A group of enthusiasts took on the challenge of laying the foundation of an open specification for cloud billing data.

When organizations consider adopting an open-source specification, Licensing and Legal Considerations are one of the key factors to be considered. For that reason, some six months ago, it was decided that the time had come for the Working Group to evolve into an open-source project and to establish the legal framework in which the Specification will continue to develop.

The Working Group was retired and preparations for FOCUS, a Linux Foundation technical project sponsored by the FinOps Foundation, began. As soon as the legal and technical prerequisites were met, members started joining and the project took off. FOCUS members picked up where the Working Group left off. Week by week, the number of members increased, and the pace accelerated. After 10 weeks, just before FinOpsX 2023, FOCUS spec v0.5 saw the light of day.



Image source: focus.finops.org

FOCUS brings single pane of glass

Having a set of standardized vendor-neutral cross cloud cost and usage dimensions and metrics that support key FinOps Capabilities enables you to provide a single pane of glass across multiple providers in a timely fashion. This brings increased understanding, clarity and trust in billing data. To quote the FinOps Foundation, Compatible cost and usage data sets enable consumers to unify relevant billing data sets across all providers and drive key business value related decisions based on the fully burdened cost of using cloud.

While the projects started by identifying and specifying key dimensions and metrics and mapping them to corresponding native Cloud Service Providers CSP metrics, it is currently in the process of expanding to other areas, such as SaaS and other providers. And this is where the power of the community shines. Collective expertise, ideas and contribution of a diverse group of members and practitioners is much more efficient than a small team or a single member.

The importance of Provider support

As we recognized from day one, the knowledge and involvement of major CSP’s in creating the specification and their willingness to natively support FOCUS dimensions would surely speed up and simplify the process.

Luckily, Azure and GCP are already on board. The engagement of the members who represent them, whose knowledge, inputs, and feedback are incorporated in almost every chapter of the specification, provides a priceless boost to this project.

FOCUS-compliant – a new paradigm

How would a provider become FOCUS-compliant? By providing the FOCUS dimensions and metrics (fully compliant with the specification) as part of their billing data. As for Providers who are not willing or are unable to get involved and adapt, we can cover them to a good extent by implementing converters.

And how does a vendor or a report become FOCUS compliant – that is an upcoming discussion I intend to participate in as CloudVane fully supports this initiative and the project.

How you can contribute

If you want to join FOCUS, visit the official FOCUS page and get involved. Let us know which FinOps capability or use-case scenario bothers you the most and let’s address those remaining, underlaying dimensions together. For more information, check out the FAQs and for discussions, join #chat-focus channel at FinOps Community Slack (note: join the FinOps Community if you are not already a member).

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