Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a plethora of cloud-based services that cater to various needs, from computing power and storage to machine learning and analytics. As organizations scale their cloud infrastructure, managing multiple accounts and services can become increasingly complex.
This is where AWS Organizations comes into play.
By providing users with a centralized platform to manage multiple accounts, enabling streamlined billing, and policy-based rules that provide many unique options, AWS Organizations has quickly become a focal point in management of multi-account environments.
What Is AWS Organizations?
AWS Organizations is a cloud service that helps you centrally manage and govern your AWS accounts.
With AWS Organizations, you can create groups of accounts, automate account creation, apply and manage policies across accounts, and simplify billing by setting up a single payment method for all accounts.
These are some of the key features that can be leveraged within AWS Organizations:
- Organizational Units – Group AWS accounts into OUs for easier management.
- Service Control Policies – Apply permission policies across AWS accounts.
- Consolidated Billing – Aggregate billing information from multiple accounts into a single bill.
- Automated Account Creation – Quickly set up new accounts with predefined configurations.
Organizational units (OUs) provide a hierarchical structure that allows for the efficient grouping of AWS accounts based on common attributes like departments or projects. This makes it easier to apply Service Control Policies (which we’ll dive into later) across multiple accounts, thereby simplifying governance and security.
Another AWS tool, Cost Explorer, can be leveraged to identify tags applied to resources, or accounts themselves, to help aggregate and report on costs across all of the different accounts. The visualization provided by Cost Explorer helps to see how and where to optimize inefficient spending.
Automated account creation, on the other hand, significantly speeds up the process of setting up new AWS accounts with predefined configurations, reducing the administrative burden and potential for human error.
Together, these features empower organizations to manage their AWS ecosystem more effectively, with enhanced oversight and cost-efficency.
While the above features would be considered a big part of any well-oiled, multi-account environment, few have the kind of impact on cost optimization that Service Control Policies and Consolidated Billing have.
Understanding Consolidated Billing
Consolidated billing is a game-changing feature for organizations looking to simplify their financial management of cloud resources. By aggregating the costs of multiple AWS accounts into a single bill, Consolidated Billing minimizes the need to track spending across various accounts individually.
This centralized approach not only streamlines the billing process but also allows organizations to gain a comprehensive view of their overall AWS expenditure.
Additionally, Consolidated Billing enables organizations to take advantage of volume discounts, as AWS calculates the total usage across all accounts, potentially leading to cost savings.
This feature also facilitates internal chargebacks by allowing the use of cost allocation tags to attribute expenses to specific departments or projects.
Here’s a list of all of the key features provided by Consolidated Billing:
- Single Bill – Consolidated Billing combines all charges from all of the AWS accounts under the Organization into a single bill, making it easier to review and manage expenses.
- Volume Discounts – By aggregating usage from all accounts, organizations can qualify for volume-based discounts on various AWS services, leading to cost savings.
- Cost Allocation Tags – This feature allows you to assign tags to AWS resources, which can then be used to categorize and allocate costs for more granular reporting.
- Detailed Reporting – Consolidated Billing provides detailed reports that break down costs by individual account, service, and even specific tags, offering a comprehensive view of spending.
These are only a few of the many benefits that can be obtained by leveraging Consolidated Billing within AWS Organizations. Read through the official AWS documentation to get a full list of all of the key features
A Look Into Service Control Policies
Service Control Policies in AWS Organizations offer a powerful mechanism for centrally governing permissions across multiple AWS accounts.
SCPs act as a set of fine-grained controls that specify the actions users and roles are allowed or denied within the accounts that fall under organizational structure.
By attaching SCPs to Organizational Units or individual accounts, administrators can enforce consistent security protocols, compliance requirements, and operational best practices across the entire organization.
This centralized approach to policy management simplifies governance, enhances security, and allows for greater operational flexibility.
How To Use SCPs To Limit Cost
To get a better understanding of how SCPs operate, and how they can specifically be used to control spending within an AWS Organization, let’s go through some examples of how to configure an SCP and breakdown what it does:
The above example does a few things:
- The first statement denies users the ability to deploy RDS or Redshift resources
- The second statement limits the type of EC2 instance types that can be deployed, only allowing ‘t2.micro’
Once you have your SCP crafted, you can select the ‘Target’ as either an individual account, or an Organization Unit that affects all accounts under that OU.
The above is only one example out of an endless amount of possibilities that can be curated to an individual organizations needs to ensure that costs are controlled from a central plane.
AWS provides an assortment of additional examples that can be used as a baseline to build off of. You can view them here.
Some Disadvantages And Complexities Of AWS Organizations
While many of the advantages of AWS Organizations are clear, it’s not all roses and sunshine.
The consolidation of billing can complicate cost allocation when allocating costs to specific departments or projects, and the complexity of SCPs can also lead to misconfigurations that have a much larger area of effect.
Beyond that, tracking the utilization of Reserved Instances becomes complex in a consolidated environment. The platform’s learning curve and management overhead can sometimes offset its cost-savings benefits, especially for smaller organizations. Luckily, there are ways to overcome this.
Leveraging CloudZero To Overcome These Challenges
While AWS Organizations does a good job of aggregating costs across multi-account environments, there’s room for improvement around how the data is presented to the user.
CloudZero has become a leader in the field by offering a cloud cost intelligence platform designed to help organizations understand, manage, and optimize their cloud costs.
CloudZero takes the complexities of AWS Organizations and simplifies them by offering granular visibility into cloud spending; a ‘single pane of glass’ view into what is generating spend across your entire environment.
Its centralized explorer aggregates data from all accounts within AWS Organizations (in addition to other cloud spend from Auzre, GCP, Snowflake, and others), making it easier to monitor and manage expenditures in real-time.
The level of detail helps in identifying underutilized resources, thereby mitigating the risk of overspending — a common pitfall many customers run into when leveraging AWS Organizations.
By integrating CloudZero, businesses can not only streamline their cost management process but also make more informed decisions, turning a potential disadvantage of AWS Organizations into a strength.