Using the Azure Pricing Calculator

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In this post, I will show you how to estimate your consumption using the public Azure pricing calculator.

Rates and Tools

There are many ways that you can acquire Azure for your business for production systems, including:

  • Credit Card: Stop right here! This is the dumbest way to acquire Azure because you pay the full regular retail price (RRP). The below methods offer better pricing and potential benefits.
  • Azure in Open: Sold via Microsoft partners through the distribution channel, this is a credit based system, similar to pre-pay mobile phone. Partners should no longer sell this method and use CSP instead.
  • CSP (Cloud Solutions Provider): This is a channel where partners sell managed solutions to customers, either directly via Microsoft or via the distribution channel. Azure consumption rates can/should be lower than RRP, and for Microsoft partners, there are a bunch of benefits including free technical support, rebates, and accelerators from Microsoft.
  • MPSA: This plan for companies of more than 500 seats was for companies that didn’t want to have the commitments of an enterprise agreement. Existing Azure subscriptions are being honored. However, customers must migrate to either EA or CSP at the end of the contracts because Azure will no longer be sold via this license type.
  • EA (Enterprise Agreement): This is a plan for companies with 500 or more seats where the company must (officially) pre-pay for at least $25,000 of Azure consumption per year, use it or lose it. EA offers the best cheapest Azure rates for customers.

In short, businesses are best to consume Azure either via CSP or EA. Both of these have privately agreed consumption rates and Microsoft provides pricing tools, especially for both channels.

However, in the business, the RRP rate is often what is quoted. When you research how Azure pricing works, the information is based on RRP rates. Because of this, people often use the public Azure pricing tool that is based on RRP rates.
I used to dislike this tool greatly. It’s still not perfect, but the tool is usable now for producing indicative pricing on how much an Azure solution will cost.

Understanding the Rates

This topic is much bigger than a blog post. The method that I used to learn how Azure pricing works was a combination of things:

  • Understand what I was deploying: For example, a running virtual machine consumes virtual machine capacity, disk storage, table storage (performance metrics), a public IP address, and some other micro-charges.
  • Using Azure and downloading the bills from Azure.
  • Reading how the pricing of each item works.

Note the + symbol beside the public pricing of Azure resources [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Note the + Symbol Beside the Public Pricing of Azure Resources [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The latter is a matter of using a search tool. For example, search for “Azure pricing storage”, “Azure pricing virtual machines”, “Azure pricing networking”, and so on. When you read the resulting articles by Microsoft (usually the first non-advert), you’ll find that Microsoft does a pretty good job of explaining how the billing is done. The frequently asked questions at the bottom typically clear up questions and myths. For example, there is no charge for restoring from Azure Backup, despite the false claims by some.

The Azure Pricing Calculator

The Azure Pricing Calculator is easy enough to find; there is a link to it from every pricing information page. In the above virtual machine pricing screenshot, you can see a + symbol to add a virtual machine type to a pricing estimate. A pop-out appears with a link to the pricing tool, which you can click after you add an item.
Otherwise, you can search for or browse straight to the Azure Pricing Calculator. At the top of the screen is an index of available Azure services that you can add to the current estimate; these are broken down into categories such as Featured (most commonly used), Compute, Networking, Storage, and so on.
Below the index is where the current estimate will be built up; this will probably be blank to begin with.

The list of available services in the Azure Pricing Calculator [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The List of Available Services in the Azure Pricing Calculator [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]

Pricing a Virtual Machine Solution

In this example, I estimate a very simple virtual machine solution for a virtual machine that will be a SQL Server with a standard OS disk and a Premium data disk. I started by clicking Virtual Machines in the index. A virtual machine spec was added to the estimate and I customized this spec.

  • Set the region, operating system (Windows) and type (OS only, or with an application, such as SQL Server). I added SQL Server and the per Core cost (no CALs required) will be added to this virtual machine.
  • The virtual machine tier is Standard (everything except for Basic A-Series) and I set the license type of SQL Server to SQL Standard.
  • The Instance size is the size of virtual machine and I went with a D4S_v3.
  • Billing option allows you to choose regular per-second billing or to pre-pay for the instance for 1 or 3 years for a discount. I chose the 1 year reserved instance to save 11 percent on the cost of the virtual machine runtime.

Customizing the virtual machine in the Azure Pricing Calculator [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Customizing the Virtual Machine in the Azure Pricing Calculator [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The storage of the virtual machine is configured lower in the spec. Note that this only configures the OS disk of the virtual machine, which is not included in the above virtual machine cost.
In the below, I have configured the virtual machine’s OS disk as follows:

  • Standard instead of Premium storage.
  • Sized the managed disk as an S10, based on the normal 128GB size of a Marketplace image.
  • Specified the number as 1, there is only 1 OS disk per machine!

Pricing the OS disk of the Azure virtual machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Pricing the OS Disk of the Azure Virtual Machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The subtotal for the machine adds up to $517.79, including Windows Server per processor licensing, SQL Server licensing, and the storage for the OS disk.
Next, I need to add on a data disk. I scrolled back to the top and selected Storage from Featured. A storage resource is added to the estimate and is configured:

  • Location: A region matching the virtual machine.
  • Type: Managed disks
  • Tier: Premium
  • Disk size: A P30 1024GB disk
  • Number of disks: 1

Adding data disk pricing to the Azure virtual machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Adding Data Disk Pricing to the Azure Virtual Machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The virtual machine will be accessible by remote desktop on the Internet and for this, I will need a public IP address. Back at the index of resources, I selected IP Addresses from Networking. Once again, the region is selected and I picked 1 static Basic ARM IP address.
Pricing a public IP address for the Azure virtual machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Pricing a Public IP Address for the Azure Virtual Machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
There is a data egress or outbound data transfer charge for Azure virtual machines. The East US region falls into what Microsoft refers to as Zone 1. Note that there is no ingress data charge. Any data download from the machine or upload by the machine to a location outside of Azure will be charged for, with the first 5GB being free. The resource for pricing this charge is Bandwidth from the Networking category.
Outbound data transfer pricing for Azure [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Outbound Data Transfer Pricing for Azure [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The last resource I will add is Backup from the Storage category to estimate the cost of backing up the virtual machine. The virtual machine has 1,152GB of disk capacity (128 + 1,024), so the instance size will be 1,152GB (3 x $10 instances). I’ll set the storage resiliency to the RSV default of GRS.
Actually … I won’t. I’m going to round up the size of the virtual machine because I like to be a little conservative with backup costs. This gives me a little breathing room on other things that I don’t estimate for, such as:

  • Storage transactions
  • Table storage (performance data)
  • Blob storage (diagnostics console screenshot)
  • And more

Those micro-costs are small and are impossible to estimate for. People often freeze at the thought of these costs but a simple roundup of backup costs will more than cover them. So I’ll go with 1,300 B instead of 1,152GB, which only adds around $7 to the cost of backup.

Pricing the backup of the Azure virtual machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Pricing the Backup of the Azure Virtual Machine [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
At the bottom of the estimate, I now see a total estimated cost of $791.13. There is also an export button, which allows me to download a spreadsheet of this estimate.
The exported estimate of Azure virtual machine pricing [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The Exported Estimate of Azure Virtual Machine Pricing [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Note that the above RRP cost includes:

  • Windows Server per processor licensing with no need for Windows Server CALs
  • SQL Server Standard per processor licensing with no need for SQL Server CALs
  • Azure’s free anti-malware scanning for Windows Server
  • Flash storage for the SQL Server database and log files

Things like RDS CALs are not included. For end-user RDS access, you would need one of:

  • RDS CALs with Software Assurance
  • RDS SALs via the SPLA hosting/leasing licensing channel

If you are going the credit card or EA route, then there is no Microsoft technical support included. Therefore, a contract cost would have to be added. If you choose the CSP channel, then Microsoft technical support (via the reseller) is included.