The June 2024, FinOps X conference provided a forum for cloud leaders to reframe customer complaints related to hidden fees and surprise bills behind cloud services.

For the first time, all three cloud giants, Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft, attended the conference on FinOps X, demonstrating a commitment to normalise cloud cost usage specifications.

Leisurely pace of cloud platform providers

There is a general consensus that cloud platform providers, namely Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and AWS, have a way to go in providing enterprises with greater visibility into cloud costs and optimisations. Many believe the slow pace among cloud providers in standardising and formalising billing has been deliberate or “by design,” preferring instead to focus on upselling platform services to enterprises that are overwhelmed with supporting high-impact initiatives driven by their platform engineering and development teams.

FinOps to the rescue?

FinOps, short for financial operations, refers to sets of cloud cost management tools. The practice encompasses a relatively new operational framework and initiative being more broadly recognised among enterprises undergoing digital transformations by migrating applications to the cloud and/or creating cloud native apps.

Ongoing concerns of runaway costs are being further impacted by open-ended generative AI (GenAI) budgets. FinOps’ importance has never been more apparent for ensuring digital innovations remain funded and unhampered. Not surprisingly, a major theme during the FinOps gathering was AI for FinOps, or more specifically applying GenAI copilot/assist interfaces to FinOps processes.

Imagine a non-technical, non-FinOps expert bypassing the need to learn complex billing, budget, and forecast processes by simply asking a GenAI tool a question in natural language such as: What were my compute costs for Project X last month? Google and Microsoft have such capabilities in the works, among other providers. AI and GenAI will continue to impact enterprises’ operations costs as new use cases unfold, so FinOps integrations will continue.

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The FinOps X conference has only been around since 2022 but is quickly garnering a fast-growing following of not only technology and cloud leaders but also various personas dedicating careers to the emerging space. Workers range from traditional IT operations professionals to non-IT workers coming from accounting and finance backgrounds as part of a reskilling trend happening in this space.

A number of other trends emerged from last week’s conference, including the notion that FinOps is not just about having a better handle on cloud costs and optimisations. FinOps is increasingly also being applied to costs associated with application deployments that are on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid of these models, including multi-cloud distributions. Similarly, FinOps Foundation heads have challenged industry participants to include SaaS models in their FinOps practices as well, and for solutions providers to extend the powerful tools to include software services.

Cloud leaders FOCUS

Perhaps the most pivotal and foundational announcement of the week was the FinOps Foundation’s GA of FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUS) 1.0,a unifying format for cloud bills. A major win by backers of the FinOps initiative is the fact that most of the industry’s cloud leaders, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have rallied behind the technology and launched native support for FOCUS.

Going forward, cloud providers will see increased interest among enterprise customers, including engineering and development teams, demanding tools that help them keep in line with their spending commitments associated with modern app development. In the coming months, enterprises can expect to see continued FinOps integration through APIs, user interface consoles, and autonomous databases. FinOps will also play a key role in the ongoing consolidation of broader observability/automation solutions by application platform providers.