AWS Cloud Financial Management

AWS Cost Explorer’s New Look and Common Use Cases

AWS Cost Explorer has recently updated its user interface on October 11, 2022 and from what we’ve heard, you have mixed feelings about it. Most of you rely on Cost Explorer cost and usage visuals and its data breakdown to analyze how much you’ve spent and will spend on AWS within a given period. It is important for us to make sure Cost Explorer continues to bring you the information you need in a user-friendly manner.

Background

The AWS Cost Explorer UI update is part of an AWS console wide migration to the latest AWS Design System that allows a more consistent and modernized user experience across the console that is built on a newer, actively updated web framework. The new system improves the security posture and allows the console’s codebase to be independent from each other.  This way, it can make concurrent development possible and handle traffic loads better and easily facilitate expanding into new regions. Finally, the new framework also allows us to implement new features in the Console to improve user experience.

Cost Explorer New UI

The new Cost Explorer UI introduced a summary widget above the graph and the ability to search through the results in the cost and usage breakdown table view. The header of the graph has been updated to “Cost and Usage Graph”, and the title of the report name will show as a “New cost and usage report” until you save the report to the library with a custom name.

Cost Explorer's new header, report name, and summary widget

Image 1: Cost Explorer’s new header, report name, and summary widget

The Cost Explorer graph now uses a new color palette that has been through extensive accessibility studies, so you can easily distinguish the different colors within a graph. However, depending on how many results you have on your graph, small values can be difficult to see from one another. We’re aware of this and will look into improving the experience.

Image 2: Cost Explorer new color palette

Image 2: Cost Explorer new color palette

From the graph above, you can see a “usage type count”, which is a new widget introduced as part of the Cost Explorer UI update. This is to inform you how many values are included in your results. As in the actual graph, only the top 9 most used usage types will be displayed and the 10th result will be in the aggregated format for the remaining results (previously, we showed 5 results and 6th result was an aggregate of the remaining results).

You’ve probably also noticed that there is now an option to use an “absolute” or a “relative” time range for your graph. This can come across as confusing, since in the old UI experience, you only have the option to select the absolute date ranges.  Now with the “relative” date range option, you can select and update the time range relative to the date when you use the tool, e.g. “past 3 months”, “month to date”, “year to date”, or “future 3 months”, “future 12 months”.  This is a common pattern AWS started to adopt on other AWS Console pages, such as, Amazon CloudWatch.

Commonly used reports in AWS Cost Explorer

Cost Explorer allows you to visualize your AWS cost and usage information either at the aggregated level or a granular level of your choice.  The service for the most part is free of charge, except for API access and the hourly and resource granularity data (see pricing information).

We want to take this opportunity to highlight a few commonly used Cost Explorer reports with the filter combinations that can help you dive deeper into a few service costs.

Monthly Trend: On the Cost Explorer home page, you can quickly get a cost summary and trend analysis report of the current month.  This is a snapshot view for you to review and understand the growth trend of your AWS spend from last month and the main cost drivers for this month.

Image 3: Cost Explorer Home Page: Monthly Summary and Trend

Image 3: Cost Explorer Home Page: Monthly Summary and Trend

Amazon EC2 Hourly Unit Cost

EC2 is usually the top cost driver for many of your AWS bill.  It is safe to assume that as your team increases the adoption of EC2 resources, you will witness the increase of your total EC2 cost as well.  However, you can use the EC2 Hourly Unit Cost to evaluate the efficiency of your EC2 usage.  To do this, you can filter by “Service: EC2”, and add the filter “Usage type groups: EC2 Running Hours”.  You can download the CSV report to do the actual math for the EC2 hourly unit cost.

Image 4: Cost Explorer report - EC2 hourly cost

Image 4: Cost Explorer report – EC2 hourly cost

There are several ways to use AWS Cost Explorer to discover the opportunities to improve the cost efficiency of your EC2 spend: 1) EC2 Rightsizing recommendations to detect any idle or underutilized instances, 2) EC2 instance type, and 3) charge type.

Instance Type

By grouping your EC2 cost by “instance type”, you will be able to see if any of your EC2 resources are still using instances from the previous generations and refer to this upgrade path to leverage the better price/performance ratio of the newer generation instances.

Image 5: Cost Explorer report - EC2 instance type

Image 5: Cost Explorer report – EC2 instance type

Charge Type

For your stable, predictable EC2 usage, you can consider purchasing AWS Compute Savings Plans, and/or EC2 Savings Plans for discounted rates. The EC2 cost graph grouped by “Charge Type” gives you a visual to understand your EC2 usage coverage by the different pricing models.  The dollar amount of Savings Plans in my demo account is quite limited.  And the demo account doesn’t have other pricing model, e.g. Spot instances, which offers a steeper discount for EC2 usage that leverages spare EC2 capacity.  But Spot instances is a good option for flexible workloads, for instance, data analysis, batch jobs, background processing, and optional tasks, that can tolerate potential interruption.

Image 6: Cost Explorer report - EC2 charge type

Image 6: Cost Explorer report – EC2 charge type

Amazon S3 Usage Type

Many of you want to understand the cost components of your Amazon S3 usage. For this, you can use the filter “Service: S3”, and Group by “Usage Type” to display the various components and look for the top cost driver. In the example below, “Requests-Tier1” is the No.1 cost component.  By referencing the bill, you’ll learn that “Request-Tier1” refers to the “PUT, COPY, POST, or LIST requests” to S3 buckets.  From there, you can further understand who are incurring these requests, by either “group by: linked account”, “tag”, or “Cost Categories”.  You can also group by “API operation” to deep dive on your S3 cost.

Image 7: Cost Explorer report: S3 Usage Type

Image 7: Cost Explorer report: S3 Usage Type

Conclusions

We hope this blog post shed some light on the recent Cost Explorer UI updates and some of the common ways you can use the tool to visualize your AWS cost and usage data for any trend and cause analysis and discover cost saving opportunities. We appreciate all the feedback you’ve shared with us on the new Console user experience and we plan to introduce continuous improvement and new features iteratively.

🚀 Get started with AWS Cost Explorer

Bowen Wang

Bowen Wang

Bowen is a Principal Product Marketing Manager for AWS Billing and Cost Management services. She focuses on enabling finance and business leaders to better understand the value of the cloud and ways to optimize their cloud financial management. In her previous career, she helped a tech start up launch their business automation product into the China market and set up a local customer service call center.