Subscription and billing vendor Aria Systems today announced the Aria Cloud Revenue Adapter for VMware vCloud Director. Designed for service providers offering cloud services to end users, the new product automates service activation, usage tracking, billing and collections.
Traditionally, cloud-computing services have been billed per user, per month, per machine or some other simple measure of use. While this approach works fine for simple billing situations, it’s problematic in situations where usage varied significantly from day to day. Many startups are using manual processes and complex spreadsheets for handling billing complexities, which is a barrier to scaling.
Seeing this opportunity, a number of startups have begun offering cloud subscription and billing services which can handle the monetization side of a cloud-computing business. Apart from Aria Systems, the best known billing and subscription vendors are Zuora, Monexa and Vindicia.
Aria Systems, founded in 2003, is a pure-play subscription and billing vendor that has achieved both SAS70 and PCI certification: important validation in a sector that is routinely handling sensitive financial data.
In terms of what this integration offers, via vCloud Director product’s API, the following is automated:
- Synchronization of account information, with native support for virtual data centers (vDCs) and virtual applications (vApps)
- Synchronization of both flat-fee and usage information for VMware vCloud Director including instances, storage, CPU, memory, and network bandwidth
In this way, VMware can offer significant flexibility to vCloud customers: one-time fees, subscription pricing, usage-based charging, etc. If you’re using vCloud, and want to run complex billing and subscription arrangements, Aria is, at this stage, your only option. That said, it’s a rapidly moving space and there’s a history of “exclusive” arrangements being rather temporary. As an example of this (and as I wrote about previously), until recently, Aria was the exclusive billing and subscription service integrated with NetSuite until Zuora came and crashed their party. All, as they say, is fair in love and war.
The main barrier to the adoption of third-party billing and subscription services has traditionally been the reluctance to lose margin on commoditized services. With a service such as IaaS however, there’s significant complexity in the way people use the products, so giving greater flexibility to the different monetization options is valuable.
The cloud subscription and billing space is emergent, and vendors are moving fast to integrate with service providers as rapidly as they can. This integration is another example of service providers farming out non-core functions to third-party providers.
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Ben Kepes is an independent consultant and contributing writer for GigaOM. Please see his disclosure statement in his bio.