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FinOps Foundation Insights

FOCUS 1.0 is Now Available. Practitioners and Clouds Continue Adoption.

June 20, 2024 | Article: 10-minute read

Key Insight: FOCUS™ is the unifying format for cloud bills. The FOCUS 1.0 release has been formally ratified for General Availability. FOCUS is being adopted by end user FinOps Practitioners, leading cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, and FinOps tool vendors,  who all benefit from removing complexity associated with cloud billing data normalization.

J.R. Storment of the FinOps Foundation announces the FOCUS 1.0 GA release at FinOps X 2024 in San Diego, and then invites Clément Leroux of GitLab to talk about FOCUS adoption and usage.


Foreword

FOCUS 1.0 is ready for adoption

Today, the FinOps Foundation announced the General Availability (GA) of the FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUS™) Version 1.0. FOCUS is the unifying specification for cloud billing and reduces complexity for FinOps practitioners by enabling common FinOps capabilities from cost analysis, spend allocation, commitment optimization, invoice reconciliation and unit economic reporting.

The FOCUS journey started 14 months ago in a FinOps Foundation open billing Working Group, evolved into a JDF (Joint Development Foundation) Specification Project hosted by the Linux Foundation, and now boasts a Steering Committee with three of the major cloud providers and practitioners from some of the largest and most advanced cloud spenders in the world.

Today, the Specification’s 1.0 release is ready for general adoption, having passed through a rigorous approval and IP review process. While this is an early major milestone in the FOCUS journey, the Specification is just getting started. As the Use Case Library expands, FOCUS Contributing Members and Steering Committee Members are already working on a 1.1 release (slated for November) and planning for further releases in 2025. The depth and quality of the Specification will increase over time and we’ll see billing generators increase the quality of their FOCUS outputs.

FOCUS aims to extend beyond the cloud

Right now, FOCUS is supported by the 4 largest clouds: AWS, Microsoft, Google and Oracle, but over time, it will be used by generators of other types of “cloud like” consumption billing data such as SaaS, PaaS, Licensing, Software, and possibly even related data like Sustainability metrics, as additional Columns are added to support an even wider set of use cases.

Adopting FOCUS now immediately gives you the benefit of normalized cloud spend, plus it starts you on a journey with the Specification that will allow you to easily add future types of spending as iterative releases improve it. It solves for today’s use cases, but it also sets you up for tomorrow’s opportunities.

FOCUS looks simple, and that’s the point. To get to this simple set of columns, thousands of hours of discussion and reviews occurred in an operational structure that allows community inputs, and contains a set of IP protection processes to protect adopters from patent infringement concerns. Getting to consensus on a specification takes time and deep discussion with product experts from the entire cloud ecosystem.

Some companies may have already developed a schema to normalize their current cloud spend. But it’s not provided by the Cloud providers in that format. You can get out of the business of converting or transforming the data, aligning new clouds to it, keeping it up to date as the clouds update their billing data, and aligning it to other types of spend as you add them.

FOCUS needs your help

It’s time for you to adopt and to help improve, iterate, and grow the value of FOCUS. Start using it by turning on the data exports natively available from cloud providers. Get trained on the Specification through the FinOps Certified FOCUS Analyst certification. Provide feedback and ask your vendors when they plan to support FOCUS.


What is FOCUS?

FinOps Open Cost and Usage Specification (FOCUS) is an open-source technical specification for cloud cost and usage billing data. In plain language, it is the unifying format for cloud bills. FOCUS defines clear requirements for cloud vendors to generate billing files in a single format, eliminating the complexity of data normalization and making it easier for Practitioners to perform FinOps. The time previously spent on data ingestion and normalization can be redirected toward iteratively improving FinOps Capabilities to an appropriate maturity.

This groundbreaking initiative is supported by the FinOps Foundation, and is a combined effort of FinOps Practitioners, cloud software vendors, and cloud IaaS providers. FOCUS aims to build and maintain an open standard for cloud billing data and garner adoption across all major cloud vendors. The initial Specification introduces common taxonomy, terminology, and metrics for billing datasets produced by large IaaS providers. However, the Specification aims to be extensible to other cloud SaaS billing datasets, including networking, observability, and security tools. Future updates are expected to add support for SaaS providers and on-premises datasets.

What problem does FOCUS solve?

FinOps Practitioners face a daunting challenge: collecting, normalizing, and analyzing disparate cloud billing data to deliver insightful reports and recommendations that drive more business value from cloud investments. Their remit touches functions from business leadership to finance to engineering, and with another 20 percent increase in cloud spending expected this year (1), the stakes are high.

Billing data from cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors, and other Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) streams into organizations every day, and when these billing files show up, there is no consistency across them; Each vendor employs unique terminology, taxonomy, and metrics in their billing file. This complexity slows a FinOps Practitioner down, as they must spend valuable time ingesting and normalizing all of this data before they can even begin analysis.

To make matters worse, each time a new vendor is added to the cloud ecosystem, a new schema must be developed to transform that cost and usage data into the organization’s proprietary format. This complexity slows a FinOps Practitioner down and compromises their ability to deliver valuable insights. Reducing the amount of work needed to begin analysis enables businesses to refocus that energy on activities that are more strategic and worthwhile.

Who Uses FOCUS?

There are two broad constituencies for FOCUS: cloud billing data generators and cloud billing data consumers.

Generators of cloud billing data are cloud vendors that generate bills to send to customers who use their resources, tools, and/or services. For generators of cloud billing data, the Specification is the set of requirements for FOCUS billing datasets. It defines the data that must be present in the file and how the column names must be written.

Billing generators must consider:

Consumers of cloud billing data are end users (at companies) that use paid cloud resources, tools, and/or services. They can refer to the Specification for clarification about the definition of a column of data. Consumers can also leverage a library of FinOps Use Cases containing predefined queries that can be run on FOCUS datasets to answer FinOps-related questions.

Billing consumers must consider:

Cloud billing generators and consumers split into 3 categories. To determine which category you fall into, consider your role with respect to billing data (consumer, generator, or both).

1. FinOps Practitioners (consume)

FinOps Practitioners are the end users who consume FOCUS datasets. These individuals perform FinOps for their organization.

2. Cloud vendors (generate)

Cloud vendors generate billing data from their billing departments to send to customers for use of their offering. They include, but are not limited to:

3. FinOps vendors (both consume and generate)

FinOps vendors provide FinOps tools or services. They are a subset of cloud vendors that are both generators and consumers of cloud billing data.

Figure 1: To understand your role with respect to FOCUS, consider whether you generate or consume cloud billing data.

Benefits of FOCUS

Widespread adoption of FOCUS represents a significant change for the cloud industry. One-time upfront effort by the community to adopt the FOCUS Specification eliminates the need for normalization efforts at every single organization using cloud. Removing this time-consuming and complex process from the practice of FinOps sets the wheels of adoption — and value realization — of cloud resources, services, and tools into motion.

1. Benefits for FinOps Practitioners

With FOCUS, Practitioners themselves gain the ability to transfer their data skills to perform FinOps capabilities regardless of the platform or vendors used. Now, they can learn a single process to run queries on cloud billing data, no matter the origin. This means their skills are more portable across clouds, FinOps tools, and organizations.

FOCUS™ also makes it easier for FinOps Practitioners to perform FinOps Capabilities and improves how they report the value of cloud back to the business. Reducing the time and effort needed to normalize and analyze cloud billing data enables Practitioners to refocus that energy on more important Capabilities. In other words, with FOCUS, Practitioners can spend more time on FinOps, and less time on data normalization.

Critically, FOCUS also enables an increase in self-service reporting across the organization. Practitioners can learn — and teach all stakeholders — a single process to query data and get answers to FinOps questions. This is especially important as organizations scale up.

BENEFIT DESCRIPTION
Improved reporting consistency and accuracy Standardizing billing files in a consistent format reduces the chances of inaccurate reporting due to discrepancies in terminology and definitions of columns across external vendors or across internal groups.
Opportunity for training and education With FOCUS, practitioners can learn a single process to perform a FinOps activity. Training on cloud billing data is possible in this environment, and pays off for both the practitioner and their organization in terms of job mobility and business continuity.

  • Job mobility – Practitioners can transition between companies without having to learn a new normalization scheme.
  • Business continuity – New hires that join as FinOps Practitioners are already familiar with FOCUS, so organizations do not have to train them on normalizing billing data.
More self-service reporting FOCUS makes it easier for more people in the business to self-serve reporting, which is critical for FinOps teams to scale. FinOps teams can teach Core and Allied Personas a single process to create their own reports on any FOCUS dataset so they can get answers to their own questions.
Reduced complexity of billing files A single set of columns applies across all of an organization’s cloud billing data, even in a multi-vendor environment. This means FinOps Practitioners have a lot less terminology to learn.
Easier integration of new vendors When a new vendor is added to the cloud ecosystem, the organization already has a defined format to transform the data into. No time is spent figuring out what format to transform the data into.
Cheaper to process data FOCUS combines actual billed costs and amortized costs into one dataset, drastically reducing the cost of compute and storage needed to process this data.
Multi-cloud data-driven decision making FOCUS enables consistent reporting across vendors, enabling Leadership to analyze the whole environment instead of looking at each cloud or vendor in a silo. With better data, better decisions can be made, and goals can be met faster.
Increased innovation With better understanding of cloud value, the path is cleared for using cloud offerings to drive innovation and business growth. FOCUS accelerates your path to FinOps excellence, ultimately helping to leverage cloud as a strategic asset for innovation.

Table 1: Benefits of FOCUS for FinOps Practitioners and their organizations.

2. Benefits for Cloud vendors

When your billing file is in the FOCUS™ format, customers can readily integrate your billing data into their data pools and/or tooling and will already know the terminology and definitions used in your billing file. FOCUS™ also makes it easier for businesses to understand the ROI of and choose a vendor that best meets their needs. This clarity and confidence often increases adoption and accelerates account growth. FOCUS eases adoption, and accelerates usage of cloud infrastructure and software, while reducing account churn.

BENEFIT DESCRIPTION
Increased adoption When your billing file is in the FOCUS format, customers can readily ingest your billing data into their tools (either in-house or third-party tooling) and will already know the terminology and definitions used in your billing file. Meeting your customers where they are makes it easier for them to adopt your offering.
Accelerated usage Trust in billing data is a key accelerant for adoption and usage, and trust requires understanding. FOCUS makes it easier for FinOps Practitioners to articulate the ROI of investments in cloud infrastructure and software, helping the business understand – and trust – cloud vendors. When the customer’s Leadership is confident in a positive ROI, they clear the pathway for more usage of your offering. Thus, FOCUS accelerates usage of cloud infrastructure and software by making it easier for the business to understand the value of that usage.
Reduced churn With consistency across vendor billing files, customers can more easily compare their cost and usage data across different vendors. This helps them find the vendor that best meets their needs, which reduces account churn across the industry.

Table 2: Benefits of FOCUS for cloud vendors.

3. Benefits for FinOps tool vendors

Vendors who offer FinOps Tools that are designed to help with the practice of FinOps are both consumers and generators of cloud billing data. Tools that support FOCUS are easier for customers (who are familiar with FOCUS) to adopt and use because they are familiar with the terminology in your reports. Consequently, they will bring more data into your tool, accelerating usage and increasing stickiness. FOCUS also makes it easier for FinOps vendors to improve their tool by making it easier to add support for additional vendors and freeing resources to develop new FinOps features.

BENEFIT DESCRIPTION
Increase adoption and consumption FinOps tools that align with FOCUS will be easier for customers to adopt, as customers will readily understand the terminology used in your tool’s reports. Consequently, they will bring more data into your tool, accelerating usage and increasing stickiness.
Easier to add integrations FOCUS unifies various formats for billing data, removing the need for normalization. This makes it easier for FinOps vendors to integrate with additional vendors.
Shift development resources to more valuable features With FOCUS, FinOps vendors do not need to spend development resources building data normalization functionality. Instead, those resources can be spent developing support for other FinOps Capabilities that customers need.

Table 3: Benefits of FOCUS for FinOps vendors.

The Specification

FOCUS 1.0 defines 43 columns that can be used in cloud billing files. Each column has a unique name, ID, description, and the requirements for that column. Each column provides either qualitative data (Dimensions) or quantitative data (Metrics).

Metrics are commonly used for aggregations (sum, multiplication, averaging etc.) and statistical operations within the dataset.

Example Metric (Qualitative) Column: Availability Zone

Display Name: Availability Zone
Column ID: AvailabilityZone
Description: A provider-assigned identifier for a physically separated and isolated area within a Region that provides high availability and fault tolerance.

Dimensions are commonly used to categorize, filter, and reveal details in your data when combined with metrics.

Example Dimension (Quantitative) Column: Billed Cost

Display Name: Billed Cost
Column ID: BilledCost
Description: A charge serving as the basis for invoicing, inclusive of all reduced rates and discounts while excluding the amortization of upfront charges (one-time or recurring).

Use Cases and FOCUS Queries

To help Practitioners realize business value with FOCUS data, FinOps Practitioners worked with the FinOps Foundation to build a library of over 40 common FinOps Use Cases, each complete with an SQL query that leverages FOCUS columns to answer critical business questions. These Use Cases offer a standardized approach to extracting answers from billing data, and give Practitioners time back to work on higher-priority FinOps Capabilities.

The Use Case library is an open-source collection to help simplify data management for FinOps practitioners. We encourage you to review the use cases, send us feedback, and suggest new use cases and queries for the library. Please use the Make Suggestion button in the top right corner of the Use Case Library or email us at focus@finops.org.


Figure 2: FinOps Use Case with pre-built FOCUS query

Obtaining FOCUS datasets

The largest cloud vendors and over a dozen FinOps tool vendors have adopted FOCUS:

FinOps tooling vendors are also adopting FOCUS with data exports and reporting using FOCUS attributes and metrics. As adoption continues, more vendors plan to support FOCUS data ingestion, adopt FOCUS terminology in their platforms, and align their APIs to the requirements in the Specification. Check out the FinOps Landscape to see which vendors have support for FOCUS data.

Transforming non-conformant datasets into the FOCUS format

If a billing dataset is not received in the FOCUS format, an end user or Practitioner can transform that data into the FOCUS format. FOCUS Contributors have developed two tools to help with this transformation.

Data Converters

The FOCUS Converter is a code library and command-line utility that converts billing data files into the FOCUS format. It makes a best-effort conversion when the appropriate data for FOCUS does not exist in the vendor’s data file.

The converter is optimized for:

Today, billing files from the following Cloud Service Providers (CSP)s are supported by FOCUS Data Converters (meaning Practitioners can use the FOCUS Converter to convert billing files from these vendors into the FOCUS format):

Data Validator

FOCUS Contributors have also built a Data Validator into the Data Converter to check if a billing file aligns with FOCUS. Practitioners can use the Data Validator on its own to confirm that the data file they want to ingest is conformant and won’t contaminate their pool with non-conformant data. They can also use it to check the validity of data they just converted using the Data Converter.

Training & Certification

FinOps Certified FOCUS Analyst

With the General Availability of FOCUS 1.0, we are also announcing the launch of our new FOCUS Certification course: FinOps Certified FOCUS Analyst. This course is designed for Practitioners who will need to generate, ingest, or analyze FOCUS datasets. Throughout the course, you will learn common use cases for FOCUS and get hands-on practice with real-life implementations of billing data in a FOCUS format. After completing this course you will be able to leverage the queries in the FOCUS Use Case Library, and know how to apply FOCUS datasets to perform essential FinOps Capabilities.

Introduction to FOCUS

For those who work with FinOps Practitioners, view FinOps reports, or look at other billing data outputs (but don’t directly manipulate the billing data themselves), we recommend our free Introduction to FOCUS course. This course covers the basics of FOCUS, looks at sample use cases, and familiarizes you with key terminology. Take this course to learn about the important cloud billing specification that is shaping the future of FinOps.

How to Get Started

Next steps for Practitioners

FinOps Practitioners can start to get their hands on FOCUS data. Microsoft, Google, AWS and Oracle offer billing data exports in the FOCUS format. Data Converters and Validators are also available for Practitioners to transform billing data that is not in the FOCUS format.

  1. Take FOCUS training. Share the Introduction to FOCUS course throughout your organization and register yourself for the FinOps Certified FOCUS Analyst course.
  2. Get familiar with FOCUS. FinOps Practitioners should familiarize themselves with the terminology and metrics in the Specification. Browse the FOCUS Column Library and the Use Case Library with SQL queries.
  3. Talk with vendors about adoption. To help with cloud vendor adoption, FinOps Practitioners can introduce the Specification to their preferred vendors and encourage them to adopt FOCUS.

Next steps for vendors

All cloud IaaS, SaaS, ISV, etc. vendors can begin to align their offerings with the FOCUS Specification.

  1. Take FOCUS training. Encourage sales and marketing teams to take the Introduction to FOCUS course and register product and engineering teams for the FinOps Certified FOCUS Analyst course.
  2. Talk with product and engineering teams. Begin having conversations with your product and development teams about reporting and customer outputs that align with the Specification.
  3. Build a roadmap. Establish a roadmap to align your offerings with FOCUS.

In late 2024, a formal assessment program may be announced, allowing FOCUS adopters to become certifiably FOCUS-conformant.

Looking Ahead

Since kicking off in 2023, the FOCUS project gained significant momentum early on, with end user practitioners, FinOps vendors, and some of the largest cloud service providers contributing to the development of the Specification. With this GA release of Version 1.0, FOCUS is ready for you to start using and provide feedback. Large cloud service providers have announced support for FOCUS, and FinOps Practitioners are beginning to leverage these datasets to reveal the value of cloud operations for their organizations.

Looking ahead, FOCUS aims to gain deeper and broader adoption across the industry, particularly among other cloud SaaS providers, including networking, observability, and security tools. Future updates are expected to add support for SaaS providers and even on-premises datasets. Further, the Specification will be expanded to provide the data elements necessary to perform all of the FinOps Capabilities.

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