How can cloud services brokerages, channel partners and customers get a better handle on cloud costs? For those who are going Google, perhaps Google's new Billing API can help. And for channel partners that leverage third-party clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace, HP Cloud or IBM SoftLayer, perhaps CloudAbility's billing management tools can help. Here's the update.

Let's start with Google's cloud API effort. According to a recent Google blog entry:

"Tools for monitoring, analyzing and optimizing cost have become an important part of managing cloud services. But these tools are difficult to build if the usage data is only in the Google Cloud Console. We are happy to announce a solution to this problem. The Billing Export feature addresses this need, and it is available in Preview."

In a prepared statement, early adopter Dave Tucker, director of platform development, WebFilings said:

"Billing Export is a great new feature of Google Cloud Platform. It allows us to analyze the detailed usage of all our cloud projects in one place and optimize our costs. It also gives us a great tool to monitor our applications over time and understand trends in our usage."

How Much Was That?

Cloud billing management has been a hot topic across the IT channel, especially as VARs, MSPs and cloud brokerages attempt to offer vendor management services to end-customers. According to Gartner VP Tiffani Bova, managing SaaS and other cloud services becomes unweildy once a customer activates three or more services. At that point, it's often wise for the customer to leverage a cloud services aggregator or broker to manage all the services -- perhaps including billing.

A lot of public clouds are introducing billing management APIs and other services to help partners and customers manage costs. And companies like CloudAbility now offer billing management tools that support multiple clouds.

The question I still need to answer: Which cloud billing management tools are truly built for channel partners, and which are designed purely for end-customers? If you've got answers I'm all ears.