As Qbox has grown to thousands of users administering many thousands of nodes on behalf of customers in every corner of the world, our users have provided us with feedback and objections about our billing flexibility.

In response, we made some important changes that I think you will like — and you if don’t like or care about it, nothing needs to change.

If features such as invoicing, net terms, non-dollar denominations, and cost certainty based on advance purchases are important to you, keep reading.

In addition, some of you will be able to get heretofore unavailable discounts.

To provide background, the Qbox billing model has been fairly straightforward from our inception and is certainly familiar to those who have used a cloud computing service. Our unit of sale is the compute hour, and it is so for several reasons.

The compute hour as a unit sale is a well-understood model, reflecting that of most infrastructure-as-a-service partners. It maintains flexibility for the broadest set of use cases, eliminating the need to worry about constructing your application based on some imagined or arbitrary usage tier. We also want users to have the flexibility to scale up, scale down, and test different configurations to suit the unique needs of the search or analytics application that they are building.

And most important, it makes it easy for our developer customers to try us out before trusting us with production workloads. We want this to continue because we feel strongly that if we continue to provide value, we will win in the marketplace.

From a billing standpoint, we have insisted on having a credit card on file, transacting in US dollars, and billing in arrears. (The last thing a nimble startup needs to worry about is collection headaches!)

However, many of our most important customers, especially those in large enterprises, have repeatedly told us that this arrangement doesn’t always work unless we want to be forever thought of as a “rogue budget” item. We confess to underestimating the challenges of those who reside in large organizations that don’t dole out credit cards or in organizations with strict purchasing guidelines that inhibit casual sign-up services like ours.

So, we have made it possible for custom billing arrangements (with certain minimum requirements).

Users can now purchase a nominal sum on invoice with the amount being credited to your Qbox account. This amount can then be burned down, based on your usage. In enterprise software, burn-down contracts have a similar meaning to their agile context, wherein a user purchases a fixed amount of credits that is then decremented as usage increases.

For example, Company XYZ knows they want to purchase a 3-node cluster, each with 15GB of RAM for one year. This amount is budgeted, and thus, the stakeholder prefers to use this amount while it is available and budgeted. We can invoice said user for the amount budgeted and place this credit onto his or her account. The user can then provision a 3-node cluster and proceed painlessly with building the search application.

If the user decides that a 7.5GB cluster is sufficient, then the user can spin down to the lower size and will be charged less. In that case, the credit usage occurs more slowly. Conversely, if the user needs to scale up by, say, adding 2 more nodes, then credits burn down faster. We will notify these users as their burn-down is approaching its end.

For minimum purchases of $1,000, we are now also able to work on invoiced terms. This is useful if your company or department hasn’t issued you a credit card. Likewise, if you need to be invoiced in another currency, we can do that, although the credit will be both applied and will burn down in US dollars.

Now, here’s the good part….

Depending on the size and length of commitment, the user can get a discount from the pay-as-you-go rate. We can do this because lengthy commitments allow us to dial up the purchases of forward contracts from our infrastructure providers. Many of you know about Reserved Instances — and we’re sure that you also know that purchasing them requires a substantial up-front commitment.

To make an advance purchase happen, follow these steps:

  • From your dashboard, select “Manage Account”

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  • Select “Purchase Credits”

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  • Confirm that you understand the terms

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For transparency sake, there is a trade-off. To make this arrangement feasible, there is a $1,000 minimum on pre-payments. Also, once purchased, we will not be able to refund committed dollars, although the burn-down amount will remain until it expires.

We hope this makes it easier for you to choose Qbox, and as always, I am always eager to hear your suggestions and feedback. My email address is mark@qbox.io. Ping me.