Ambitious cloud service needs fine-tuning

SpotCloud, a spot market for cloud computing capacity, is symbolic of the dreams of economists and technologists alike — it hopes to be a platform for the ultra-efficient pricing and dispersal of compute resources in the cloud.The service allows companies with spare computing capacity to sell it through the SpotCloud clearing house, where buyers can bid upon it.

SpotCloud, a spot market for cloud computing capacity, is symbolic of the dreams of economists and technologists alike — it hopes to be a platform for the ultra-efficient pricing and dispersal of compute resources in the cloud.

The service allows companies with spare computing capacity to sell it through the SpotCloud clearing house, where buyers can bid upon it. It is analogous to other spot markets, such as Google's AdWords, where the price of a keyword is determined by where its supply intersects with demand. However, in SpotCloud price will not be assigned algorithmically, but by sellers as they learn to meet the market.

SpotCloud has been in beta since November 2010, but announced its public launch on 14 February.

The process for using the service as a buyer is to deposit credit into the SpotCloud platform, then create a virtual machine (VM) appliance using a SpotCloud package builder, upload the VM into the SpotCloud platform via the SpotCloud management interface and then select their cloud compute provider according to cost and location.

A seller defines the hardware profiles of their assets, the location information, the duration of available capacity and the associated resource costs. VMs that fit the seller's criteria are automatically delivered to their cloud infrastructure, where SpotCloud monitors and debits the buyer on an hourly utility basis. At the end of the month, sellers are paid for any capacity that has been used via the SpotCloud marketplace.

A fuzzily defined proportion of each transaction goes directly to Enomaly's — parent company of SpotCloud — coffers. According to the FAQ, "sellers will be paid at least 70 percent of each transaction depending on the volume of transactions offered through the market."

Sellers are anonymised "in order to avoid directly competing with regular retail sales of cloud services," according to the SpotCloud press release.

Spotcloud requires VMs to be Linux or Windows-based and runs on top of Google's platform-as-a-service product Google App Engine (GAE) and Enomaly's elastic cloud computing (ECP) platform.

The service is ambitious, but it may face problems. Immediate ones which come to mind are that in its FAQ it says "to keep the costs as low as possible the service is offered without any SLA, director support or guarantees. We may offer support in the future."

Another is pedigree.

"[SpotCloud sellers] are not like Amazon or Rackspace where I can simply go ahead based on the trust I have on their brand names. I cannot do the same with the sellers in the SpotCloud ecosystem. Lack of transparency on sellers will be a big deterrent for many in the enterprise side," cloud analyst Krishnan Subramanian wrote.

"There is also a danger of a company like Rackspace (which is increasingly moving up from infrastructure to add value) coming up with a service like SpotCloud," Krishnan wrote.

Reuven Cohen, chief technology officer and founder of Enomaly Inc, the parent company of SpotCloud, tweeted on Friday that "based on current SpotCloud durations @ 5000 VMs, we have roughly 87,600,000 CPU hours [per] month available."

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