Cloud-capacity market makes IT's hottest trend a commodity

SpotCloud makes buying and selling by-the-bit computing much simpler

Cloud computing is such a pain.

You have to identify a service company, sign up, decide how much capacity you want to use, and then just keep using it.

Sure, you can go up or down when you need more or less capacity or want to save money.

But where can you go if you suddenly want 10,000 virtual servers all running Call of Duty: Black Ops, but only for one day?

SpotCloud. It's a service launched last month by regular old infrastructure as a service provider Enomaly primarily to give other cloud providers a place to sell of excess compute capacity, in the same way electric utilities pool and resell their extra capacity.

For buyers it's designed to supply "Transient Compute Capacity" (a transparent effort to introduce another TLA that, as a bonus, makes the more commonly used phrase "temporary capacity longer and more technical-sounding). TCC covers spiky demand for load balancing, content delivery, performance optimization and such, according to SpotCloud.

The temporary cloud power isn't designed to house your SAP apps. It's an edge thing – appropriate for smaller, locked-down virtual servers running as appliances – a set of which are available for download and imprinting with your own server images.

If you just need a bunch of Exchange servers or raw HPC or two month's worth of time on a bunch of servers that can be a DMZ to integrate your company and a recent acquisition, or just to rent some short-term project or dev space, SpotCloud isn't a bad idea.

It also includes internal code and APIs that distribute specific loads across the number of VMs and compute cycles it has available at any time. On any given day that can range between 10,000 and 25,000 virtual servers, according to analysts at GigaOm.

In this way SpotCloud actually functions more like a reverse cloud, allowing one company to add varying amounts of capacity to a generalized pool, depending on how much is available every day, getting paid according to how much capacity it supplies and what the demand is.

On the buy side it lets end-user customers shop among providers or add short-term capacity from a different provider at (potentially) a better price than the primary vendor.

There are all kinds of problems with that, if you're trying to bridge them, of course. You can't run 80 percent of your SAP implementation on one cloud and 20 percent on another – probably incompatible – one. You could, but not smoothly; there would have to be a DMZ or other integration layer in the middle.

It does make pretty clear that even cloud computing – the hottest trend in IT right now, the force that's changing the economics of the business model of every vendor in the business and budget expectations of every customer – is itself a commodity service that is sucking the unique value out of incompatible systems quicker than you can say "generic unit of computing power."

Enomaly announced the service in November, ran it as a beta for a couple of months, and launched SpotCloud publicly on Monday.

SpotCloud estimates the cloud you buy there will cost as little as 40 percent what an equivalent capacity would from your regular cloud dealer.

And it will come in a simple, black-and-white-labeled generic package marked Computer.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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