Computation market: A screen shot from SpotCloud’s online cloud computing marketplace shows sellers offering to rent remote computers for as little as a penny per hour.
Sellers currently offering computer capacity on SpotCloud include Domicilium, a Web hosting company that built a 20,000-square-foot data center on the Isle of Man, a tax haven off the Irish coast. Cohen says he recently got a call from a data center that streams weekend games for a major sports league in the United States. The problem: “Most of the time the provider’s servers sit idle,” he says. “We’re talking tens of thousands of servers that do nothing between Monday and Friday.”
Exchanges such as SpotCloud aren’t yet attracting huge e-commerce companies looking to run critical software or websites. Instead, buyers are on the lower end of the market—companies looking for overseas data centers to test location-specific applications, or to run so-called batch computing operations on the cheap. According to Cohen, daily trading volume amounts to “several hundred” gigabytes of computer memory.
Another challenge facing exchanges is that different cloud services purchased on an exchange won’t necessarily work together. Kaplan says trying to build a computing environment from a hodgepodge of remote computers presents a “challenge [to] manageability” that would require businesses to invest heavily in software to monitor and manage those resources.
Several companies are now seeking to build exchanges that would both allow bidding and guarantee interoperability of computers from different vendors. ComputeNext, a Seattle-based startup, says it is developing software that will let cloud clusters communicate. Similarly, Germany’s ScaleUp Technologies is working on software called “Federated Cloud” that would let users sell capacity from different data centers in different regions through a single interface.