Is SpotCloud Google AdSense for Cloud Computing?

Enomaly’s SpotCloud cloud-computing brokerage is now available for public beta, and Enomaly Founder and CTO Reuven Cohen thinks it can be for cloud computing what Google (s goog) AdSense is for web sites. In fact, he says that AdSense was the inspiration for SpotCloud. It’s an apt analogy, but there’s one big difference as far as I can tell: the size of user for each service.

As Cohen explains it, just as Google AdSense lets web site owners and bloggers try to monetize blank space by placing ads in it, SpotCloud lets data center operators monetize excess capacity by releasing it to SpotCloud. AdSense users get paid when someone clicks on the ad, whereas SpotCloud contributors get paid when someone reserves that capacity. (For more on how SpotCloud’s brokerage works, see Stacey Higginbotham’s previous coverage of the SpotCloud launch and fast-growing capacity pool.) From an analogical standpoint, though, the big difference appears to be that the services rely on entirely different user types. AdSense seems to attract huge numbers of independent web sites without advertising teams to sell space, but SpotCloud, thus far, relies on larger data center operators rather than smaller hosting providers.

Prior to SpotCloud launching for private beta in November, Cohen said he actually was operating off the “wrong assumption” that smaller providers would drive SpotCloud capacity. However, in a turn of events that makes perfect sense in retrospect, large providers represent the brunt of SpotCloud contributors. “It ended up being a heck of a lot more [capacity] than I ever imagined,” Cohen explained, only from a whole other group of contributors.  The reason is simple: Smaller providers operate relatively lean, and don’t have hundreds or thousands of excess servers sitting idle and ready to jump into a brokerage like SpotCloud. To illustrate how large providers might get involved with SpotCloud, Cohen cited one situation where a co-location customer went out of business and the provider had 100 servers just sitting around doing nothing; in another situation, a service provider’s customer maintains an 8,000-server farm where only 4,000 are ever in use at any given time.

Another interesting, and unexpected, use case for SpotCloud is regulated industries wanting to create their own private exchanges within SpotCloud. For example, Cohen said Enomaly is working with a group of HIPAA-compliant companies that want to trade and sell excess capacity among themselves. This has the potential to prove very profitable, as we’ve long heard the suggestion of industry-specific computing clouds, and SpotCloud might allow them to take shape without placing on said companies the onus of building entirely new clouds.

Still, the nascent SpotCloud has a long way to go before achieving any level of success, much less anything comparable to AdSense. In order to do so, it will have to convince buyers, not sellers, that there are legitimate uses for this type of capacity. AdSense doesn’t pay off for anyone unless site visitors click on ads, and SpotCloud won’t pay off unless someone is buying capacity. Cohen thinks SpotCloud has immediate potential for applications such as web-application load testing, where companies might need lots of capacity from specific geographies in order to simulate real-world user load (see the recent Comic-Con ticket-sales snafu for evidence of how important this can be). If Enomaly and/or users can unearth a few other killer apps, we’ll see how far the AdSense analogy can carry.

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