Startup DigitalRibbon is looking to monetize on-demand computational resources.
On the tailwinds of Sun Microsystems' Network.com and Amazon.com's EC2,
grass-roots startup DigitalRibbon is looking to start a revolution in trading
computational resources in the cloud.
The concept: Build a virtual marketplace where big suppliers of
computational power-mammoth computing entities like the National
Center for Supercomputing-can put
their excess computing resources up for sale to companies looking for
short-term but high-impact computational power. The goal is to both monetize
and standardize computational resources, and to revolutionize the way computing
power is bought and sold.
"We really do think this is a concept that is going to change the
world," said DigitalRibbon CEO Erik
Weaver. "As large volumes of resources come online, there [is] a whole new
set of applications and businesses that can emerge."
While the model sounds simplistic, the market is young-Amazon's Elastic
Compute Cloud platform is still at the beta stage-and like any in-the-cloud
commodity purchasing scheme, it comes with its own set variables.
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"As one tries to monetize computing power, you have to understand the
aspects of it," Weaver said. "A lot of people think it's just
computing power on demand, but the market is much more dynamic than that. ... If
you're trying to create a unit for measuring computer power, it's not like
electricity, where you can measure a kilowatt. I think in the future it's going
[to play] out a lot like the futures market, where there are a lot of varieties
of wheat [for example]. When you're talking about supercomputers, grid
computing, you're going to have a lot of different flavors."
The field is so new that IT firms like Gartner, Forrester Research and AMR
Research haven't yet published research materials on it. However, there are
some big-name companies involved.
Sun's Network.com offers pay-for-use access to a set of infrastructure Web
services from the Sun Grid Compute Utility. The site, according to
documentation from Sun, acts as a portal for developers, partners and users to
"create, publish, and access application services predicated on Sun and
other open-source technologies." One pay-as-you-go offering provides
access to parallel computing resources for $1 per CPU hour. In a manner similar
to the consumer model of buying goods over the Internet, customers can use
PayPal (or a purchase order) to buy processing power and access applications.
Amazon.com's EC2 beta, also aimed at developers, is a Web service that
provides "resizable compute capacity in the cloud," according to the
company's Web site. Essentially what EC2 provides is Web service interfaces
that enable users to requisition machines for use. The machines can be loaded
with users' custom application environments where things like network access
permissions can be managed, according to the site.