Bulking Up with Gridspot: Crowd Sourced Cloud That's Too Cheap to Meter?

Gridspot beta's new API could be to Amazon's cloud services what Amazon is to bookstores: a fiercely disruptive competitor. The API details show how users can manage large-scale computing using idle computing power around the world. According to Gridspot, that is the secret behind their jaw-dropping cloud power pricing, which they claim is 30 times cheaper.

The secret to the low pricing is what Gridspot pays for the idle computing resources it provides: zero. How do they get volunteers? The point is to give back, to be part of something bigger, which they claim is a better motivator than small payment.

There are downsides to this arrangement, like the projects should not be privacy sensitive. But it's ideal for large tasks, such as winning a chess game against IBM's Deep Blue.

Gridspot takes care of those contributing their idle computing power. Among the concerns is conserving energy which it does by timing computations to climactic concerns:

"Running a computer processor at full power consumes about the same amount of power as a light bulb."

"While this isn't a lot of power, we wanted to find a way to minimize its aggregate impact."

"Thus, we decided to only run computations when the outdoor temperature near the user is below a certain level (currently 16 degrees Celcius). When it's that cold outside, we assume that the computer's room is being heated anyway. All of the electricity used to do computations gets turned into heat, according to the laws of physics. So the heat generated by the computations displaces the need for heat generated by a heater, eliminating or minimizing the net elecricity usage."

Other concerns include safety, which Gridspot addresses through network proxying and virtual machine isolation.

It's easy to explore a number of parallels, such as the Amazon fight with bricks and mortar bookstores mentioned earlier. Like the bookstores, Amazon has an investment in computing power, one that is presumably growing fast as its business grows. Except for administration, Gridspot is unshackled by that expense. Like Amazon did to bookstores, Gridspot can exploit its savings.

To suggest a different parallel, if this takes off, Gridspot could do to Amazon what Wikipedia did to the Encyclopedia Britannica: take an expensive invaluable product, crowd source it, and knock the price so low that it upends not just the cost but the very nature of what is offered.

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