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Chicago Mercantile Exchange floats Wall Street cloud

Trade IaaS resources just like hogs, sugar, and anything else

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Cloud computing promises the easy migration from one supplier to the next, but we all know that isn't the case because there isn't any market punters can access to buy and sell their resources.

But on Monday that changed when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) announced it had signed a non-binding Letter of Intent with cloud broker 6fusion to try and build a market for buying and selling cloud resources.

The tentative partnership could help businesses buy and sell basic IaaS resources just as firms now buy and sell pork, beans, and wheat.

Right now, the closest a business can get to this is using a vendor like RightScale or Engine Yard to help them spread IT across multiple clouds, but if they're caught short it's difficult for them to quickly get rid of assets, or buy more.

This is why the announcement of a tentative partnership between the CME and 6fusion piqued our interest. The tie-up is the outcome of some two years of behind-the-scenes work, 6fusion's cofounder and chief executive John Cowan told The Register on Monday.

It will see CME, 6fusion, and a few as-yet-unnamed cloud providers work together to try and turn compute and storage into tradeable, fungible resources.

CME will provide an exchange, and 6fusion will use its gloriously named "Workload Allocation Cube" to provide a way to rank disparate cloud resources, which will be put forward by suppliers.

"CME are dead serious about cloud computing being the next big commodity," Cowan said.

6fusion is staying quiet on which providers may end up offering capacity into the exchange, but we reckon it won't be ones as large as Microsoft, Google, or Amazon – though Cowan insists they're in conversations.

"I would consider somebody like a Joyent, for instance, would be an interesting player," he said. More announcements are expected throughout the fourth quarter of 2013.

But the market for tradable cloud assets has a mixed history, and we've been here before: in 2011 cloud hoster Enomaly launched SpotCloud, which aimed to let people resell cloud assets to one another. The tech got write-ups in the trade press along with larger publications such as The Economist, but the service never really took off.

"I was definitely a bit early with SpotCloud," Reuven Cohen, Enomaly's founder and now chief cloud advocate at Citrix, tells The Register via email. "In many ways being early set the stage for others to enter the fray. CME has been a long time leader in so-called exotic derivatives and I eagerly await what the two companies come up with."

It's unlikely that IaaS technologies will be the strangest – or most niche – element traded by CME, as the exchange already deals in Frozen Orange Juice, Lean Hogs, Rough Rice, and the splendidly named "Random Length Lumber".

All of these commodities have a smaller market size than the estimated $8bn total size of the IaaS market, James Mitchell the chief executive of cloud brokerage Cloud Options points out in a blog post commenting on the deal.

"So let's not get carried away, the IaaS market is not the size of the $48billion corn market, the $85billion 100oz Gold market or the $124 billion crude oil market, but it is already large enough to get the attention of the world's largest group of Financial Exchanges," he writes.

If everything goes as the CME and 6fusion hope, in a few years we could all be writing about the boom and bust market in cloud futures, or the sudden surge in light crude compute. High-frequency cloud trading, anyone? ®

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