SoftLayer aims to let customers pay for only what they need with a new infrastructure-as-a-service pricing model it calls Build Your Own Cloud.
Users can choose exactly how much RAM, CPU and storage they want.
"One thing we've learned along the way is that one size doesn't fit all," said Nathan Day, SoftLayer's chief technology officer.
Previously, SoftLayer, like most other infrastructure-as-a-service providers, only offered users set packages that included specific amounts of RAM and CPU, he said. For instance, a package with 1G byte of RAM typically came with one core.
While many customers were happy with that, SoftLayer found that occasionally people were buying more RAM or CPUs than they needed, he said.
For instance, there are certain Web applications that tend to use RAM but don't need all the processors. There are also applications that require heavy number crunching that require lots of processing power but not much RAM, he said.
"We thought about taking the Amazon approach," he said. Amazon's EC2 service has added new pricing configurations that include more CPU or RAM.
Instead, SoftLayer is letting users choose exactly how much RAM and how many CPUs they want, and in addition choose how much drive space they need.
Other infrastructure-as-a-service vendors could follow suit, but it will depend on whether they can figure out how to do so efficiently, Day said.
"We've spent a lot of time working on algorithms to use the physical resources we have efficiently enough to give this flexibility," he said. "It's still an efficiency game, where we're trying to provide the maximum benefit to customers without giving everyone their own server."
Customers can visit SoftLayer's Build Your Own Computer portal to select how many cores and how much RAM and storage they want and see the cost per hour or month.
Infrastructure-as-a-service providers are experimenting with different ways of pricing their services as a way to differentiate their offerings. Another example of a unique pricing model is one offered by Virtustream. It has devised a measurement it calls "infrastructure unit" to determine the cost of use of its compute services. An infrastructure unit is a combination of CPU cycles, memory use and I/O. Virtustream uses this measurement, in part, because it can guarantee service levels for each of those components. It says that's unusual among infrastructure-as-a-service companies, which typically guarantee either CPU or memory, but seldom both.