Is Amazon scheming up a cloud-based Bitcoin-funded exchange?

Some cloud futurists get giddy over the idea of an exchange-like marketplace where one day cloud computing resources are bought and sold like stocks. Amazon, the biggest dog in this industry, may be scheming up something of that ilk, given a new patent the company was awarded this week.

The patent description is broad in its scope, but it basically allows for the company to set up a marketplace where payments for cloud computing services are bought by one entity and then used by another. Payment for these services can be accepted across a variety of means, including Bitcoin.

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Stock exchange data screen

Just because Amazon applied for, and won, this patent doesn't mean the company has any plans to do anything with it. Many companies file patents just to cover their bases and stake an intellectual property (IP) claim on an idea. Amazon may be doing that, or perhaps it is planning some sort of digital currency-centric exchange.

AWS isn't the only one to have thought about this issue. There are a handful of startup companies and partners that are working on the idea of creating a commodity exchange marketplace in which cloud computing resources are sold in blocks then traded. The idea in these scenarios is that cloud resources could change in value - during a peak shopping or tax season perhaps resources are in higher demand. Different types of resources, from ultra-secure ones to high-capacity ones could be bought, sold and used.

Perhaps AWS has caught wind of these nascent efforts and was looking to claim IP rights on them. Or perhaps AWS sees a future in Bitcoin and other digital currencies being a natural fit for payment of cloud computing consumption. It's hard to know exactly what AWS's plans were, if any, but the fact that it liked the idea enough to file a patent in 2012, which was awarded earlier this month, shows that something is going on here.

Here's a link to the full patent filing. Shout-out to ECommerceBytes and Coin Desk for first reporting the story.

Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World. Photo credit: iStockPhoto 

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