RightScale buys into cloud cost forecasting

The demand for a way to plan and deploy cloud computing workloads as efficiently as possible is growing. The latest proof point: RightScale’s acquisition of ShopForCloud, a Scottish startup  and its free service that assesses costs for hypothetical cloud deployments before they’re rolled out. This is RightScale’s first-ever acquisition and gives it a presence in Edinburgh, smack in the heart of “Silicon Glen.”

RightScale has re-branded the service, and now calls it PlanForCloud. It gives RightScale a cloud forecasting capability it did not have before.

“This is a forward-looking view for folks planning to use cloud to see how much it will cost. The other stuff is more a tail gunner view of what you have spent or what you are spending versus this which is ‘we have a project we want to run in the cloud and what will it cost us?’,” RightScale CEO Michael Crandell said in a recent interview.

Assess cloud cost first, deploy later

The service will be especially useful for the many companies looking into complex, multiple cloud deployments because it supports all the major cloud players, Amazon(S amzn), Microsoft Azure(s msft), Google(s goog) Compute Engine and Rackspace(s rax).

“There’s a tower of Babel out there with the different pricing schemes which change frequently — it can take a Ph.D. to figure all that out and multiply it out across providers and changes,” he said

Users can enter number of servers needed, database service and data transfer requirements and  can specify timing parameters. Do they want servers running around the clock, just on weekdays, once a month, or holiday season? Do they want to purchase reserved instances or spot instances? The service crunches all those parameters and  displays the result on a dashboard.

The service competes somewhat with Uptimecloud and Cloudyn which forecast predicted costs of Amazon workloads. But most cloud monitoring services still look at a customer’s existing cloud infrastructure, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they’ll all be adding forecasting capabilities at some point.

But wait! There’s more!

PlanForCloud also calculates costs across currencies, so a multinational companies can assess costs in different regions as well.

ShopForCloud was built by a small group from the University of St. Andrews. RightScale plans to keep the company’s Edinburgh office. The service itself runs on Heroku(s crm) and imports streams of pricing data from the various providers. The providers all make that data available but don’t necessarily alert anyone about their changes, Crandell said. “This system was set up to stay current on pricing and all the clouds are cooperating with us,” Crandell said.

The plan is to keep this as a free service — users won’t even need a RightScale account, Crandell said. But it’s clear that the company sees big upside tapping into all those prospective cloud users. Once they’re in, they’ll need some sort of tools to manage all that compute capacity and guess who can offer that?