Setting hard limit on Bluemix spending

I’ve been exploring Watson services in Bluemix as our company is preparing to add Watson capability to our product and service offerings. My trial has expired and I’d like to upgrade to a pay-as-you-go account.

However, my CEO is not prepared to give company credit card details to IBM without a guaranteed limit on monthly spending. To my surprise I found that it is apparently not possible to cap Bluemix spending. I did find documentation on functionality to set spending alerts. However, it is possible to come up with any number of scenarios where a rogue process racks up costs, while an email alert is delayed or fails.

We are in South Africa on the wrong end of fairly steep exchange rate, which means even a mild overrun can constitute a significant expense. (And what about students and independent developers who want to experiment with Watson, who may have extremely limited financial resources? It’s a real deterrent to be exposed to open-ended expense in USD.)

1. Do I understand this correctly — is there really no way to cap a Bluemix account’s spending? Is this not a sane expectation when handing over your credit card details in a system where software bugs can directly and trivially translate to service costs?

2. I am not 100% certain of what is possible or not, or how exactly it works, because the relevant billing functionality is hidden from a trial account. Then, once the trial expires, the account is suspended and one is barred from logging into Bluemix at all until you hand over credit card details. So, no way to directly evaluate billing functionality even.

3. Any ideas on workarounds? All I’ve been able to come up with so far is to precede all my Watson API calls with a call that checks a flag in a database, which would be set by the Bluemix spending alert email via another service that polls the relevant email account. (But then I have to make sure that that service never fails by means of another watchdog service…) Painfully clunky!

If I cannot provide a way to guarantee monthly spending to my company, this will likely terminate our investment in Watson technology for the time being. I would really like to prevent this.

Bluemix team? Anyone else with ideas?

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