Auctioning vertically integrated online services: Computational approaches for real-time allocation

Ravi Bapna, Paulo Goes, Alok Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We develop three auction-based pricing and allocation solution methods for the case where a capacity-constrained online service provider offers multiple classes of unique, one-time services with differentiated quality. Consumers desire exactly one of the many service classes offered. We call such a setting a vertically integrated online services market. Examples of these services are webcasting of special events over the Internet, provision of video-on-demand, and allocation of grid computing resources. We model the pricing and allocation decision faced by firms in such a setting as a knapsack problem with an added preference elicitation dimension. We present a variety of computational solution approaches based on adaptations of the traditional greedy heuristic for knapsack problems. The solution approaches vary in efficacy depending on whether bidders are restricted to bid in one service class or allowed to bid in multiple service classes, as well as on the overall variability of the demand. In the case bidders can bid in multiple classes but are interested in consuming only one service class, a direct application of the heuristics developed for the single service case results in a nonfair allocation. We develop a novel data structure to eliminate the unfair allocation while maintaining the original computation complexity of the simpler setting. The paper contributes by presenting a menu of auction clearing mechanisms for selling vertically integrated online services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-98
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Management Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: alok Gupta’s research is supported by NSF CaREER grant no. IIS-0301239 and NSF grant no. IIS-0219825 but does not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. partial support for this research was also provided by tECI (treibick Electronic Commerce Initiative) and CIDRIS (Center for Internet Data Research and Intelligence Services), OpIM, School of Business, university of Connecticut.


  • Auction-based pricing
  • Online services
  • Service classes
  • Service computing
  • Service pricing


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