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Actually, linode has an API but doesn't do metered billing - thats really what you want for your particular use case.

Linode does do metered billing. If you take down a node, you get credit for the leftover days in your billing cycle. The big difference is that they prorate by day rather than by second.

Digital Ocean does do metered billing, and their API is very sweet & simple.

Digital ocean has an API (I provision servers with Chef) and does hourly billing.

Obviously the API isn't as mature - but it is going in the right direction

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