The trend for cloud computing has been compared to the development of electricity networks a century ago. At that time, companies stopped having to produce their own power and instead plugged into a national electricity grid. In the same way, individuals and organizations can now connect to a cloud of computing resources rather than having to install software to run on their own hardware. It is therefore hardly surprising that cloud computing is also being referred to as utility computing.
Lent to this trend so new low power/low-cost devices such as the Eee PC and Everex cloud book also starting to be referred to as computing appliances. This is because they are intended to be use out-of-the-box to access the cloud of emerging utility computing services with no use of software installation being required.
Cloud computing may signal a turn to an age of centralization with data applications and processing power largely remote from the user interface device. However, there are also significant differences from the previous mainframe era. For a start, cloud computing is leveling the playing field by bringing the potential benefits of centralized resources to all sizes of businesses; any company, or indeed anybody, can now connect to software or hardware as an online utility. This means fewer companies now have to invest in large-scale computing infrastructure. In addition, over the next few years, fewer individual users will be tied to a particular device when they want to access their data and applications.
In tandem with Web 2.0 cloud computing has the potential to change the face of the entire computing industry. Amazon, Google, IBM and others have already embraced the cloud computing revolution. However, companies like Microsoft now face an increased challenge if they want to continue to sell a software to run on local hardware.