HP, Intel, Yahoo, Feds, Academia Team for Cloud Computing Initiative

In a joint announcement today, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Yahoo announced that they are teaming with the government agencies (the National Science Foundation and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) and several major universities (including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany) to create a global, multi-data center test bed for experimentation and research in cloud computing.  This ‘Cloud’ is planned to consist between 1,000 and 6,000 processors, located at six data centers on three continents.  The primary application will be to test both hardware and software as they relate to this new type of new type of networked computing, which is expected to dominate the IT world, including the Internet, in the years to come.

Needless to say, this is a coup for both HP and Intel as the providers, respectively, of the computers and processors for the Cloud, as it puts the two companies on the inside as any new standards are developed in this field — and, if with luck, gives them an inside track on any new Cloud Computing-related business opportunities to come.  Less obvious is the advantage to Yahoo, beyond the obvious that, as one of the world’s biggest nodes for Internet traffic, it is likely to be a prime beneficiary of any breakthroughs in the field.  It also can’t hurt for the troubled company to be associated with such Blue Chip partners — and to steal some of Google’s thunder by being part of such a potentially influential project.

 The big question now is:  Who else will get to use the Cloud that will be created by this Initiative?  Because the project plans to use an open source, distributed computing technology (Apache Hadoop and Yahoo Pig), in theory it will be available to anyone who wishes to participate — as long as they share their creations with everyone else.  But that attitude of openness doesn’t entirely jibe with some of the comments made by the biggest participants, who are investing considerable sums in the Initiative.  For example, Andrew Chien, VP of the Corporate Technology Group at Intel and director of company research, told Information Week that while the current players want the Initiative open to other players, “obviously, there will have to be discussions.”

That doesn’t sound quite so open, nor so soft and fluffy . . . This Cloud may prove to be a storm after all.