Advocates explain that cloud computing offers advantages over grid computing - clouds are potentially more powerful and crash-proof. And there is the idea that outsourcing the infrastructure can save institutions money and drive the environmental agenda.
The downsides associated with cloud computing include: immature standards (though this seems to be changing); inadequate access to high speed connections; data protection concerns.
The big players are all involved in cloud developments - Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Google, Amazon. Google is starting to work with a handful of US universities - University of Washington, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland - with a view to expanding later to work with more, globally. Amazon is already offering its Simple Storage Service (S3) and is developing its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
The Wikipedia entry for cloud computing points to a couple of interesting articles:
- http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_52/b4064048925836.htm?chan=magazine+channel_top+stories which quotes Tony Hey on research clouds: "Tony Hey, vice-president for external research at Microsoft, says they'll function as huge virtual laboratories, with a new generation of librarians—some of them human—"curating" troves of data, opening them to researchers with the right credentials. Authorized users, he says, will build new tools, haul in data, and share it with far-flung colleagues. In these new labs, he predicts, "you may win the Nobel prize by analyzing data assembled by someone else."