Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo have entered into a pact to create new research and development centers that will test the limits of cloud computing.
The three IT giants announced plans July 29 to create what they are calling Cloud Computing Test Beds that will allow enterprises, universities and government entities to test the software, data center management and hardware needed to create large-scale cloud computing infrastructures.
Intel, HP and Yahoo are also including Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany in the new partnership. Altogether, the companies will create six R&D centers, including facilities at HP Labs, Intel Research and Yahoo.
While analysts believe that true cloud computing is anywhere from five to 10 years away, this type of infrastructure holds the promise of saving money and resources by allowing businesses and universities to offload some or all of their IT infrastructures to a third party and allow for applications to be delivered through the Internet.
HP, Intel and Yahoo are not the only large IT vendors interested in developing, creating and testing new types of cloud infrastructures, even if the technology has not been perfected. VMware is preparing to offer new virtualization software for the cloud, and IBM has contracted to develop cloud computing facilities as well.
In addition, IBM and Google have already announced that they will collaborate on cloud research.
The six testing facilities will use a range of HP hardware, and each center will have access to between 1,000 and 4,000 processing cores provided by Intel. These facilities will also use a range of open-source software, including Hadoop, a project under the Apache Software Foundation, and will use Yahoo open-source software such as Pig, a parallel programming language.
Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo Research, said these projects should produce a number of research and academic papers and provide applications that other developers can build on to create their own versions of a cloud computing infrastructure.
While representatives of HP, Intel and Yahoo expressed their desire to keep these projects open, with the possibilities of more IT companies or academic institutions joining in at a later date, some of the issues related to intellectual property that may come out of the initiative still have to be worked out.
Prith Banerjee, senior vice president of research and director of HP Labs, said his researchers are looking at a way to expand the cloud beyond the SAAS (software as a service) model that some businesses are experimenting with now. Instead, HP researchers see large-scale clouds that deliver "everything as a service" based on different preferences to individuals and businesses. At the same time, this model will connect devices and software through a common platform and the Internet.
"HP researchers are looking to experiment with radical new designs for data centers, massively scalable storage systems, sustainable IT systems, and finally the software that enables the creation, deployment and management of dynamic cloud services," said Banerjee. "As more researchers gain access to the testbeds, HP Labs will identify additional areas that we can collaborate [on] and experiment [with] to further build the foundation for cloud computing."
Intel, Yahoo and HP have already begun building out these test centers. The three companies did not release specific financial information about these research centers and the individual donations.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said he believes that the alliance between Intel, HP and Yahoo will look at some of the technical problems involved in building a better cloud infrastructure, such as how to best replace a failing server without interrupting the entire data center. However, Kay said he believes that most of these efforts will go toward promoting the cloud as the next big computing initiative.
For Intel and HP, this means that both companies will be able to sell more processors and servers for those businesses willing to invest in cloud computing. For Yahoo, the initiative will allow the company to position itself as a big purveyor of cloud computing and ensure that Yahoo does not fall behind what Google and Amazon.com are doing with their infrastructures.
"You have to look at the way Amazon has been able to covert its expertise in large-scale, Web-based retailing over to a service that it can sell to other retailers," Kay said. "Now, what if Yahoo was able to associate itself with the leading edge of cloud computing? At some point, they get to purvey that expertise to other companies that want to get involved in cloud and they [Yahoo] get to host it in some way."
Editor's note: This story was updated to include comments from an analyst.