There has been some discussion of cloud computing recently as Microsoft revealed Azure, their attempt to chip away at Google's unyielding grasp on the hosted services sector. Centralized computing changes the way people compute their data, simplifying the process and reducing the need for desktop software. Is this the new model for generating revenue in an increasingly connected global marketplace?

The concept of hosted solutions has been around for quite a while. The web itself can be seen as a massive bank of hosted "solutions" from static pages to the latest database driven AJAX utility. Our own ImpactWatch is a hosted platform, as are many subscription-based offerings from access to databases to hosted MMO gaming.

I see several advantages to hosted and semi-cloud based services:

  • Data in the cloud means optimized devices. With the device itself computing less and more being crunched on the central servers, devices don't have to be as powerful and will consume less power.
  • $$$. With torrents, file sharing, and peer-to-peer networks in wide use, hosted solutions ensure company revenues are secure and act to protect against piracy and security threats. Hosted also means less cost than real-world deliverable goods such as installation media and unnecessary packaging, as well as a tendency to reduce administrative costs in the long run.
  • Real-time updates. When your bleeding-edge code finally matures into a release worthy snippet, it feels good to show the world as soon as possible. This also applies to the whole security issue.
  • Anywhere, anytime. Cloud computing means being able to access your information and GTD wherever you are, as long as there's a compatible (and connected) device in the immediate vicinity. Road warriors take note.
  • An increase in compatibility. Not too long ago, the software market found itself choosing between two sides of a compatibility war, and to this day these agreements dictate much of what is available for various platforms. No longer are these clashes going to occur, as cloud computing runs as native on any OS compared to any other.

Cloud services are changing (and will continue to change) the way the internet works. As web and desktop technologies go through this awkward phase of flirtation, I eagerly await the next generation of truly integrated cloud applications. Any other obvious advantages I've left out? Or how about any glaring disadvantages to this model?