Although the definition of cloud computing is a bit…cloudy, it is a tech buzzword that is generating a lot of interest in IT companies big and small. Because cloud computing is a very young technology, it is very loosely defined. Basically, it describes the remote hosting and managing of computing services and storage over the internet, billing the user by the amount of resources used. It is meant to free companies from the hassle of buying hardware and software and/or hiring personnel for projects when the company won’t need such resources later

on. For example, rather than buy the necessary servers to meet peak needs, Powerset, a startup building a natural language search engine, fills the gap with Amazon's EC2 and pays for the resources as it uses them The goal is “universal access to get information and services from anywhere," Dennis Quan, the chief technology officer for the IBM high performance on-demand solutions group says. IBM is at the front of the cloud computing surge. In addition to launching its Blue Cloud program in November and announcing plans to build a cloud computing center in China, IBM is teaming up with students and researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Ohio State University to develop and improve the new technology. The partnerships will focus on self-managing software for cloud computing centers so that upgrades and repairs won’t interfere with running programs and applications. The goal is to avoid having to temporarily shut down a system for repairs or maintenance by using software that can recognize and move data to another location—either a physical or virtual server—to keep it running while the primary location is shut down. The demand for the technology is the result of large database centers like social networking sites, mobile internet devices, and streaming media content that require easy access to a lot of applications and information. IBM’s research also aims to keep up with the rapid changes made within large information systems. "As you go to a more virtualized data center, the challenge is whether or not the rate of change is such that human administrators can struggle to keep up with it," Matt Ellis, IBM's vice president of Autonomic Computing, said. Yahoo recently announced a deal with India’s Tata Sons’ Tata Computational Research Laboratories to research cloud computing technology using their supercomputer, the fourth fastest in the world. Cloud computing frees the user from relying on a PC to access applications and information. With the rapidly growing information on the internet and the increasing need to remotely access it, cloud computing is clearly becoming IT’s future.