“the 110 AC outlet”

There’s a good piece in the NYTimes on cloud computing for the uninitiated: Cloud Computing: So You Don’t Have to Stand Still

Traditional companies are also beginning to adapt their computing infrastructure to the cloud. Reuven Cohen is founder and chief technologist at Enomaly, a software firm in Etobicoke, Ontario, that helps companies do just that. While most of its clients are technology businesses, Mr. Cohen says Enomaly is working with a New York-based bank that uses cloud computing to develop and test applications. He says that another customer is a large media business that uses the cloud to process video.

He sees this kind of need-driven use as a “fundamental change in how we manage technology.”

In fact, cloud computing is poised to do for technology what the electrical grid did for power, says Nicholas Carr, author of “The Big Switch,” which compares the rise of the cloud to the rise of electric utilities. The electrical grid streamlined operations for companies; when every home had cheap power and outlets, “you had incredible innovation in how to put all that cheap power to use,” Mr. Carr says. He thinks that cloud computing will prompt a similar cycle over the next decade.

There are practical problems that could turn the cloud into a thunderhead. The technology is still emerging: Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) went offline for a couple of hours in February.

Peter O’Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group, a technology research firm, says he thinks that many established companies will not save money by moving to the cloud. And Alistair Croll, a partner at Bitcurrent, a consulting firm that specializes in Web and cloud technologies, says companies will not be able to put data willy-nilly into the cloud because of security concerns.

At the same time, Mr. Croll says the cloud is here to stay. “The Web has become the interface” for computing, “the 110 AC outlet,” he says. That is a fundamental shift that could power a new cycle of technological innovation.