I came across this story in Quartz this morning, and found it a fascinating review of what is happening with cloud computing - starting with perhaps the best definition of what it is in the fourth paragraph:
Generically, the cloud is just a vast mass of computers connected to the internet, on which people or companies can rent processing power or data storage as they need it. It’s used for everything from hosting websites to storing archives to running massive data-crunching operations.
Besides the discussion of how Amazon has jumped the whole market, with Google in second and Microsoft a distant third, what struck me is the conclusion that compute and storage services will soon become a commodity, and yes, utility service.
That means that the three players who are building utility-scale data centers, denominated incidentally by their electric load in megawatts, are essentially building the equivalent of power plants. They're also building the data transmission and distribution system - though I think Google is clearly in the forefront on that score.
The first rule of a utility service is to drive the commodity cost as low as possible, and to monopolize the distribution market. So build the data centers cheaply, in places with cheap power, and start thinking about tying customers to your system.
As the article points out, tying up customers looks like a software/system battle now, but perhaps one of the three players (though I don't think Microsoft will make the play) will seek to buy into the distribution network - the lines that tie directly to consumers. Who wants to buy Comcast? Or maybe build their own high-speed system (Google)?
The upshot is that the leading three will be deeply entwined with utilities for service to their "power plants", and by virtue of their size will explore self generation and demand direct access to the wholesale power markets. And a huge portion of the existing loads from enterprise data centers right down to server closets will shift to the cloud, obviating the need to pursue energy efficiency as a capacity mitigation strategy.