Cloud computing is a hot topic in the IT industry these days. The basic idea is that large-scale computing tasks can be handled efficiently "in the cloud" (or by thousands of Internet-connected servers) so as to provide scalable Internet-based software services distributed across disparate datacenters around the globe in a cost effective manner.

Consumers of cloud computing services lease computing capacity on-demand and are not generally concerned with the underlying technologies used to achieve the increase in server capability. Google has already invested heavily on its own cloud computing initiative and so has Amazon. Yahoo has some plans of its own and has partnered with two other tech giants as part of a joint cloud computing effort.

Intel, HP and Yahoo have announced that they are building a global project, dubbed the Cloud Computing Test Bed, which will initially consist of six distributed computing centers around the world housing between 1,000 and 4,000 processor cores each. With Intel and HP providing the hardware, Yahoo is to contribute open source software to run on the test bed.

The centers will go online later this year, at which point researchers and students will have access to the infrastructure in order to test the still relatively undeveloped technology. Among their goals is to find how to make cloud computing more secure and reliable as well as to develop more streamlined methods to manage a cloud's hardware and software resources.