Making use of all the knowledge online is a huge challenge that might be solved by cloud computing, which researchers say is the next logical step for the Internet.
Computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working with colleagues at Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo, as well as researchers in Europe and Asia, to build a global test bed for exploring system designs for the future.
Cloud computing involves supplying applications over the Internet rather than loading them on an individual user's computer. An example is a word processing program supplied by Google that lets users compose documents without the program on their computers.
Within six years, this process will expand so that corporations will rely less on on-site information technology infrastructure and more on applications supplied online by the "cloud," said Barry Lynn, chief of 3Tera, a California-based software company.
"Companies spend billions on information technology, which isn't their core competency, because they've had no choice," Lynn said. "That's changing."
Cloud computing will go beyond replacing corporate data centers, said Michael Heath, an Illinois computer scientist who is among the leaders building the global cloud test bed.