Cloud Computing is both an abstract concept which can reffer to every logical grouping of software services provided by one or more companies which may or may not be on the same hardware architectures.
It also stands for the physical architectures involving SOA (services-oriented architecture) systems, server farms and a lot of hardware to provide on demand services 24/24 no matter what may happen.
Not matter how one sees it, it's all about regrouping services and taking responsabilities off from our good old PC or laptop standing on our desk. Of course it's a 2010 buzzword and I am personally seeing some kind of Terminal Server (Mainframes anyone?...) à la sauce New Millenium coupled with web technologies.
So, since it's a buzzword, any IT actors out there wants to plug in the word cloud when they're talking about their product, services or philosophy. What I forsee is that the gaming industry will not be stranger to it.
The thing is... Cloud Computing along with Software Virtualization are really promising. I put the second one with it because everything is about having almost nothing on the client side.
Imagine a world where you don't have to invest every year (or 6 months for some of you...) in the new Alien Technologically Advanced 4D Quantum Player (to watch the downloaded 10th reedition of Fritz Lang's Metropolis from some store in the Cloud). Of course, you would have to PAY for every use of the movie but that's another debate.
The idea of having every service in the Cloud is to ensure that eveything you need is always available from wherever you are on the planet. You don't need your PC or Laptop anymore. You just log into the cloud and there you have your account and your services, may they be games, movies or any software. And with the huge Mobile market, you're about to have any of your services right there in your pocket.
Recently we've forseen the launch of OnLive. When I saw that I thought "this is it" we're already there. While the gaming service is still to be launched on june 7th, it appears as a pratical Cloud concept to me. You have your numb machine in the living room, you open it, it logs into your account and then you can play your games from the servers while it "streams" the game to your console which shoots it to your TV.
The gain is quite interresting while the numb console standing beneath your TV will have a very long life as long as it can receive huge amounts of data from the streamed game. You won't have to change it. The servers on the other side can evolve to offer you the latest technology in gaming. The company will be upgrading the "server farm" often (I hope) to keep the pace with the ever evolving power of Graphic cards and CPUs.
The downside I see to this is : you will have to pay to play. You will not be able to buy the console, buy games and then play with your games without paying until buying another game. It's a service like a mobile phone service. You don't pay? You don't use. Otherwise, the device becomes useless.
The upside however : you will never lose saved games, never break game discs, never have to worry about bringing your games with you to play at a friends house...etc.
For me I prefer the good old way as I want to pay and go away with the thing and bring my game discs with me. I'm still wondering everyday "man why do I keep paying for my cell phone to work?".
But before OnLive launches with a promising full package, we can just go back a few years and see that's it's already there with XBox Live since the first XBox, beside, aren't any MMO back since Ultima Online some kind of SOA? Lately any gaming company have been offering DLC for more and more games as well as complete old and new games... Those are downloadable and not "streamed" from the servers but I see it as a transition.
And if I keep looking back, what I see? BBS (Bulletin Boards System for the younger ones). If you read on the subject (begin with wikipedia) you will find similarities with the actual models. It has evolved, it offers much more and is more reliable but... the thing it was still and is still today the same old concept of SOA to me.