When we talk about clouds, we tend to think of the usual enterprise with servers centralized in data centers or in server rooms. At least, I do. But why does
it have to be so? Any IT shop will have many more computers than what is in the server farm. With hardware technology accelerating, as always, even desktop machines are capable of multiprocessor computing and doubling as servers.
Cloud offers the ability to do more than web commerce. The concept of cloud can have broad implications for all kinds of parallel processing needs. Right now, there are a number of organizations from SETI to large medical research firms that use volunteers on the internet to help compute through massive computational workloads. The ability to do that on a wider scale is limited by the need to deliver more sophisticated or even proprietary software on the member systems.
What if workstations could be conscribed to be part of a cloud? When the workstation owner is not using it, the entire machine could be repurposed for another need. Then during work hours, the owner's image could be restored. Private owners could even lease their processing time and make some extra money or earn credit of some kind.
Right now I am surrounded by several multicore processor based systems. Any one of them could power a web presence for a small business. All of them could power the website for a medium business. If I maintained a small cloud using the computers of my neighbors, I could possibly lease powerful computing cycles to render the next animated movie or to compute fractal geometry calculations for climate models. If I operated between 9PM and 6AM I could deliver more than a day's worth of computing gain. What would that be worth?