What's the Big Idea?

Computer storage and software are already migrating to the cloud, and soon processing power will go virtual as well, making our mobile devices as powerful as supercomputers.

What's the Breakthrough?

Much of your computing already takes place on the cloud, and you may not even realize it. Widely used cloud services like Google Apps, Grooveshark, and online banking are just the beginning of our full immersion into the cloud. Daniel Burrus, CEO and founder of business and tech consultancy Burrus Research, says that computer processing power will soon join the cloud, revolutionizing the way we compute and access the internet.  

Moore’s Law, the doubling of computer processing power every 18 months, has always been tied to a specific device, whether a phone, tablet, or laptop. But what if your device's processing power wasn't limited by size or physical constraints? "If we put processing power in the cloud and we access it with a simple processor on our mobile device, all of a sudden you have a supercomputer in the palm of your hand," says Burrus. In other words, our phones could have access to greater processing capabilities but only when needed.

This is part of a larger trend of virtualization, he adds: "We’ve been able to not just virtualize desktops, meaning that you can have your desktop on anybody else’s machine, which we’ve already done; we’ve been able to not just virtualize servers—20 percent of all servers are actual virtual servers out there right now and we’ll add 50 percent by next year; but we're also starting to virtualize processing power by putting it into the Cloud."

And this is not five years away, says Burrus. "It's just a couple years away."

How Will This Affect You?

This trend towards virtual processing underscores the inevitable march towards mobile computing. "Using the cell phone to do analytics that only a supercomputer can do...is a game changer," says Burrus. "This is going to have a profound effect on how we use computers on an enterprise level for purchasing, for logistics, for supply chain management." For consumers, immersive games and complicated software will be available on your phones, and computer prices will plummet asymptotically to zero. 

Learn More:

What Is Cloud Computing? - Jason Fried, Co-founder of 37 Signals

The Future of Computing Power (Fast, Cheap, and Invisible) - Michio Kaku, CUNY Physicist

How the Cloud Protects You From Hackers - David Gelernter, Yale Computer Science Professor

Envisioning the Internet's Future - Lawrence Kleinrock, UCLA Computer Science Professor