Hey Verizon (NYSE:VZ), get off of my cloud!

That's what Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) must be thinking today. The telecom giant just launched a cloud computing service for business customers, and it looks like a competitor to Amazon's EC2/S3 platform as well as IBM's Blue Cloud. The underlying technology is different from both, though.

Where IBM and Amazon both rely on Xen virtual server technology from Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS) and a global community of open-source developers, Verizon is going with VMware (NYSE:VMW) on servers from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). It appears to me that Verizon is looking for customers who are entirely new to the whole cloud computing game. Moving a virtual server image between EC2 and Blue Cloud is pretty simple because they use the same image format. You can convert Xen servers to VMware's proprietary image format, but it's an extra step with less than 100% success rates.

But the entire field of virtual computer clouds is new enough that there should be plenty of newfound customers out there. Some may choose Verizon's cloud because they trust virtualization leader VMware; others because of the telecom giant's unmatched network access.

All of the cloud platforms offer the same basic benefits, as explained by Verizon's SVP of global product development Nancy Gofus: "security, resiliency and scalability on demand with a whole new level of flexibility and a low cost structure." Verizon is smart to jump into the waters before they really get hot, and I'd expect a host of other clouds to pop up soon enough. Verizon's data traffic peers should join the bandwagon first, and I'd be flabbergasted if Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) stayed out of this potential barn burner business forever, given its massive computing infrastructure and global connectivity.

I say "potential" because we don't know who will come out on top yet. Early entrants like Amazon and now Verizon stand a good chance to carve out their own slices of this new market and establish themselves as the go-to providers.

And the gold rush starts ... now!

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.