Look who's crashing the cloud-computing party!

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) are announcing a cloud-computing test bed this morning.

"The goal of the initiative is to promote open collaboration among industry, academia and governments by removing the financial and logistical barriers to research in data-intensive, Internet-scale computing," reads this morning's joint announcement.

Building out six data centers around the world to test and advance the art of moving applications to the Internet is ambitious and noble, but these companies are also a bit late to the feeding frenzy.

Companies like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM), and NetSuite (NYSE:N) have been the real drivers behind the cloud-computing revolution, providing companies and consumers with cheaper solutions to PC-based applications that they can take anywhere they find an Internet connection. Even Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been diving headfirst into the niche -- and Microsoft is the company with the most to lose if costly operating systems and CD-based productivity programs are priced into obsolescence as the Internet becomes the platform of choice.

I don't fault HP or Intel for showing up late, because they are hardware companies. Cloud computing is primarily a software opportunity, despite the obvious necessity for servers to power up the revolution. Yahoo!, on the other hand, has been a laggard in this space. Today's move, attaching itself to a project with a pair of tech bellwethers, is an encouraging sign that Yahoo! gets it, and may play a more active role in cloud computing than it has in its early stages.

Either way, Internet portals and software companies can't ignore the allure of cloud computing -- and the need to matter.

Every cloud has a silver headline: