Google had a bad week in cloud computing, with serious downtime in Gmail, Blogger and Spreadsheet. Back in July it was Amazon that was embarrassed with their S3 outage. If you measure on total downtime, cloud computing still looks good compared to traditional hosting or in-house data centers. But that glosses over the psychological and market confidence issues, when a problem hits everybody at the same time. In contrast, when was the last time you heard about a massive Skype outage? Maybe it is time to look more seriously at P2P?

Well, actually about one year ago Skype did have a problem. But it was minor in comparison in terms of impact compared to the Google and Amazon outages. Skype claims over 9m people online right now, so this is major validation for P2P scalability and reliability.

P2P Innovation in Startups

This week we also saw the launch of Wuala, a P2P Cloud Storage solution (our review here).

Earlier, we reviewed a P2P approach to search (Faroo) and a P2P approach to video sharing (Metaaso).

With the exception of Skype, these are all tiny little start-ups. Interestingly, they have all originated outside America:

Skype - telephony - Estonia
Wuala - storage - Switzerland
Faroo - search - Germany
Metaaso - video - India.

This geographic origin may not be coincidental.

You need $ gazillions to be a Cloud Computing Platform. Those server farms cost a lot. Skimping, or misjudging demand, leads to outages, slow response and other confidence-killers. This is a game for the big boys - Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, AT&T, Sun. These are all American firms, with access to plenty of capital. Disruptive innovation usually comes from start-ups that are starved for capital. You replace capital with technical innovation. That was true for Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, AT&T, Sun as well when they started.

That is why I have believed for some time that P2P is the next big disruptive technology at the infrastructure level.

P2P and Bigcos

Disruptive technology sometimes needs support from big companies as well. Fortunately for P2P, 3 very big companies would benefit greatly from more use of P2P as infrastructure - Microsoft, Apple and Intel. It's a great way to mop up those underutilized desktop CPU cycles. And attack the cloud computing incumbents.

Historically, P2P start-ups have tended to focus on music sharing and have been hurt by legal issues, but they have been fine technically. Skype makes P2P respectable and proves that scalability does not have to be an issue. Skype is taking on one the biggest and most entrenched industries in the world and millions of people increasingly rely on Skype as a mission critical alternative to landlines or cellphones.

P2P: Next Big Thing for Infrastructure

P2P infrastructure could play very well behind the enterprise firewall. It reduces CIO security fears about too many cloud based apps outside the firewall. This is important for P2P start-ups. They would need a lot of capital to go to market entirely with a consumer/SOHO offering. If they can get enterprise adoption at the same time, then they can accelerate cash flow and reduce need for funding.

Watch the P2P space. It's the next big wave of innovation at the infrastructure level.