Chip giant Intel is teaming up with web firm Yahoo and hardware company HP to create virtual research centres for cloud computing.
Cloud computing offers online storage and promises a range of new services for data and devices that are plugged into the cloud.
Initially six data centres will be available for pre-selected researchers to test new applications.
Research firm Gartner has dubbed cloud computing as influential as e-business.
"Cloud computing represents a new era of computing. Working at that kind of scale means there will be many unanswered questions and raise new problems for computer science," said John Manley, director of HP's strategic research lab.
"We want to create an environment that can begin to answer some of these challenges," he added.
As well as providing a new way of storing data, cloud computing offers new ways to use the data.
"The web democratised creativity and allowed anyone to create something new and innovative. Cloud computing is the next stage for that," said Mr Manley.
"To my mind it is the natural evolution of the internet and if we look back in 15 years time we will be astounded by what cloud computing has allowed to happen," he said.
Intel, Yahoo and HP will each host one of the centres and the other three will be at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, the University of Illinois, and the Steinbuch Centre for Computing in Germany.
As well as exploring new applications for cloud computing, the centres will allow researchers to look at the problems of how to make such huge scale computing reliable, manageable and secure.
Research centres of this kind are necessary because of the size of the computational resources needed for cloud computing. Few educational establishments can afford to run them alone.
Each of the centres will provide 1,000 to 4,000 machines to support the data-intensive research and, if necessary, can all be connected together.
The research centres will be fully operational later this year.
Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith believes it is an important tipping point for cloud computing.
"Anytime you get three companies of that stature looking to advance it, is significant," he said.
"We consider cloud computing to be the next really big thing and the sky's the limit to the services it will enable over the next ten years," he added.