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The rise of cloud computing further complicates matters. Consumer-facing companies such as Amazon.com (AMZN) and Google now offer Web services to businesses, encroaching on the turf of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and others. With the data center turning into the focal point of innovation, a host of new conflicts might arise. Google, for example, has numerous patents covering how it stores and analyzes information across hundreds of thousands of servers. In July, Google paid an undisclosed sum for more than 1,000 IBM patents—many of which cover key data-center innovations. It has made some of its database work public, and Facebook, among others, piggybacked on that information to build their own, crucial data-center technology. “Does Google come after Facebook for that now?” Maritz asks. Google and Facebook declined to comment.
For some of the issues Google may have been considering when it recently purchased a portfolio of IBM patents, see