A brief history of cloud computing
I have been talking about cloud computing for quite a while now, about what it is, about trends, about what can it do and why it should be adopted and I would like now to talk about how it has evolved.
Once upon a time, well, mid twentieth century, the Internet started to take shape. And on paper, in diagrams and presentations it was usually shaped like a cloud, probably because it was out there somewhere, an unknown fuzzy entity which brought some services to our computers. At around the same time, in 1961, John McCarthy suggested in a speech at MIT that computing can be sold like a utility, like electricity or water. It looked like a brilliant idea, but like all brilliant ideas, it was ahead if its time, as for the next few decades, despite interest in the model, the technology simply was not ready for it.
Of course time has passed and the technology caught up with the ideas and there are a few milestones we have to mention:
- In 1999 Salesforce started delivering applications to users using a simple website. The applications were delivered to enterprises over the Internet, and this way the dream of computing sold as utility started being reality. Although the service was successful, some more time would pass until it would become widespread.
- In 2002 Amazon started Amazon Web Services, providing services like storage, computation and even human intelligence. However, only starting with the launch of the Elastic Compute Cloud in 2006 a truly commercial service open to everybody existed.
- 2009 marked a key turning point in the evolution of cloud computing, with the arrival of browser based cloud enterprise applications, with the best known being Google Apps.
Of course, all the big players are present in the cloud computing evolution, some earlier, some later. In 2009 Microsoft launched Windows Azure, and companies like Oracle and HP have all joined the game. This proves that today, cloud computing has become mainstream.
And from here, the only way is up for cloud computing. The shift is towards customized services and managed private and hybrid clouds, shared public clouds offering Infrastructure as a service in high availability and secure environments. This way, the dream of a world where everyone can access the applications they need, how they need them, when they need them is becoming reality. And there is really no turning back. After all, once we had electricity nobody went back to using gas lamps.
Photo source: https://www.sxc.hu/photo/794034.
While the seeds of the Internet (DARPA) were indeed sown as early as the 1950’s-60’s, the Public Internet (with the exception of Education) did not really take off until 1989 with the advent of the WWW and HTML. When “Clouds” were on diagrams prior to that time, they typically represented “transparent” protocol conversion done by private carriers such as AT&T or the newly formed Region Bell Operating Companies to move bits from point A to point B regardless of source or destination. If was, in fact, a “utility” model where one paid by the bit, and did not “own” the lines.
Hello Jan, and thanks for your comments. You are right, of course, that Public Internet did not become something close to what we know now before the ’80s, but, as with cloud computing, the seeds were sown long before then. The cloud diagrams were usually abstractions of network infrastructure, and it applies to the Internet as well. And I like to see the Internet’s and the cloud’s evolution as a long and beautiful story.
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