Cloud Computing - a brief history

Since the original concept of delivering an 'intergalactic computer network' back in the sixties, cloud has come a long way! Here is a short summery.

Cloud computing has evolved through a number of phases over the years, which include grid and utility computing, application service provision (ASP), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Originally, the idea of a global network was introduced in the sixties by J.C.R. Licklider, an American computer scientist. He was responsible for enabling the development of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) in 1969 and his vision was that everyone on the globe could be interconnected and able to access programs and data at any site, from anywhere.  This sounds remarkably like what we today call 'cloud computing'.

There are other experts however who attribute the cloud concept to computer scientist John McCarthy. He proposed the idea of computation being delivered as a public utility, similar to the service bureaus which date back to the sixties.

Since the sixties, cloud computing has developed along a number of lines but since the internet only really started to offer significant bandwidth in the nineties, cloud computing for the masses has been something of a late developer. Recently though, some key factors have enabled cloud computing to evolve, these include the maturing of virtualisation technology and the development of universal high-speed bandwidth.

Some notable developments include:

  • The arrival of Salesforce.com in 1999, which pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website. They are one of the few early success stories due to an initial lack of subscribers because of poor performance over low bandwidth.
  • Next was Amazon Web Services in 2002, which provided a suite of cloud-based services including storage, computation and even human intelligence through the Amazon Mechanical Turk.

  • In 2006, Amazon launched its Elastic Compute cloud (EC2) as a commercial web service that allowed small companies and individuals to rent computers on which to run their own computer applications.

  • In 2009, as Web 2.0 hit its stride, and Google and others such as Microsoft started to offer browser-based enterprise applications, though services such as Google Apps. These companies are popular because they deliver services in a way that is reliable and easy to consume.

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