These days, cloud computing has become ubiquitous, with many businesses using some form of cloud computing technology to run day-to-day operations.
Computing started with the idea of one person operating one machine and only evolved into the concept of multiple users and virtualisation when data scientists needed to find a way for more than one person to use the same computer at the same time.
Virtualisation became commercialised when businesses discovered how cost effective and scalable it was to use virtual servers for their data, rather than have to invest in physical data houses and server stacks on their own premises. Now it’s become the norm for businesses to opt for cloud solutions, rather than manage their own servers.
In 1963 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), gave $2 million in funding to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Project MAC. Part of the research required MIT to use computer technology that could be accessed by, and used by, more than one person at a time.
IBM didn’t think there would be a demand for such a system, but soon found itself designing mainframes that supported virtualisation for use in lab settings. IBM not only had to create systems that could be used my multiple people simultaneously, but it also needed to allow users to interact with the computer as it worked through problems.
“The VM operating system took the 1950s’ shared access mainframe to the next level, permitting multiple distinct computing environments to reside on one physical environment. Virtualization came to drive the technology, and was an important catalyst in the communication and information evolution.”
Between the 1970’s and the 1990’s, virtualisation evolved alongside the development of the internet and telecom companies eventually started offering businesses their own virtual private networks. These allowed computers to transfer data to a select group of computers. This was the beginning of cloud as we know it.
Cloud computing today
The term “cloud computing” wasn’t coined until 1996, but in the past 20 years cloud computing has developed into an industry offering a variety of services.
Some companies, like Amazon, specialise in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). As the name suggests, they provide the essential infrastructure supporting cloud computing, such as servers and storage (they own the servers on which their client’s data is stored).
Other providers, such as Google, focus on Platform as a Service (PaaS), which allows developers to use their systems and tools to develop cloud apps for businesses and consumers to use.
Then there are Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, like Salesforce.com, which use cloud technology to host their software online allowing businesses to access data wherever they are, whenever they need to access it.
Today, businesses can use private cloud systems, developed for their specific needs, to store and share sensitive data, they can use public cloud systems, or a mixture of the two (hybrid cloud). Cloud computing has permeated the consumer market now, we use cloud computing when we use web mail or log-in to online gaming platforms, we’re even using it when we use Facebook apps.
In the past 20 years, cloud computing has become an essential part of everyday life. It will be interesting to see where the next 20 years will lead.