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November 24, 2017updated 27 Nov 2017 9:50am

The History of Cloud

The thinking that brought cloud technology to life was first noted in the 1960s, and now the major enterprises of the world are ready to commit to it.

By Tom Ball

Today the world is aspiring to make the leap into the cloud; individuals use the technology to hoard reams of photos, and perhaps most importantly, enterprises want to harness its power to virtually access applications and streamline vast and complex processes.

It is undoubtedly a top tech trend and its disruption is being realised across the globe.  In fact, the technology is already deeply ingrained in modern life, ever-present in the daily use of applications and workload management, for example.

Giants of the tech industry like Amazon and Microsoft are doing battle to gain the top spot, defending their territory on the top two podium positions, while the likes of Oracle, IBM and Google also present fierce competition in the crowded space.

The technology is set to play a vital role in the future of technology and in its continuous development, so we have decided that it is important to learn about the past, mapping out where the technology came from. From this brief history we hope to provide a snapshot of the rise of cloud technology, and an idea of the part it has to play in the future.



Some say the inception of cloud came when time-sharing was being discussed and developed in the 1960s, and although basic, it seems like the obvious origin for today’s technology.

Time-sharing occurs when a number of users are all able to access a resource, and this is the simplest way of thinking of modern cloud technology. This process emerged at a time when CPU time was not cheap, and efficiency was extremely low.

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The History of CloudIt is no surprise that IBM was working with these theories, placing it at the birth of another technology that we have explored the history of. The 1970s hosted the use of the early ‘data center’, from which tasks could be sent to operators who would then run them using IBM mainframes.

An important jump then came in the 1990s when the virtual private network (VPN) arrived; with new control over traffic, bandwidth could also be used to greater effect. Throughout the 1990s these processes were further fine-tuned, with the relationship between provider and user becoming more and more streamlined. This process soon became associated with a cloud symbol, an enduring mark of the technology that remains prominent today.



It took until the 2000s for a true semblance of the cloud technology we know today to come into existence. At this stage in the history, NASA became involved in the process, providing its OpenNebula cloud platform to build on a European Commission-funded project.

The History of Cloud

A new milestone in cloud progress was achieved because of this initiative, the first open source software in history capable of deploying both private and hybrid clouds. It was then that Gartner recognised the potential for cloud technology to have a revolutionary impact on the way consumers work with IT services.

In the mid-2000s Amazon was also at the core of cloud technology, an unsurprising fact given its dominance today with AWS. In 2006, Amazon brought its Elastic Compute Cloud into play. Two years later the world saw the first sign of Microsoft Azure, the other dominant name in cloud in 2017. Then in 2012, Google entered the arena by introducing its Google Compute Engine.



You will not have to cast your mind back quite so far now, entering the realms of familiarity in our own current decade. In 2010, NASA was again at the heart of the technology’s development, playing a pivotal role in elevating the technology to the level it occupies today.

The work of 2010 with NASA also involved Rackspace Hosting, another powerful and influential name in cloud technology. This project led to another name that has become prominent, OpenStack, which entered the world with the task of bringing cloud to organisations.

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Specifically, the OpenStack project initially intended to be able to provide cloud technology to organisations using standard hardware. This project was still rooted in the NASA Nebula platform from the previous decade.

Soon some of the other famous names of the industry of today would burst onto the scene to make progress in cloud technology. In 2011 IBM SmartCloud was introduced as a framework, a central component in IBM’s pioneering Smarter Planet initiative.

The following year, in 2012, Oracle Cloud emerged, and now the cloud technology of the world was in a position to begin linking users with PaaS, SaaS and IaaS layers, a highly disruptive milestone that displays the true power of the cloud.


Now and tomorrow

Cloud innovation can be proudly held aloft as an outstanding human achievement, a concept plucked out of the realms of the abstract and transformed into a technology that is quickly being widely integrated worldwide.

The uptake of the technology is hastening, and while we have made bold strides into the integration of the technology, the world is set to take the plunge in the near future. Enterprises are hurriedly moving away from legacy systems and incorporating cloud in their infrastructures, choosing to undergo massive transformation.

The History of Cloud

Statistics from Gartner represent the rate at which the enterprise is looking to innovate, with enterprise software spending set to increase to 10.5 per cent in 2018. Emerging technologies like IoT and AI are also likely to have an impact on the future of cloud, both of which are being developed to work in sync with the cloud.

AI has been another top tech trend of 2017, still occupying a somewhat nascent status, however cloud may be the key to providing the necessary power to truly bring artificial intelligence into reality.

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