A quick history of cloud computing

At Cloud Geeni, we talk a lot about how cloud computing is helping modern organisations to evolve, innovate and thrive. But how did it all begin? Let’s take a quick look at the history of cloud computing.

The 1950s

While references to the phrase “cloud computing” didn’t appear until the 1990s, some people argue that the origins of cloud computing began much earlier. In fact, according to IBM, the cloud can trace its roots to the 1950s when “large-scale mainframes were made available to schools and corporations”. Because of the hardware required to run the mainframes, and the size of the equipment needed, IBM tells us that “Multiple users were able to access the mainframe via “dumb terminals”—stations with the sole function of facilitating access to the mainframes”.

The 1960s

Others argue that cloud computing began in the 1960s. During this decade (1969), J. C. R. Licklider – a psychologist and a computer scientist – helped develop the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). This has been described as a “very” primitive version of the Internet. “Lick” promoted his vision of an “Intergalactic Computer Network,” in which people across the globe would be interconnected via computers – with the ability to access information from anywhere.

The 1970s

In the 1970s, IBM released an operating system called VM. According to IMB, this “took the application of shared access of a mainframe to the next level by allowing multiple distinct compute environments to live in the same physical environment”. Many functions of modern virtualisation software can be traced back to this OS.

The 1990s

The 1990s was a crucial era for the cloud. In 1994, a quote in Wired magazine mentioned General Magic’s development of Telescript (a predecessor to Oracle’s Java). It read:

“The beauty of Telescript, is that now, instead of just having a device to program, we now have the entire Cloud out there, where a single program can go and travel to many different sources of information and create sort of a virtual service. No one had conceived that before.”

And, in 1996, a document created by Compaq technology executives used the term “cloud computing.”

Crucially, during this decade, we saw the internet being connected to vast numbers of personal computers, not just business ones. At the same time, both machines and a wired internet connection became cheaper and affordable. This led to an explosion of services such as Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, while paving the way for other cloud applications (e.g. Windows Live, Office 365, and Google Apps).

By the end of the decade, Salesforce.com was introduced. This was the first company to offer businesses applications over the internet, and therefore signalled the arrive of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

The 2000s to today

Since the turn of the century, cloud computing has become an integral part of the way we all work and live. For example:

  • In 2002, Amazon introduced its web-based retail services using the cloud computing model. Many other organisations soon followed
  • In 2003, we saw the arrival of Web 2.0
  • In 2006, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services
  • In 2006, Google launched Google Docs
  • In 2007, Netflix launched its streaming video service
  • In 2009, Google released Google Apps
  • In 2011, Apple launched the ICloud
  • In 2011, Microsoft began advertising the Cloud on television
  • In 2012, Oracle introduced the Oracle Cloud in 2012, offering (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and SAAS (Software-as-a-Service).

The future of cloud computing

The cloud has had an enormous impact on our personal and professional lives. It has changed how we do business, how we connect socially, how we receive healthcare, how we entertain ourselves, how we shop, and how we interact with politicians. And, we can only begin to imagine what possibilities will become a reality over the next decade and beyond.

To find out more about how cloud technology can help support your organisation, contact us for a no-obligation chat.