The History of Cloud Computing

“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people — as remarkable as the telephone.” – Steve Jobs, 1985

Although Cloud Computing might be a term that you’ve only learned about in recent years, the concept behind it has been around for quite some time. Cloud Computing has evolved through a number of phases including: Grid and Utility Computing, Application Service Providers (ASP), Software as a Service (SaaS) and now Cloud Computing. Before getting started, let’s talk about where the term “Cloud Computing” came from. There are many debates on this, but the most commonly accepted story is that it was from the diagrams of Clouds used to represent the Internet in IT network and infrastructure designs. Data and applications are hosted in the Cloud, so you can access them from anywhere in the world giving you Cloud-based Computing, or Cloud Computing. Now, a brief history of the evolution of Cloud Computing: In the early ‘60s and ’70s, most people used a centralized computing model, typically consisting of supercomputers located behind the glass walls of an internal data center. These supercomputers, with all the software, storage devices, printers, etc. were quite expensive, typically costing millions of dollars. The 1980s brought the growing demand for increasingly more powerful and less expensive microprocessors and personal computers, paving the way for low costs and simplicity. Grid and Utility Computing came into play in the early 1990s as the Internet and the World Wide Web exploded into the general computing world moving from centralized, client-server models to Internet-based computing. The idea behind grid computing was to make computer power as easy to access as an electric power grid. Grid computing provided people from different organizations the opportunity to work together to reach a common goal. Utility computing allowed people to essentially rent computing services such as Internet access which cut back on cost and made computing more attainable for smaller business. Application Service Providers (ASP) took the next step in the late 1990’s creating the first wave of Internet-enabled applications. An ASP would license a commercial software application to multiple customers. This made it possible for companies to outsource some of their IT needs such as servers and software, saving those companies the time and money spent on everyday IT management. Software as a Service (SaaS) is the next iteration in the evolution of Cloud Computing and is often used in place of ASP when referring to third-party providers who deliver a variety of software to computers and other devices as a service, instead of installing it directly on the hardware. SaaS vendors are also those software developers who work with hosting companies to deliver their traditionally on-premise software via a cost-effective, web-based application rather than the old client-server model. With SaaS, the client no longer has to worry about installing updates, updating software or maintaining hardware upgrades. Cloud Computing today refers to a collection of services delivered via the Internet and customized specifically for a business’s size, industry or current needs. Solutions can range from a single SaaS application for multiple users, to a team of technology experts that compliment an internal IT team or a fully outsourced, virtual IT department that can take full responsibility of day-to-day management. In addition to delivering software as a service, full-service Cloud Computing companies also offer to host your homegrown or traditional software solutions as part of a fully supported, custom solution. Servers and data centers are managed by expert third-party providers and protected by enterprise-class security. Cloud Computing offers companies a much more flexible and customizable model than traditional on-site computing. Although IT will continue to evolve, the 17 years since Steve Job’s infamous quote have brought computing a long way. And with its 10-year history including periods as an application service provider, delivering Software as a Service, and now creating custom Cloud Computing solutions, Cetrom not only understands the history, but has lived it.