Many of us unwittingly depend on cloud services every day, from Dropbox to Gmail to Netflix. Cloud computing is seemingly a 21st century revelation, having emerged not long after the turn of the new millennium. But its initial foundations are rooted far further back.
The first computers started to become available in schools and workplaces in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the wonders of virtualisation started to influence computing and communications that the groundwork for cloud computing got underway.
Virtualisation in its simplest form can be defined as the creation of something virtual, as opposed to something physical such as a storage device. This enabled virtual resources such as servers and operating systems to be run on multiple users hardware simultaneously, propelling the computing landscape towards the cloud solutions we’re familiar with today.
In the years previous, much work had been put into developing a connected network between computers. J.C.R Linklider of MIT, considered one of the founders of the internet, had shared a vision of a ‘galactic network’ of connected computers where everyone could access and share resources anywhere, anytime. This culminated in 1969 with ARPANET (The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the first ever computer to computer linked network.
1970 IBM VM Operating System
In the early 70’s, IBM released the VM Operating System. It allowed multiple users to use it simultaneously yet stay isolated from each other; if one user’s system crashed, it wouldn’t affect the others. This was a major step forward and many of the simpler functions seen in virtualisation software today can be traced to early VM OS.
The internet had originally been developed for physicists by CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) to help them share information around the world. In 1991, the first ever web browser software called WorldWideWeb was launched. Although initially there was little reception to the news, the online revolution grew rapidly in 1993 after CERN announced the internet was free for use outside of the scientific community.
Through the internet, Amazon and others like it had revolutionised the way we bought consumer goods. But 1999 saw the launch of Salesforce. The importance of this on the cloud computing timeline is the company’s vision of selling software as easily as Amazon sold its products. In other words, this marked the first Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Business applications were run through the ‘cloud’ and simultaneously allowed users access, anywhere and at any time via the internet.
VMware launch the first hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor. This allowed a host computer to support multiple guest VMs by virtually sharing its resources. The significance of this virtual machine technology was in its ability to consolidate multiple servers onto fewer physical devices. By hosting multiple tenants on a shared resource independently, it paved the way for easily accessible, streamlined solutions.
In 2006, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services. It allowed customers to build business applications using Amazon infrastructure. Early services such as Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) provided server rental and hosting services are still popular today. In 2009, AWS launched its Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), allowing businesses to move complete operations to a private online network.
A huge moment in the growth of cloud services was through the smartphone. No longer did we rely on web browsers, instead we had apps. These devices also allowed access to services previously only reachable through a computer, kickstarting the ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle. Any smartphone could have been included in this list, but we’ve selected the hugely popular and influential iPhone as a pivotal moment in changing attitudes towards mobile technology.
2009-2011 Google / Microsoft
Things were now fully in motion. In 2009 Google launched cloud based applications, as did Microsoft, announcing via global marketing campaigns to use their cloud solutions. The industry had hit the limelight and was now affecting the way individuals, businesses, pretty much everyone, interacted with technology.
2013-2014 Cloud Automation
With the cloud replacing previously labour-intensive manual tasks, the solutions still required managing and maintaining to ensure optimum performance. These tasks, although effective, often proved inefficient and left room for human error. Successful cloud automation framework sits on top of the user’s platform and monitors and manages the environment for them. By minimalising user involvement, cloud automation not only saves time and money by removing the need for these tasks to be done manually, but also provides a more efficient cloud solution.
Although not a direct development within cloud computing, the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 did affect both cloud applications and solutions. With distributed resources and information being processed and stored across multiple systems and networks (including those of third parties) its changes were bound to have a dramatic effect. The readjustment meant data security measures were extended, particularly concerning the rights of the individual whose personal data was involved. The regulation shaped the way cloud services are provided today.
The influence and effects cloud services have on the modern world are immense. The future is bright, last year new research estimated cloud computing’s market valuation to reach $411 billion by 2020. Its impact now reaches beyond business, and cloud solutions will soon transform our cities, our transport systems and more. Right down to the intricate details in which we live our lives, it’s impossible to imagine a world without the cloud.
We hope you enjoyed this post and learned a thing or two about the history of virtualisation and the cloud. Head back to the blog for more insights and technical know-how!
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Matthew is Secura’s content specialist, producing gripping, emotionally complex, edge of your seat, cloud hosting articles and videos.
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