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A history of cloud computing

By Arif Mohamed | 4/2009 |

Cloud computing has evolved through a number of phases which include grid and utility computing, application service provision (ASP), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

But the overarching concept of delivering computing resources through a global network is rooted in the sixties.

The idea of an “intergalactic computer network” was introduced in thesixties by J.C.R. Licklider, who was responsible for enabling the development of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) in 1969.

Other experts attribute the cloud concept to computer scientist John McCarthy who proposed the idea of computation being delivered as a public utility, similar to the service bureaus which date back to the sixties.

Since the sixties, cloud computing has developed along a number of lines, with Web 2.0 being the most recent evolution. However, since the internet only started to offer significant bandwidth in the nineties, cloud computing for the masses has been something of a late developer.

One of the first milestones for cloud computing was the arrival of in 1999, which pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website. The services firm paved the way for both specialist and mainstream software firms to deliver applications over the internet.

The next development was Amazon Web Services in 2002, which provided a suite of cloud-based services including storage, computation and even human intelligence through the Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Then in 2006, Amazon launched its Elastic Compute cloud (EC2) as a commercial web service that allows small companies and individuals to rent computers on which to run their own computer applications.

“Amazon EC2/S3 was the first widely accessible cloud computing infrastructure service,” said Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Brightcove, which provides its SaaS online video platform to UK TV stations and newspapers.

Another big milestone came in 2009, as Web 2.0 hit its stride, and Google and others started to offer browser-based enterprise applications, though services such as Google Apps.

Other key factors that have enabled cloud computing to evolve include the maturing of virtualisation technology, the development of universal high-speed bandwidth, and universal software interoperability standards, said UK cloud computing pioneer Jamie Turner.

“Many IT professionals recognize the benefits cloud computing offers in terms of increased storage, flexibility and cost reduction,” said Songnian Zhou, chief executive officer of Platform Computing.

But he added that IT directors still have concerns about the security of their corporate data in the cloud. This means that it will be 2010 at the earliest before cloud adoption sees increased growth.

Julian Friedman, a specialist in emerging technologies, said that security and other concerns will soon be resolved.

Experts seem to agree that cloud computing will ultimately transform today’s computing landscape.

It is clear that cloud computing can bring enormous benefits for IT users.

However, the bottom line for IT directors is that they will need to continue to manage their internal computing environments, whilst learning how to secure, manage and monitor the growing range of external resources residing in the cloud.

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