Cloud computing seems like a new thing popularised over the last few years or so. However, the concept has existed for over two decades and the term ‘cloud computing’ has been around much longer than that. In fact, the name has arguably existed for longer than the internet itself.
The first use of the word “cloud” to denote an area of network to which users could upload, download and share files, altering them as they go, was in 1977.
The term and a picture of a cloud both referred abstractly to the server space of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) and the files saved there. When the Computer Science Network (CSNET) launched in 1981, the term stuck.
When concepts from the two networks and others were combined and expanded into the public domain in the 1980s, “the cloud” was still used occasionally but hadn’t quite taken off.
As the internet developed and more platforms and ways of using it were created, the term became more specific and similar to what we know today. With virtual private networks and multi-point communication replacing point-to-point circuits, the cloud symbol was often used to emphasise the multi-source, non-linear nature of the new system.
In 1993, AT&T worked on distributed computing, communication and information retrieval platforms called Telescript and PersonaLink, which would work between a number of servers and access points simultaneously to exchange information. These were the first technologies of this kind, created under the term “cloud”.
For example, in Wired in 1994, Andy Hertzfield commented: "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.”
The idea of the cloud as we now know it had been born.
Moving into the 2000s, service providers experimented with new ways of sharing data with end users rapidly and seamlessly by optimising the infrastructure, platform and underlying code. Cloud computing developed from a singular concept to a series of products ready for the competitive market.
Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, released in 2006, was one of the first widely available quote-unquote cloud products. A year later, Dropbox and OneDrive brought cloud storage to a wide audience. Then, in 2008, Google entered the cloud market, releasing its App Engine construction platform using a cloud structure. By 2010, Microsoft had its own cloud-based software construction engine.
Going forward into the 2010s, cloud computing really took off, with a huge variety of different programs, services and platforms becoming available as demand grew exponentially. Eight years later, practically every modern business is looking to leverage the cloud in one way or another.
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