Even so, it might be surprising to learn that the cloud as a concept has actually been around for quite some time. Take, email, for example. Most tech-savvy computer users have been using email since the mid 1990s, and the technology that lead to email found its beginning as early as the 1960s with MITs compatible time sharing system (CTSS) inter-user messaging implementations. Email is just one example of cloud computing that has been in use for decades, predating the current trend of cloud computing that is sweeping the tech industry.
Of course, that’s just one example. To really get a feel for its origins, first consider the key identifying characteristics of what makes something “cloudtec.”
Being a relatively new term (for a slightly older concept), Cloudtec doesn’t really have any closely regulated definition. That said, there are certain factors that generally indicate whether something should be considered part of the cloud.
Cloudtec requires no hardware installation at the site of the end user; all incorporated servers are located offsite, and software is accessed remotely via the internet. All of client-facing functions of the technology are accessible from any internet-enabled device, from any location, through any standard web browser. Finally, cloudtec generally incorporates remote data storage — the ability to store and access data files remotely over the internet — in some way. As previously mentioned, email is a widely known example of cloudtec. Likewise, web apps like Skype and Google Voice, and document and virtual office programs like Google Docs also fit the criteria.
Of course, there are too many examples to mention them all, but one of the most valuable cloudtec advances is software as a service (SaaS). In essence, SaaS is cloud-based software that is rented out to users on a subscription basis. This makes it possible for businesses to enjoy a wide range of software solutions without having to buy, build, or maintain those solutions on their own systems — a set of tasks that would otherwise fall to beleaguered IT departments. SaaS reduces costs and improves business effectiveness, and it’s all possible thanks to the advances of cloudtec.
But how exactly did modern cloud computing come to be? For an answer, let’s take a look at an abridged history of the cloud.
In an age where almost everyone you meet carries a personal, pocket-sized supercomputer around with them at all times, it can be difficult to remember just how rare computers where about 60 years ago. The systems themselves were so dauntingly expensive in price and maintenance, not to mention cumbersome that generally only well-funded government institutions and colleges could have access to them.
With so much money at stake, users wanted to make sure that they were getting the most out of their computing time. Computer scientist John McCarthy theorised that if multiple users could ‘timeshare’ a computer, the associated costs could be spread across a larger group. This is the first recorded instance of the idea of ‘renting’ computer hardware across multiple users, and would eventually see realization in the decades to follow, with the computer service bureaus of the 60s and 70s.
During this time, capable minds were also developing the ancestor of the modern internet: ARPANet. In 1969, under the direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, four university computers were connected , with the purpose of sharing resources and data between them. The connections couldn’t handle large amounts of information, so small ‘packets’ of data were created that could be sent over and then reconstructed.
Over time, this small network of computers gradually expanded to encompass other computers, and other computer networks. Unified network protocols were developed, and during the early 1970s, computer scientists had begun to create working applications.
The early 70s also saw the creation of virtual machines, where software could effectively imitate dedicated hardware. In essence, virtual machines could share resources with the hardware on which they were installed, emulating entire computer systems virtually. Things like memory and hard disk were created and contained within the host computer’s systems, and could run entirely separate operating systems without the need for specific OS hardware.
Virtual machines demonstrated how hardware functions could be accurately mimicked, reducing hardware spend with no loss to system functionality.
In 1996, a group of technology executives working for Compaq came up with the idea of moving business software to the Web. They termed the concept “cloud computing-enabled applications,” and accurately predicted that its use would become much more widespread than the basic email systems that had already begun to appear.
At the close of the 20th century, cloud-based business application companies had become a reality. 1999 saw the the founding of Salesforce, which pioneered the SaaS business model, eventually eliminating the need for upfront hardware costs, in-house IT maintenance and upgrades, and difficult software and hardware implementations. Over the next decade and a half, these advances lead to the robust cloudtec industry that we have today, and the rest, as they say, is history.
With this in mind, the most obvious place for the cloud to grow will be out. The near future will see more cloud applications becoming available, and fewer on-site hardware or software solutions remaining feasible. However, one frontier that is only now beginning to open up is the internet of things (IoT).
As more non-computer devices — such as smart thermostats, security systems, fitness trackers, and more — are given the power to communicate via the internet without direct user input, we will begin to see a world where the cloud and big data begin to have a direct impact on every aspect of our lives. Cloud-based analytics will be able to give us new insights into everyday tasks, and improved marketing data will ensure that consumers receive personalized messaging and content, leading to better targeted advertising.
In short, the cloud is poised to become an integral part of our lives in the very near future. Email, it turns out, is just the tip of the SaaS-and-data-storage iceberg.
Thanks to the development and proliferation of cloudtec, businesses and individuals can now enjoy the most advanced hardware solutions, without needing to spring for the hardware itself. However, this is only the beginning. Cloud computing may have started small, but its future is as wide as the horizon.
Through greater SaaS opportunities and an expanding IoT ecosystem, the cloud may some day have the capacity to improve every aspect of our lives, and when that happens, we might have to agree that a cloudy future can also be a bright one.