The Past, Present, and Future of the Cloud


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The cloud has come a long way since the debut of AWS in 2006, and it’s come a very long way since 2008 when Larry Ellison said, “Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is the cloud? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?” (You can read the rest of the quote in this CNET article.)

As of 2014, the majority of computer workloads are in the cloud. Over half of the US government has gone cloud-native, and Forbes predicts that 83% of workloads will be in the cloud by 2020.

The questions I address in this post:
• How did the cloud begin?
• How did we get to from there, to here?
• And where are we going?

Cloud Beginnings

The concepts that lead to the cloud can be traced back to the 1960s, but the first semblance of the cloud we know and love today appeared in the 1990s. Telecommunications companies, who previously offered primarily dedicated point-to-point data circuits, began offering virtual private network (VPN) services with comparable quality of service, but at a lower cost.

By switching traffic as they saw fit to balance server use, they could use overall network bandwidth more effectively. They began to use the cloud symbol to denote the demarcation point between what the provider was responsible for and what users were responsible for. Building on the time-sharing model that had been popular since the 1960s, where users could get a share of high-end computing power on an as-needed basis, service providers began developing new techniques and algorithms to optimize compute and bandwidth distribution.

In 2006, Amazon debuted its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Two years later, NASA released OpenNebula, the first open-source software for deploying private and public clouds. Around this time, Google launched the beta for its App Engine, and Gartner mentioned the market opportunity of the cloud for the very first time. Shortly after that, Rackspace and NASA teamed up to create the open-source “Openstack”. For the first time, enterprises could build a cloud accessible to consumers on standard hardware. At this point, the floodgates were open, and the cloud was here to stay. Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and many others released cloud offerings in rapid succession, and the market began to rapidly grow.

Cloud Present

Every company is now calling themselves a cloud platform, and the United States Pentagon is working on a $10 billion cloud contract. Microsoft and Amazon are pushing $20 billion a year in cloud revenue, and cloud database startups are closing $263m investment rounds.

The cloud is the place to be in 2018.

The cloud is so valuable to enterprises that IT leaders are embarking on replatforming projects that take five to seven years and cost tens of millions of dollars just to get their on-premise databases into the cloud. The cost-savings, elasticity, scalability, and agility offered by the cloud is too much to pass up – even when Gartner predicts that over 50% of cloud migration projects will fail or go over budget. It’s almost comparable to rush of business that occurred in 1849 when gold was discovered in California: the journey was perilous and not everyone made it but was worth it if you could pull it off.

Luckily, emerging technology like adaptive data virtualization and automated schema generation are making it easy to replatform, and not a moment too soon.

Cloud Futures

Cloud growth will continue at this rate for the foreseeable future – especially with the advent of wearable tech and self-driving cars, which are predicted to generate several gigabytes of data per minute, each.

Data science, coupled with new marketing and advertising methods reliant on big data, will continue to push growth upward. AI and Machine Learning startups are developing some wonderful applications that take advantage of big data and the cloud – like using data to find cures to diseases or using historical data to improve sports performance. The applications are limitless, and we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

If you think back to the beginnings of the cloud, the applications now aren’t much different – but the industries evolving around data couldn’t have done so without the elasticity and convenience of the cloud. The cloud will probably continue to grow as long as the amount of data in the world continues to grow, and according to the Economist, “Data is the new Oil.”

Cloud growth is comparable to many of the mainstream tech industries that have blossomed in the 21st century, like social media, mobile tech, and the internet. As far as technological innovation goes, it’s one of the greatest innovations of all time – and nobody is even sure who named it.

Some attribute it to Eric Schmidt, who used it publicly for the first time at a conference in 2006, but others say it’s even older – it appears once in a 1996 Compaq business plan. Either way, it now appears over 48 million times on the internet, and if you search for cloud computing on Google, it will return about 242,000,000 results.

The cloud is here to stay, and will continue its meteoric growth for many years to come. Let me know what you think in the comments – did you forsee the explosive growth of the cloud?

7 things every IT leader must know before moving analytics to the cloud
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About Travis Singleton

Digital Marketing Manager

Travis is a Silicon Valley native with a passion for all things high-tech. From a young age, Travis felt a deep connection to technology, taking part in Lego robotics classes and developing his first website in fifth grade. Presently, you can find Travis at the forefront of technological disruption, working with startups like Datometry to build a path to the future.

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