History of Cloud Computing



The origin of ideas related to cloud computing can actually be traced back to around the 1950s.

In this time period, John McCarthy, a computer scientist from this era, came up with the “theory of time-sharing”. By “time-sharing” he was referring to an operating system that gives multiple users of a computer the ability to act as if he or she was in control of the machine. Time-sharing is often considered the original foundation for the concept we know today as cloud computing.

Back in the 50s, computers were extremely expensive and computing cost several millions of dollars. Since it was not practical for large companies to provide a mainframe computer to every employee, it was revolutionary when they discovered the ability to have one central computer with the sole purpose of providing access to the mainframe. That mainframe could then be accessible by multiple users through terminals. In addition, smaller companies may not have been able to even afford to maintain one mainframe computer. So, the idea of being able to “time-share” a single computer would permit users to affordably rent the ability to perform large computations.

In the 1960s, J.C.R Licklider developed the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). His vision was for a global computer network such that users could access programs and data from anywhere. Around this time, John McCarthy also wrote that “computation may someday be organized as a public utility”.

Around the time of the 1960s and 1970s, users became able to run hosted applications through their own terminals. A protocol would basically get information from the main service and send it to the terminal, receive requests from the terminal, and pass these requests along to the main service which would ensure connection to the proper application.

In the 1970s, there was another significant development that built off of the concept of time-sharing. The creation of virtual machines enabled users to run more than one operating system simultaneously on one physical platform.

In the 1990s, there was a movement within telecommunication companies to make a switch from using point-to-point data circuits to offering virtual private network services. These companies became able to provide a single physical infrastructure and give multiple users the same shared access to it. This allowed organizations to focus their efforts and resources on improving the efficiency of their bandwidth and as a result, they were able to provide the same level of quality of service at a lower cost.

In 1997, one of the first definitions of cloud computing came from Professor Ramnath Chellapa of Emory University and the University of South California. He referred to cloud computing as the “computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits alone.”

Major Milestones:

  • 1999 : Salesforce.com
    • Established the ability to use a simple website on the Internet to deliver enterprise-level applications
  • 2002 : Amazon Web Services
    • Featured several cloud-based retail services that included data storage and computation
  • 2006 : Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – the first commercial cloud
    • Enabled small companies to rent computers that would host and run their own applications
  • 2006 : Google launches Google Docs
    • End users were directly able to use cloud computing for document sharing purposes.
  • 2007 : Dropbox
    • MIT student created this file hosting service that offers file storage and synchronization
  • 2009 :
    • Google Apps – example of browser-based enterprise applications
    • Windows Azure – Microsoft’s cloud computing platform



During 2008 – 2009, the focus of the industry was on private clouds. A private cloud means that the infrastructure (hardware, storage, and network) is entirely dedicated to a single organization. The major drawback is that the company is responsible for all of the management and maintenance of the data. This is opposed to public cloud computing, in which each organization can purchase a part of a server that is shared with other clients. In this situation, the company is not responsible for any of the data management, but one of the concerns is the security of the data.



The open source movement refers to the worldwide movement that is in support of having the source code of software available to the public. The people of the movement believe that the best software comes from the cooperation of many programmers working together to produce high quality programs. This becomes relevant to cloud computing around 2009-2010 because many of the new cloud related platforms that were launched during that time period are open source.





As of today, cloud computing is in its early stages and on the rise. As of April 2016, only one in five enterprises are looking into using cloud for their enterprise application suites. However, according to a survey of various IT decision makers from that same time, 80% of their organization’s IT budget will go toward cloud computing related services within the next year and a half. In addition, in a government analysis reported by Charles Babcock in his article, ‘Cloud-First’ To Close 5000 Federal Data Centers by 2019, it states that “19 out of 24 agencies reported that they had achieved a savings of $2.8 billion in operating costs and had avoided capital expenses between 2011 and 2015 by moving workloads into the cloud and not building more data center space.”

This just goes to show that while the concept of cloud computing is nowhere near a novel idea, it is in the process of becoming hugely popular and implemented on a large scale.

Facts / Statistics:

RightScale conducted a survey in January of 2017 that collects information on the current trends in cloud computing. These are some of the key statistics produced from the data that was collected.


  • Using a hybrid cloud is the most popular strategy, as 85% of enterprises use a multi-cloud strategy. At the same time, the use of a private cloud has dropped in popularity as only one technology (Azure Pack/Stack) shows significant growth from 9% last year to 14% this year.stats7
  • Users of the cloud use multiple clouds to support their applications, as supported by the data stating that on average they run 1.8 public and 2.3 private clouds.


  • The cloud supports a majority of a company’s workload, as the data states that cloud users run 41% of their workload in a public cloud and 38% in a private cloud.


  • Users believe the cloud is more secure as the concern about its security fell from 29% (last year) to 25% this year.


  • The most common challenge that cloud users face is managing costs (24%) and the most important initiative for users is optimizing cloud costs (53%).



White, Caitlin. A Cloud Retrospective. Digital image. Cloud Computing Timeline Illustrates Cloud’s Past, Predicts Its Future. N.p., Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.

The History of the Cloud. Digital image. Times of Cloud. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.


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