Click here to close now.


SDN Journal Authors: Stefan Dietrich, Elizabeth White, Peter Silva, Pat Romanski, Don MacVittie

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal, OpenStack Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

The Evolution of Cloud Computing

Conceptual origins of cloud computing

Definitions of cloud computing are easy to find, but a single, authoritative definition is hard to come by. Perhaps the best work in this area was done by Böhm, et al. By compiling characteristics of 17 different scholarly and industrial definitions, the authors identified five primary characteristics of cloud computing allowing a definition such as: "Cloud computing is a service that delivers scalable hardware and/or software solutions via the Internet or other network on a pay-per-usage basis." (Emphasis indicates essential definition elements).

Cloud computing can further be broken down into three common types: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. SaaS (Software as a Service) allows users to log into and utilize preprogrammed software that is owned and maintained by the service provider. PaaS (Platform as a Service) gives users tools and languages owned and maintained by the service provider that can be used to build and deploy customized applications. IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provides users with storage and processing, allowing users full control over the use of that infrastructure. There are other divisions of cloud computing, but these are the most common.

Conceptual Origins of Cloud Computing
Looking back, it seems that cloud computing was seen as the end goal of many computer pioneers in the 1960s, or, at least, the goal of the early experiments that would eventually become the Internet.

There are three main figures commonly cited as laying the conceptual framework for cloud computing: John McCarthy, JCR Licklider, and Douglas F. Parkhill.

McCarthy first proposed in 1957 that time sharing of computing resources might allow companies to sell excess computation services for maximum utilization of the resource. He even imagined that computation might be organized as a utility.

Licklider, a programmer at the Advanced Research Projects Agency, highlighted some of the promise and challenges in cloud computing in a 1963 memo to those he described as the "Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network." Specifically, he talked about the ability to send a problem to a network of computers that could then pool their resources to solve it, and the need to establish a shared language to allow the computers to talk to one another.

In 1966 Parkhill published "The Challenge of the Computer Utility," which identified many of the challenges facing cloud computing, such as scalability and the need for large bandwidth connections. He also initiated a comparison with electric utilities.

Why We Are in Cloud Computing Time
If cloud computing has been around for so long conceptually, why does it seem like a revolutionary idea at all? Because only now are we in cloud computing time.

Science fiction scholars commonly use the shorthand "steam engine time" to describe the phenomenon that ideas pop up several times but don't catch on for many years. They point out that the Romans knew what steam engines were and could make them, but it wasn't until 1600 years later that the technology came to fruition. The world just wasn't ready for steam engines. The same is true of cloud computing.

The necessary elements that had to be in place before cloud computing could become a reality were the presence of very large datacenters, high-speed Internet connectivity, and the acceptance of cloud computing as a viable model for supplying IT needs.

The presence of very large datacenters is a crucial piece in the foundation of cloud computing. To be able to offer cloud services at a competitive price, suppliers must have datacenters sufficiently large to take advantage of the economies of scale benefits that can reduce costs 80-86% over the medium-sized datacenters that many companies previously utilized. These very large datacenters were manufactured for their own use by many companies that would later become cloud computing providers, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Almost universal access to high-speed Internet connectivity is crucial to cloud computing. If your data is bottlenecked getting to and from the cloud, it simply can't be a practical solution for your IT needs.

Finally, it is important for potential users to see cloud computing as a viable solution for IT needs. People need to be able to trust that some ethereal company is going to be able to provide for your urgent IT needs on a daily basis. This cultural work was done by many disparate influences, from MMOs to Google, which expanded acceptance of online resources beyond the IT community. Another crucial but oft-neglected part of this cultural work was performed by peer-to-peer computing, which introduced many people to the notion that they could utilize the resources of other computers via the Internet.

Cloud Computing Timeline: Who, When, and Why
There are many good timelines about cloud computing available, and several are available in my resources section, but it's still important to give a basic timeline to show the evolution of cloud computing service offerings:

  • 1999: Salesforce launches its SaaS enterprise applications
  • 2002: Amazon launches Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offer both artificial and human intelligence for problem solving via the Internet
  • 2006: Google launches Google Docs, a free, web-based competitor to Microsoft Office
  • 2006: Amazon launches Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3), sometimes described as the first IaaS
  • 2007: Salesforce launches, often described as the first PaaS
  • 2008: Google App Engine launched
  • 2009: Microsoft launches Windows Azure

Armbrust, et al. note many motives that drive companies to launch cloud computing services, including:

  • Profit: By taking advantage of cost savings from very large datacenters, companies can underbid competitors and still make significant profit
  • Leverage existing investment: For example, many of the applications in AWS were developed for internal use first, then sold in slightly altered form for additional revenue
  • Defend a franchise: Microsoft launched Windows Azure to help maintain competitiveness of the Windows brand
  • Attack a competitor: Google Docs was launched partly as an attack on Microsoft's profitable Office products
  • Leverage customer relationships: Windows Azure gives existing clients a branded cloud service that plays up perceived reliability of the brand, constantly emphasizing that it is a "rock-solid" cloud service

These are the motives that bring competitors to offer cloud computing services, but what drives companies and individuals to adopt cloud computing, and what barriers still exist to full cloud implementation.

The Cloud Computing Market: Where It's At, and Where It's Going
According to a study by IT trade group CompTIA, up to 80% of businesses use some form of cloud computing, although the degree of use varies widely. IBM's studies show that although only 8% of businesses believe cloud computing currently has a significant impact on their business, it is expected to grow to more than 30% in the next three years.

Cloud computing is often sold on the basis of price, but the primary benefit companies are seeking from cloud computing, according to recent surveys, is flexibility. With the huge swings caused by viral phenomena on the Internet, companies can see demand for their site and services fluctuate wildly in a short period of time. Cloud computing gives companies the flexibility to purchase computing resources on demand. A more conventional benefit of cloud computing's flexibility is the ability to avoid hiring and firing IT personnel for short-term projects.

One of the major obstacles to full adoption of cloud computing services remains security concerns. Although cloud-based security solutions exist, there is still a perception that cloud computing puts data at risk compared to private datacenters and increases the operational impact of denial-of-service attacks.

Despite these concerns, however, all sectors of the cloud computing market are expected to thrive in the near future, with revenue in nearly all sectors doubling within the next 3-5 years.

More Stories By Matthew Candelaria

Dr. Matthew Candelaria is a professional writer with more than five years' experience writing copy in industries such as law, medicine, technology and computer security. For more information about him and his work, visit

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving t...
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sam McIntyre, Partner Enablement Specialist at eFolder, presented how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He also demonstrated how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing & protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection & E-Discovery of your data - whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and t...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at, explored the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and provided a hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He examined three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. Asaf Yigal is co-founder and VP of Product at log analytics software company In the past, he was co-founder of social-trading platform Currensee, which...