Cloud computing can be described as computer resources delivered as a service through a network. Although cloud computing has gained popularity recently, its origin can be dated as far back as the early ‘90s. Some may even argue that its conceptual origins date back to the ‘60s, and it has no signs of slowing down in the future.
Throughout the ‘90s, one attempt after another was made by Service Providers to utilize their resources efficiently and to deliver faster and better service to their clients. With the advent of virtual private networks, which Wikipedia defines as technologies “for using the Internet or another intermediate network to connect computers to isolated remote computer networks that would other be inaccessible,” better utilization of bandwidth was made possible. During that era, the cloud symbol appeared in many diagrams to indicate the point where the service provider’s responsibilities ended and the user’s began.
The initial attempt at cloud computing can be dated even before that, when very few organizations had mainframes, which were the business computer systems used before personal computers. The cost of acquiring a mainframe and the cost of maintenance was too high for such organizations to be able to afford high-performance terminals for their employees. As a result, dumb terminals were used, which basically consisted of screens and keyboards which used the physical and virtual resources of the mainframe to run programs and compute results instead of the local machine.
A very similar attempt for cloud computing was made in the ‘80s and ‘90s with high-performance servers and thin clients. However, these attempts were not quite successful due to the lack of a communication backbone that could support large quantities of data. Another reason why such attempts at cloud computing did not gain popularity was that they required dedicated data connections — a physical data cable had to be run to the thin client in order for it to work.
With the world wide availability of high speed Internet, cloud computing is gaining more and more popularity. The costs are not as high as they were during the mainframe era, and machines with greater capabilities are now easily available. The user simply taps into the resources offered by the provider, sometimes without even realizing they are using the “cloud.”
Cloud computing is currently being performed at all levels — public, community, hybrid, and private clouds are being used extensively. Private clouds can be considered as the modern day equivalents of the mainframe and terminal solution used by organizations in the past. However, private clouds can now be completely outsourced to a host, who ends up providing the required services and infrastructures, while the organizations taps into all the resources the host has to offer.
Cloud computing now comes into play in our everyday lives, and we often use the cloud without even realizing it. When we stream movies from Netflix, we tap into their infrastructure and use their resources. Similarly, when we use online banking, we do not require an extremely high performance computer — we utilize the resources of the bank.
As computer technology evolves, faster and higher performing systems will improve cloud computing even more. Larger virtual storage areas will become available, and the servers will gain greater performance capability. The mode of communication between the end user and the service providers will also improve, and a time will come when all storage will become cloud-based.
At this rate of technological development, it won’t be long before the end user will only need a virtual system to access all the resources offered by the cloud. I personally look forward to the amazing things to come with cloud storage and processing and look forward to a bright future with all of our heads in the clouds!
By JD Bryant
JD Bryant is the Vice President of Corporate Development for CX, which provides cloud storage solutions to businesses and individuals. CX for Business provides collaborative online storage features for small-to-medium businesses.