‘Cloud’ has been an industry buzzword for years – and rightly so, with cloud vendors typically experiencing growth rates of 50% per annum. The benefits of cloud computing are numerous, including greater flexibility, security and processing power, all available in accessible, scalable frameworks. The Cloud, however, and the notions underpinning it, are older than the hype would have it.
Wikipedia defines cloud computing as ‘computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked to allow centralised data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.’
Nowadays cloud computing is assumed to mean networking achieved via an Internet connection, but the underlying concept of a networked system that shares processing power goes back to the 1950s. When large-scale mainframe computers became available to corporations and academic institutions, users interacted with the CPU via terminals which themselves had no processing capacity, allowing multiple users to access the CPU at any one time. This practice reduced periods of inactivity for mainframes that were expensive to run at the time.
In the 1990s, telecommunications companies began to offer virtual private networks (VPNs), which enabled much of the same functionality as described above, but at lower costs. As computers became more prevalent, and the size of these networks grew, the first algorithms arose to optimise infrastructure and applications to prioritise CPU usage. The descendants of these algorithms are what make today’s cloud computing so dynamic: by constantly predicting and analysing cloud usage, they allow resources to be allocated on the fly, making cloud networks the versatile powerhouses that keep our increasingly complex business transactions ticking over.
The importance of the Cloud as both a concept and a tool for modernisation can be highlighted simply with a list of contributors: in 2010, Rockspace Hosting and NASA launched an open-source cloud initiative called OpenStack, with the intention of standardising the use of cloud for organisations; in 2011, IBM announced the IBM SmartCloud; and in 2012, Oracle announced the Oracle Cloud. If the hype surrounding cloud computing has thus far left you unconvinced, then the investment of these tech giants might change your mind.
The Cloud of today is a response to modern technological paradigms, with ease-of-use being at the forefront of the technology. Software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service are all bundled into the notion of cloud, which aims to provide a comprehensive and powerful means for businesses and individuals alike to achieve whatever they wish with the technology. From humble beginnings, the Cloud has emerged as one of the game-changing innovations of this century.