The History and Future of Cloud Computing
By Devin Logan on 2017-01-16
Cloud computing has made business more efficient and cost-effective. How does the history of cloud computing predict the future of business and industry?
However, it took the better part of a century for cloud computing to really take hold.
In the 1950s, a group of manufacturers (with IBM at the forefront) began producing mainframe computers. Large companies used these mainframe computers, known for stability and reliability, for data processing and organization. Multiple users could access this central machine through terminals, whose only purpose was to provide such access. Such shared access was practical (maintenance) and economical (cost), and paved the way for modern cloud computing technologies.
In the 1970s, the dual concepts of emulators and virtual machines took hold in the computing world. An emulator (some type of hardware or software) allows a computer to behave like a different computer. The host computer (the imposter) is then able to run programs designed for the guest (the original) device. As an oft-cited example of an emulator, printers (host) are often designed to behave like Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers. The host printers are then able to read software designed for the HP LaserJet printers and produce identical results. Virtual machines operate in a similar fashion. Virtual machines emulate computer systems: software emulates hardware by means of a hypervisor, which is a tool that isolates operating systems. Multiple virtual machines can then share access to the operating systems and applications of the original hardware.
In the 1990s, telecommunications companies began offering clients virtual private network (VPN) services. A VPN is a private network that uses the Internet to provide secure, encrypted access between a remote user and an internal network. Once the user has gained remote access, the VPN links the remote device to the internal network, allowing the device to operate as if it was local. Utilization of virtual private networks drastically decreased the operating costs of telecommunications companies. Companies shared access to a common infrastructure, instead of paying for their own infrastructure.
In 2006, Google released Google Docs, giving individuals widespread access to cloud computing. Googles Docs (and related services like Google Sheets and Google Slides) allows users to access their work from any computer: users only need an Internet connection. Users save their documents and presentations to the cloud network, not to their personal computers.
In 2016, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM combined to make over $30 million in revenues from their cloud computing products. Amazon focuses on cloud infrastructure, while Microsoft focuses on providing cloud software like Office 365. IBM deals primarily with cloud analytics. Google and Oracle currently lag behind Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) provide automated consistency, giving companies the tools to build better programs and applications. Cloud APIs allow companies to improve their cloud usage and use the cloud in new and more complex ways. Users usually access the cloud through an API. As companies improve their APIs, users are able to improve their cloud experiences.
Looking forward, cloud computing technologies will continue to drastically reduce the need for maintenance and repair. By using the cloud for data, companies no longer have to rely on complex hardware mechanisms: these companies are then able to slim down their IT staff, cutting costs as well as jobs.