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The Evolution of Cloud Computing

Important events in the life of cloud computing

Have you ever wondered where the term “Cloud Computing” originated? When did the hype around cloud start? Who are the people responsible for the idea of utility computing?

The evolution can be split into 3 phases:

  1. The Idea Phase – this started in the 1960s and stretched to the pre internet bubble era. The core idea of computing as a utility computing and grid computing developed.
  2. The Pre Cloud Phase – this started around 1999 and lasted till 2006. In this phase internet as the mechanism to provide Application as Service got developed.
  3. The Cloud Phase – this phase started in 2007 when the term cloud computing term became popular and the sub classification of IaaS, PaaS & SaaS got formalized.

1960s – Evolution of the core concept of Cloud Computing

J.C.R. Licklider


He is considered by many to be the person who brought the idea of cloud computing to the forefront.

John McCarthy


He opined that “computation may someday be organized as a public utility.”

Douglas F Parkhill


He publishes the book “The Challenge of the Computer Utility”. Almost all the modern-day characteristics of cloud computing (elastic provision, provided as a utility, online, illusion of infinite supply), the comparison to the electricity industry and the use of public, private, government and community forms was thoroughly explored .

1990s – The concept of the Grid

Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman


They published the book “The Grid: Blueprint for a New Computing Infrastructure”. The analogy used was of the electricity grid where users could plug into the grid and use a metered utility service. The Grid describes how networks of computers can be made to cooperate and be brought to bear on computationally intensive tasks.


Ramnath Chellappa – first known academic use of the term “Cloud Computing”


The first scholarly use of the term “cloud computing” was in a 1997 lecture by Ramnath Chellappa where he stated that “…computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits alone…”.



Data Protection Act of UK – Long term implication for cloud computing


The act describes the legal obligations all organizations in the U.K. have in terms of handling data. The act covers such areas as data collection, data storage and data sharing. The act itself is “policed” by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The act covers both electronic and paper data storage.

1999 – pioneer in SaaS CRM


On hindsight this proved to be proved to be a turning point in the history of cloud computing.

VMware – virtualization for x86 system


They introduced virtualization to x86 systems to address many of these challenges and transform x86 systems into a general purpose, shared hardware infrastructure that offers full isolation, mobility and operating system choice for application environments.


Grid Computing – Takes off in academic circle


First IEEE conference held on Grid Computing held in Bangalore, India.


SIIA – the first known use of the term SaaS


Software & Information Industry Association in a white paper uses the abbreviation SaaS and equates it to Application Service Provider (ASP).


AWS – Precursor to IaaS launched its Web services initiatives, allowing customers to integrate its vast online content with their own Web site. These web services expanded over time to cover computing facility on demand.


Nicholas Carr – IT Does Not Matter


He published an article in Harvard Business Review titled “IT Doesn’t Matter” and followed up with couple of books titled “Does IT Matter” and “The Big Switch”. The basic proposition is that IT is becoming commoditized and becoming utility like electricity and water.


Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty – The concept of “The Web as Platform”


The first Web 2.0 conference is organized in San Francisco the theme is “The Web As Platform”.

2005 – The year when nothing much happened around cloud!!



Amazon EC2 & S3 – Launch of IaaS


Amazon launched its Elastic Compute cloud (EC2) as a commercial web service that allows small companies and individuals to rent computers on which to run their own computer applications. Launch of S3 – What’s interesting about S3 is that they used the pricing model of “pay-per-use”. This has now become the de facto standard for cloud computing pricing.

Google Apps – Office suite as SaaS


Google Docs brought cloud computing to the forefront of public consciousness.

2007 – PaaS


Salesforce launches, their Platform as a Service offering.

Google Trend – Interest in Cloud Computing picks up


Interest in Cloud Computing picks up. Google Trends show a steady increase in interest starting third quarter of 2007.

This may be triggered by the white paper on cloud computing released IBM which talks about efficiency and innovation that can be achieved through cloud computing.


Google App Engine – PaaS Offering


The pricing was aggressive with a free entry level plan and low cost computing and storage services.

Eucalyptus – Open Source platform for Private Cloud


They become the first open source AWS API compatible platform for deploying private clouds.

Gartner Hype Cycle – Cloud Computing finds a place


Cloud Computing is mentioned first time in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. It is cited as a technology of transformational importance expected to mature in 2-5 years. By the year 2009 it has reached the “Peak of Inflated Expectation”. In 2010, it has started descending towards the “Trough of Disillusionment”. Also, it is shown as two different technologies:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Cloud and Web Platform


Windows Azure – Beta


The launch of Azure is a key event in the history of cloud computing with the largest software company making a small but significant shift to the web.

Amazon AWS – Becomes auto scalable


Amazon adds manageability, auto scalability and load balancing feature.

2010 – The Year of No Major Breakthrough!!!

Amazon AWS


Several improvements were announced which included EC2 Spot Instance, EC2 Cluster Compute Instance and PCI compliance and ISO 27001 certification.

Google App Engine


Many improvements – no major feature addition

Microsoft Azure


Commercial version was released.


Acquired Heraku to add Ruby – Platform as a Service to its list of offering.

Cloud Computing Trend – Minus the Hype

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting

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