The Evolution of Cloud Computing
By : Synextra

Over recent years the success of cloud technology has snowballed and as each day passes, more and more businesses and individuals start to embrace remote apps and move their data into the cloud. However, while Cloud computing may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, the cloud has actually been in the making since the 50s.


Here’s your one-stop timeline for the evolution of Cloud Computing and the major milestones it’s managed to reach:

Cloud evolution in the 1950s

  • Let’s start in the 1950s with mainframe computing. It allowed multiple users to access a central computer through access points or terminals. However, due to the costs of purchasing and maintaining a mainframe computer (let alone multiple computers), it was not cost-effective for an organisation to buy a terminal for every employee. Plus, most users at the time didn’t even need the processing power or storage capacity of a mainframe.

Evolution of Cloud Computing

Cloud evolution in the 1960s

  • During the late ’60s, the Advanced Research Project Agency developed ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet. In 1969, it became a reality by interconnecting four University computers, each in different geographic locations across the United States of America. ARPANET was initially designed as a communication and compute resource sharing tool, between the science departments of four institutions, but it grew into the internet as we know it today.

Cloud evolution in the 1970s and 1980s

  • The 70s gave birth to the Virtual Machine (VM) which allowed users to run multiple operating systems simultaneously in one physical computer. Think of this as the precursor to Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDIs.) However, instead of accessing multiple desktops from a server, you were accessing them from within the same machine.
  • Due to the complexity of software development and the lack of developers, it was difficult for companies to create software for multiple operating systems (and even instruction sets). Before the introduction and uptake of UNIX based operating systems, Virtualisation on a local level was a necessity during the 20th century.
  • The term “client-server” also came into use, defining the compute model of “clients accessing data and applications from a central server, over a local area network.”

Cloud evolution in the 1990s

  • As early as 1995, clouds started to appear within network diagrams and represented anything too complicated for non-technical users to understand. This may be the reason why there is confusion, even today, surrounding the definition of ‘the cloud.’
  • Historically, telecommunications were only able to offer a single, dedicated data connection – think of it as a point-to-point connection. Now, however, they could offer Virtualised Private Networks (VPNs.) By allowing more users to share access to the same physical infrastructure, they could offer the same quality of service as a dedicated data connection, at a lower price point.
  • In 1999, launched – becoming the first company ever to make enterprise applications available from a website.
  • Another few companies launched in 1999. Companies that would go on to make the cloud the powerful resource it is today. Firstly,, that started off in life as a simple search service. Secondly, Before they brought binge-watching into every Internet-connected home, they were posting DVDs to people in little red envelopes.

Cloud evolution in the 2000s

  • With ISPs rolling out significant bandwidth to the masses at the start of the 21st century, cloud computing began to really take off.
  • In 2003, Web 2.0 was born. Along with it came rich multimedia, user-generated content and dynamic interfaces.
  • Facebook, possibly the biggest cloud-photo sharing platform in the world, launched way back in 2004. It was originally intended as an easy way for Harvard students to connect and share information about themselves in the public domain. Who knew back then that it would go on to be the global platform it is now, boasting over a billion users.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) officially launched in 2006, making cloud storage and computation resources available to smaller businesses for the first time. Find out more about Synextra’s AWS Cloud solutions.
  • Eric Schmidt (who was CEO of Google at the time,) uttered the word “cloud” at an industry event – making it possibly the first high-profile use of the word in public. Although, sources claim that executives within Compaq used the term “cloud” for over a decade behind closed doors, before Mr Schmidt.
  • 2007 saw the rebirth of Netflix as they launched their video-streaming service, evolving into the industry leader we know it as today.
  • 2008 sees the launch of Dropbox, a major player in public cloud storage even today.
  • The concept of the private cloud emerges in 2008 and is seen by enterprises as a more secure version of the “public cloud.”
  • Browser-based cloud enterprise applications such as Google Apps are ushered into the market during 2009, releasing users from the burden of desktop software.

Browser-based cloud enterprise applications

Cloud evolution in the 2010s

  • Thanks to the likes of OpenStack, the concept of an open-source cloud becomes a reality during 2009 and 2010.
  • 2011 sees the public and private clouds merge, forming the “Hybrid cloud.” Essentially what the cloud should have been from the start, it combines the security of the private cloud with the ease-of-use and accessibility of the public cloud.
  • Microsoft rolled out a campaign during the same year titled “to the cloud,” in the hopes of explaining the cloud to the everyday user.
  • In late 2011, Apple launched iCloud – allowing people to automatically and wirelessly back up their photos, music and videos. iCloud became a common reference point as a way to explain cloud storage, due to the ubiquitous nature of Apple products.
  • Google launch Google Drive in 2012 and with their initial free tier, helped push cloud storage and general online applications.
  • Synextra opens its doors in late 2014, hoping to bring “Big IT to the SME.”
  • And, one year on, Synextra is helping more and more companies connect to the cloud. However, adoption has yet to reach peak levels – despite the fact it’s been in the making as long as the Internet.

We hope this Evolution of Cloud Computing timeline has given you an insight into the cloud, cloud computing and cloud hosting. You know where it’s been and how it’s got there. The question is: where will it go next?

Synextra offers a range of cloud IT and virtual telecommunications services to help your business compete, collaborate and grow.  If you’re curious about moving your business to the cloud, get in touch for more information.


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