A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. (Prince, 451)
This is a good way to describe cloud computing from a hardware point of view but means nothing to the end-user. To put it more simply, cloud computing is the delivery of hosted services from somewhere other than the users device (Prince, 451). The precursor to cloud computing known as time sharing has been around since the fifties with the first uses of terminals and mainframes. Terminals would access and run programs directly from a mainframe with the terminal itself having very limited computing capability on its own; followed by the use of servers and clients. The ideas for cloud computing were out there but the technology wasn’t, it was hoped that one day data and programs could be accessed from anywhere at any time (Prakash). To do that we first had to find a way to have an always on instant access connection to every other host we would want to utilize. Then came the internet. At first the throughput speeds weren’t fast enough for personal users for anything besides basic communications. As time went on internet technology improved by leaps and bounds, speeds got faster, accessibility got easier and content got more diverse. Over the course of approximately fifteen years speeds increased from a dial up modem connection of 1544kbps where users had to dial in over phone lines to their ISP, to the always on speeds we see today ranging anywhere from 1Mbps to 1+Gbps depending on the provider (Timeline)
The term cloud computing was first used in 1997 by Professor Ramnath Chellappa. In 1999 the first website to provide applications and software for use over the internet was Salesforce.com. Amazon followed in 2002 with Amazon Web Services, the first full cloud service providing data storage and application services for enterprise use (Parkash). Today users use cloud computing every day on the internet whether they realize it or not. It could be in the form of a free email services like Gmail and Yahoo mail, or a subscription service like Netflix or Spotify (Hamilton). Smaller businesses subscribe to cloud services in lieu of investing in servers, to save on hardware, software and personnel costs. Larger businesses may build their own cloud to improve their WAN and accessibility for their clients and personnel.
As with any technology cloud computing has its pros and cons. While it can save personal users and businesses’ money and improve accessibility it raises the question of security. Is all that information floating around out there on the internet safe? Is it private? Who is responsible for maintaining what part, the provider or the user? Other questions that arise are, what about reliability? What if something crashes or the user loses their internet connection? What if the provider doesn’t have enough bandwidth to handle larger loads? These are all issues that need to be addressed by private and business users in deciding if using cloud services is an appropriate solution for their needs.
The most interesting thing about cloud computing is that it abstracts the concept of ownership. First there was Itunes or other media sellers where a user could go to a website and buy whatever digital media they wanted and it was theirs. Then came services like Hulu Plus and Pandora