Cloud Computing

When Did Cloud Computing Start

Cloud computing may sound like a very modern development, but it’s been around in different forms for decades. It has grown and evolved alongside the internet. So, when exactly did cloud computing start?

When Did Cloud Computing Start?

Early History of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing as a term dates back to 1996. But even before that, it was very similar to the idea of distributed computing promoted by General Magic, which has been dubbed “the most important company in Silicon Valley that nobody has ever heard of.”

Going back in time, the concept of cloud computing first appeared in the 1960s and was associated with IBM and other large vendors. But in the next two decades, as the development of computing accelerated in the ’70 and ‘80, it became possible for companies to buy their hardware and maintain it themselves. There was no real demand for cloud computing at the time—nor the technology to sustain it.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and telecommunication companies began offering virtual private network (VPN) services at lower costs than before.

When Did Cloud Computing Start?

Modern History of Cloud Computing

It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that cloud computing evolved in its modern form. High-speed broadband made the internet faster than before, and cloud computing took off. It became possible for companies to use cloud services on a day to day basis, at a good cost.

Amazon was at the forefront of cloud computing, launching in 2006 the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). EC2 enables users to rent virtual computers on which they can run their own computer apps. Two years later, Google released the Google App Engine, which lets developers build web and mobile apps.

It was toward the end of the 2000s that companies began embracing cloud computing. By doing so, they transitioned from company-owned hardware to serviced-based cloud models.

At the same time, popular file storage services began to appear, targeting their services at both business and personal users. Google One Drive was launched in 2007. Dropbox first began storing files in 2008. The Oracle Cloud was also launched around this time.

when-did-cloud-computing-start-historyWhen Did Cloud Computing Start?

Cloud Computing Today

In the 2010s, the low cost of computers and greater network capacity made cloud computing a mainstream technology.

The launch of Microsoft Azure, Rackspace OpenStack, the IBM Smart Cloud, and the Google Cloud Compute Engine made the use of virtual machines and the development of cloud computing apps easier than before.

Cloud computing helped power the world’s largest social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and enabled the development of apps like Gmail or Microsoft 365. It also played an important role in the development of mobile technology as many mobile apps today rely in some measure on the cloud.

Today, cloud computing is available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

The Everyday Cloud

From cloud storage solutions and web hosting providers to business productivity apps and social networks, cloud computing is everywhere today. But it works quietly behind the scenes so that many people use it daily without even realizing it.

Now that you know when cloud computing began you can appreciate more its contribution to the development of digital technologies. The cloud lives on.

When Did Cloud Computing Start?


  • 1999 – VMware released VMware Workstation, allowing users to set up virtual machines.
  • 1999 – Cloud-based software company Salesforce was founded.
  • 2002 – Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched as a free service.
  • 2006 – AWS started offering web-based computing infrastructure services, now known as cloud computing.
  • 2007 – Apple launched the first iPhone, creating the mobile internet as we know it today.
  • 2007 – IBM partnered with Google to promote cloud computing in universities.
  • 2008 – Google announced App Engine, a developer tool that allowed users to run web applications on Google infrastructure.
  • 2010 – Microsoft released Azure, its cloud computing service.
  • 2011 – IBM introduced the SmartCloud framework.
  • 2011 – Facebook launched the Open Compute Project (OCP) to share specifications for energy efficient data centres.
  • 2013 – Docker introduced open source container software.
  • 2015 – Google and Microsoft lead massive build outs of data centres.
  • 2017 – Huawei and Tencent joined Alibaba in major data centre build-outs in China.
  • 2018 – Leading data centre operators started the migration to 400G data speeds.
  • 2018 – Silicon photonics technology started to positively impact data centre networking architectures.
  • 2020 – Edge computing will revise the role of the cloud in key sectors of the economy.
  • 2021 – Data centre speeds are expected to exceed 1,000G.

This is an edited extract from the Cloud Computing – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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