Cloud computing didn’t just arrive on the scene. In one way it has been a process that also played out across many industries. The best economies are always achieved when large numbers of product creation, services or operations are carried out under one roof.
Computerworld’s Mary Brandel reported in March that an IBM survey found 76 percent of CIOs expected to have “strongly centralized infrastructure” within five years. Brandel reported that IBM itself had shrunk its data centers from 155 to just five.
But while individual IT operations at companies have always fluctuated between being centralized one decade and decentralized the next, what might force many to remain centralized this time is the growing possibility of the cloud. That possibility, many believe, began in the late 1960s when J.C.R. Licklider inspired the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) to evolve.
Scott Griffin, a journalism and mass communication student, wrote his master’s project on Internet Pioneers and included Licklider. Described as an “idea man” Licklider took a circuitous route to inspire the creation of the Internet, and more. Besides doing research for the Air Force during World War II, he did a stint at MIT where he was first introduced to a computer that could do calculations in real time. From that point on Licklider planted the seeds for the development of not only the Internet, but also “graphical computing, point-and-click interfaces, digital libraries, e-commerce, online banking, and software that would exist on a network and migrate to wherever it was needed.”
According to Larry Roberts, the primary ARPANET architect:
“Lick had this concept of the intergalactic network which he believed was everybody could use computers anywhere and get at data anywhere in the world… He didn’t have a clue how to build it. He didn’t have any idea how to make this happen. But he knew it was important, so he sat down with me and really convinced me that it was important and convinced me into making it happen.”
In his ComputerWeekly article, “A History of Cloud Computing,” Arif Mohamed reveals that other experts on computer technological developments tend to see John McCarthy as the first to touch on the idea of cloud computing when he suggested in a speech that computing be delivered as a public utility. The idea didn’t take off at the time because the hardware, software and infrastructure was not in place.McCarthy is most noted for his work on artificial intelligence.
Decentralized computing, where many individual machines run their own software, has dominated, but beginning in the 1990s increased bandwidth started to get people thinking again about Licklider’s and McCarthy’s concepts.