Happy fifth birthday, cloud computing

Despite the hype, mainstream business acceptance and adoption of cloud technologies has been a long process

In the vacuum between Hurricane Irene and Labor Day weekend, a major focus of the tech universe this week is on VMworld in Las Vegas.

It's here that the major and minor vendors are bringing out their latest virtualization and cloud offerings.

Dell Monday made one of the conference's bigger announcements by unveiling plans to launch a cloud infrastructure service based on VMware technology.

Dell's announcement arrives five years to the month after Amazon announced its Elastic Compute Cloud beta, or EC2, which may well have been the first service to call itself a cloud.

Pointing out the distance between Dell's new service and Amazon's EC2 unveiling isn't to suggest that Dell is a laggard in the cloud business. It was also just this year that Hewlett-Packard announced an ambitious cloud offering focused on business.

The announcements by Dell and HP show that for all the hype surrounding cloud computing in recent years, the path to mainstream business adoption is a long one.

"Quite a few companies have concerns about hosting company data and applications in public cloud environments," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT. "We are still in the early stages in seeing these services roll out."

It's hard to believe, in some ways, that cloud computing is still in its early stage. The cloud computing term is so overhyped and so overused today that it seems like it's been around forever.

But it's hard to find any reference to cloud computing prior to 2006. When people talked about the idea of creating on-demand, scalable and metered resource pools, it was in context of grid computing.

Indeed, when Sun Microsystems, whose longtime logo "The Network is the Computer" embodied cloud-like thinking, opened its public utility compute resource in March 2006, it was called the Sun Grid. The Sun service allowed users to order up compute capacity over the Internet and pay for it via PayPal.

On Aug. 9, 2006, Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed "an emergent new model" at the Search Engine Strategies Conference.

This new model, Schmidt at the time, "starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing -- they should be in a 'cloud' somewhere."

(Credit for pointing out Schmidt's remarks goes to a 2008 blog post by John Willis .)

Amazon's EC2 was announced on Aug. 24 in 2006, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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