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History of the Cloud: Past, Present and Future

A number of game-changing technology breakthroughs have emerged in the past 20 years. These include the era of hyperconnectivity with near-universal availability of broadband internet connectivity at home and work in the developed world; the smartphone revolution; the rise of social media; and the explosive growth of the cloud.

We could certainly dig deep into each one of these technologies and discuss the significance and impact of each on productivity and how they’ve impacted adoption of tech in our everyday lives at length. But let’s focus on the cloud, because all of these developments were simply precursors that led us to this next evolution of tech.

Why? The aforementioned breakthroughs, which ushered in the consumerization of IT and ubiquity of powerful, always-on computing, has given us the ability to rethink the way we communicate, collaborate and do business.

Cloud computing is a truly tangible example of digital transformation at work.

History of the Cloud

The beginnings of cloud computing date back to the 1960s, when J.C.R. “Lick” Licklider introduced the idea of an “intergalactic computer network” long before it was built, according to the ComputerWeekly.com article A History of Cloud Computing.

Called “computing’s Johnny Appleseed” for planting the seeds of the digital age, the American computer scientist produced work that contributed to the development of the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) – the predecessor of the Internet – in 1969, according to The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop.

He envisioned everyone around the globe accessing programs and data at any site, from anywhere, said Margaret Lewis, product marketing director at AMD in the ComputerWeekly.com article.

“It is a vision that sounds a lot like what we are calling cloud computing,” she said.

Boiled down to its basics, cloud computing simply means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of via your computer’s internal storage. The PC magazine article What is Cloud Computing? offers trivia.

“The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet,” says writer Eric Griffith. “The cloud concept goes back to the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cumulus cloud, accepting connections and doling out information as it floats.”

A huge milestone came in 1999, when Salesforce.com pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website. Since then, technology companies like Microsoft and Google have contributed to cloud computing by offering browser-based enterprise applications.

What are the Benefits of Adoption?

How is adoption of the cloud so transformative to your business? It’s quite simple really and it all comes down to a single word –  scale.

The cloud is changing everything because virtually every business and home user can quickly access data hosted in data centers on the internet from almost every device.

This shows us that it makes scant sense for businesses to tie up billions of dollars in building their own data centers, purchasing equipment like high speed servers and switches. These sorts of capital expenditures can oft times be better spent on expanding product portfolios, entering new markets or even providing returns to investors.

Plus, thanks to Moore’s Law, refreshing equipment to take advantage of the ever-increasing performance offered by the latest and greatest in processors, bandwidth and the like is an expensive grind just to “keep up with the Joneses”.

This brings us to the side of the capital coin – human capital. What’s the cost in time and energy expended by an internal IT team on building, maintaining, and managing an unending upgrade cycle?

These baseline activities aren’t going to magically imbue your business with an innate advantage over your competitors nor will they give your business the ability to focus on its core competencies. They simply end up costing a great deal by negatively impacting agility.

Plus, as amazing as your IT team members are, are they going to be the domain experts on the technologies that power your data center? Perhaps some of them will be but companies, like Microsoft, build their cloud offerings around their domain expertise in things like server operating systems, relational databases, web services and service buses.

Logically, having a company like Microsoft build your platforms and infrastructure, and delivering to your users as a service while leveraging utility-like pricing makes it much easier for you to adapt to an ever-changing market because these backend services can be dynamically sized based on demand and business requirements.

Are the apps and solutions built on these services slowing down? Is there a new whizbang function you would like to add to them? Don’t worry. This is where scale comes into play. Since a cloud vendor like Microsoft maintains all of the equipment and code on the backend, it can simply bring another physical data center online and seamlessly push out new code to take advantage of these new functionalities.

Many businesses are in a position where going “all in” on the cloud isn’t practical due to any number of considerations. However, they’re adopting cloud-based platforms at a dizzying pace to support file sharing (Box, DropBox, FileShare, OneDrive, etc.) and collaboration (SharePoint Online, Yammer, Slack, etc.) in their organizations.

How is Nintex Embracing the Cloud?

Our beginnings are in the SharePoint world but we’ve evolved, as we’ve recognized the value of cloud computing, to include Office 365 products. In summer 2013, we unveiled Nintex Workflow for Office 365 and Nintex Forms for Office 365, cloud versions of Nintex’s flagship products for SharePoint 2013. But we wanted to do even more.

Enter Nintex Workflow Cloud, a powerful workflow platform born in the cloud and powered by Microsoft Azure. It allows you to give your business users a way to build sophisticated business solutions without the need to write a single line of code.

Read You, Zoe and Nintex Workflow Cloud for a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Nintex Workflow Cloud, which has been in the works for more than two years.

Since the cloud is a practical and necessary component to the modern enterprise, being able to seamlessly automate processes across these bespoke systems in a user-friendly way makes sense.


Interested in trying Nintex Workflow Cloud for yourself? Get a free 30-day trial today!

Brad Orluk

Brad has been evangelizing technology and process automation for over 15 years. Prior to joining Nintex, he had roles in infrastructure, IT consulting, and most recently, as an Information Architect at a Fortune 500, where he worked on business and IT process improvement and automation on a variety of real world global projects and productivity initiatives. Brad’s unique, technical yet business focused, background gives him the ability to help users leverage technology to drive value to their businesses. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradOrluk

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