Dec 26 2016

A People's History Of The Amazon Cloud

Posted by Mike Brunt at 6:40 PM Flash | Web Servers | .NET | DataBase | CloudComputing | Tomcat | Languages | JavaEE | Caching | Greening The Web | Java-JVM | ColdFusion | Security

One of my reading/listening inspirations over the years has been Howard Zinn and of course his book "A Peoples History Of The United States" is a classic whichever side of wherever we come, it is at least thought provoking and at best, revelationary.  So with that in mind, here is the evolution I have lived through bringing us to AWS and I will say this, I think the next big thing in our technology world will come from blockcain, that will be the subject of a future blog post.

"The Cloud". Here is my little potted history, which I lived through, to be corrected if and as needed. This is the era's of "ones and zeros" computing. I will start by saying this though, there is only one true Cloud environment and that is Amazon Web Services or AWS.

1/ Main Frames - In this time the big brains, the server was connected to from the less brainy parts, the consoles or terminals, via directly attached cables. The number of those terminals was finite and typically determined by the number of cable connectors.

2/ Client Server - In this scenario the server and clients were not connected directly together but were typically plugged to a service level thing called a network, a bit like plumbing in fact. The number of clients per server was mostly controlled by a number of licenses , the more you bought the more you paid. The server "new" about all clients that were connected to it at all times.

3/ The World Wide Web or (The World Wild Web) - As a note point here, the Internet existed before the WWW did and the WWW runs on the Internet and came in actual fact from software application help files. HTML (hyper text mark-up language) was originally underlined links if help files on a single computer, taking up to more information. The biggest paradigm shift here came about because of the creation of the "request-response" cycle which went like this. You are sitting in front of your computer, in a browser and you click on a link to go to amazon.com. Once the page your requested has changed, the server you went to is no longer connected to your computer via the browser. Hence you could be in London looking at stuff on an Amazon server in the US mid-west or anywhere else for that matter. Two things were added to this set-up to bring a bit more intelligence or privacy invasion depend on how you look at it. Cookies, a text file sitting somewhere in your browser with information related to you which the server then read and more recently "web-sockets" which keep a connection between your browser and the server, open. The WWW was not designed to do this and that is why Google Chrome will sometimes pretty much kill your computer.

4/ Pretend Time or Virtualization. - Up until now, all computers were a single piece of hardware, sometimes a group of servers might work together to serve more clients but both servers and clients were individual machines. Then along came the Virtual Machine or "VM". Here a software program could pretend to a server or client. In this cast, one large computer called a host could appear to be many servers or less likely clients or "guests". The most powerful company in this world was VMWare.

5/ Grid Computing - (As a note point, 4 and 5 could be interchanged here) Grid computing allows computers, to share spare capacity among all the members of the grid to create a more powerful whole. Special software had to be installed to become part of the grid. Servers in all scenarios above were maintained in huge air conditioned building called "data-centers" and were managed by "hosting companies"*.

6/ "THE" Cloud Computing - Yes I know this has gone on a long time, my piece here that is. The simplest way to explain what The Cloud is is imagine putting item 4 above (virtualization) with item 5 (grid computing). And as I say Amazon are way ahead of anybody else in The Cloud, indeed so far ahead, at present, that the likes of VMware are scrambling in ways to become close partners with Amazon. Google and Microsoft are trying hard to get a slice of the Cloud pie.

The end is in site; here is why Amazon are so very different than a typical data-centre, Amazon was never a hosting company* the important point of that is they had no legacy modes of hosting which needed to be converted or morphed to the The Cloud and in a less physical sense they captured the "cool high ground" and stayed there, so far. The video linked to here is definitely quite technical yet I share it because it shows how far ahead Amazon AWS is in comparison to all others trying to evolve a "Cloud" offering.