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The History of Cloud Computing: Two Decades in Review (Part 2)

Posted by Jacob Ben-David on Jan 30, 2020 11:40:00 AM
Jacob Ben-David
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In this second part of our series, we will examine the exponential growth the cloud computing field experienced during the 2010s decade.

As you can imagine, a lot has happened during this decade and it will be almost impossible to cover the entire decade in a single article (well, I could, but it will be too long for a blog), so I decided to focus on the years 2010 - 2014.

In the previous article, we’ve examined the emergence of the cloud computing field during the 2000s decade. If you missed it, you can read it here:

The History of Cloud Computing (Part 1)

Before we start, let’s take a moment and review what Gartner had to say on the field.

In 2009, Gartner released the first Magic Quadrant (MQ) that included cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon as well as web-hosting providers - from Gartner’s perspective they covered the same use case of hosting web applications on someone else’s infrastructure. The leaders who placed in the top right corner in this Magic Quadrant were AT&T, Savvis (now part of CenturyLink), Terremark (now part of Verizon), and IBM. Located in the bottom right quadrant, Amazon was marked as a visionary.

In 2011, Garter released a dedicated MQ for Public Cloud IaaS and the leaders were AWS, Computer Science Corporation (CSC), Terremark, Savvis and Bluelock (a hosting provider, now part of InterVision). IBM moved to the top left "Challengers" quadrant - Google and Microsoft were not listed, as they didn't have an official IaaS offering by the end of 2011. Microsoft was included in the Cloud IaaS MQ covering 2013, and Google was included in 2014.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.


windows azureIn 2010, Microsoft officially launched the ‘Windows Azure platform’ (after it was announced in 2008), making it generally available in 41 countries. It included Windows Azure, SQL Azure (cloud-based relational database built on SQL) and Windows Azure platform AppFabric (service bus & access control).

open stackOn the private cloud front, OpenStack, an open-source private cloud platform, is launched as a mutual project between NASA and Rackspace holdings. The first design summit for Openstack was held at Austin, Texas, in 2010 – 75 people attended it, most from NASA and Rackspace. Future summits attracted thousands of attendees.

cloud stackAnother open-source private cloud platform, CloudStack, was released as open-source by cloud.com (formally VMOps – the same team that is now behind Rancher Labs). Most of the code was public, but 5% was kept privately-owned. Cloud.com also supported Openstack to some degree.

Both platforms battled for private cloud supremacy, attempting to obtain market share from VMware, and both (along with VMware) are still alive kicking to this day.

It is important to note that before Openstack and CloudStack, two other open-source private cloud platforms emerged two years prior. OpenNebula was initially launched in 2008 (started as a research venture in 2005). OpenNebula is still being maintained and has seen over 100 releases over the last ten years.

EucalyptusThe second private cloud solution was Eucalyptus; it was designed to offer compatibility with AWS’ cloud, including the ability to re-use images and scripts written using AWS APIs. HP acquired Eucalyptus in 2014, and after the “HP-split” it was maintained by DXC Technology, who maintained it until 2017. Today, a fork of Eucalyptus is maintained by AppScale.


digital oceanIn 2011, a new cloud/hosting service provider was founded, DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean launched its beta product in 2012, with over 400 customers signing up for it. Over the years, they focused mostly on providing a seamless experience for developers for deploying and hosting applications. Today, DigitalOcean touts more than 500,000 global customers and $275M in annual recurring revenues, but they also reported a round of layoffs in January 2020.

In April 2011, AWS suffered its first major outage in its Elastic Block Storage (EBS) service in one of its zones in the US East region. The outage affected well-known websites such as Reddit and Quora and attracted the attention of the mainstream media, highlighting the importance of building a highly scalable and redundant application on the cloud.

In 2011, IBM finally unveiled IBM SmartCloud, its enterprise-class cloud offering, the ‘Enterprise +’ option even offered support for AIX, as well as offering Hadoop as a service for Big-Data use cases.

cloud foundryIn the same year, VMware released an open-source, multicloud PaaS offering called Cloud Foundry (after they acquired SpringSource back in 2009). Cloud Foundry was transferred to Pivotal Software, a joint venture between VMware, ECM, and GE. Pivotal ended up being part of VMware again in 2019 after $2.7B acquisition.


In June 2012, Microsoft announced updates to Windows Azure, unveiling Virtual Machines for Windows and Linux, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) service. Microsoft also announced Azure Web Sites, a PaaS service for hosting websites in preview mode (it went GA in 2013) and renamed to “App Service” in 2015.

AWS hosted its first customer-focused event in Las Vegas, AWS re:Invent with over 6,000 attendees. Rumor has it that AWS had fears it will not be well attended, they were wrong. The attendance grew exponentially every year.

Amazon also enhanced its Reserved Instances offering by introducing Amazon EC2 Reserved Instance Marketplace, allowing users to sell their RIs to other users.

google compute engineIn January 2012, Google appointed Ex-VMware CEO & President, Diane Greene, to its board of directors (Diane Green would go on to play a significant role at Google Cloud a few years later). In June 2012, Google launched its IaaS offering Google Compute Engine (GCE) in a limited preview mode, competing directly against Amazon’s EC2 and Azure VM services. The GCE service was made generally available in December 2013.

In 2012, HP joined the “cloud wars” by launching a public beta of ‘HP Public Cloud’ after it was announced in 2011. The service leveraged OpenStack to provide storage services and Content Delivery Network (CDN) services. Another business unit at HP (The Converged Cloud Unit) also announced  ‘HP Converged Cloud’ in 2012, offering private, managed and public cloud options. The two business units and clouds merged in 2013.


In 2013, AWS announced a $600M contract with the CIA, which made a big wave in the industry. Towards the end of the year, Amazon also announced a new AWS region in China (Beijing), which was unique as it was a standalone region, not part of the global infrastructure, and operated by a local company (Beijing Sinnet Technology Co Ltd ). AWS also introduced several new services such as AWS CloudTrail for APIs audit trails, and Amazon Kinesis, a fully managed service for collecting, processing and analyzing streaming data, such as IoT telemetry.

aws trusted advisorAdditionally, AWS Trusted Advisor, which provided users with various recommendations to reduce cost, improve performance, fault tolerance, and security, was made public in 2014. AWS Trusted Advisor was one of the first in a series of native tools from AWS that were aimed at helping addressing pains experienced by both new and experienced users of its cloud platform.

softlayerIn 2012, IBM acquired SoftLayer for $2B to form a new Cloud Services Division. SoftLayer was one of the largest privately-held cloud infrastructure providers with over 20,000 customers and 13 data centers globally. IBM renamed SoftLayer to IBM Cloud in 2018.

VMware, the leader in virtualization solutions, realized that public cloud impacts their business and began to make announcements around vCloud initiatives starting in 2008.  In May 2013, VMware announced vCloud Hybrid Services, a cloud service that was built on top of vSphere and offered IaaS services.


ceo satya nadellaIn February 2014, Microsoft appointed Satya Nadella as CEO, replacing Steve Ballmer. This was a critical turning point for Microsoft and its cloud business, who were trying tirelessly to catch up with Amazon. Satya was behind Microsoft’s move to cloud computing before he was appointed the CEO, and has continued to put a lot of focus on the cloud after he was appointed as CEO. Satya outlined his cloud-first approach in the first letter to employees in 2014. This strategy worked extremely well for Microsoft.

The same year, Microsoft renamed Windows Azure to microsoft azure-1Microsoft Azure , which we all know and love today.

In 2014, Google introduced a new and unique discount model for Google Cloud Engine called Sustained Use Discounts. The model was straightforward and didn’t require extensive planning or long-term commitments like other models, such as Reserved Instances. The concept is that the longer you run your VMs, the higher the discount is over time.

Meanwhile, AWS was pushing the envelope with countless new services and offerings, including Amazon RDS for Aurora (powerful and scalable MySQL compliant database), AWS Key Management Service (aka KMS – a managed service to create control cryptographic keys) and Amazon EC2 Container Service, a groundbreaking container service leveraging Docker engine and Amazon’s EC2 service.

dockerDocker made a lot of noise in 2013 when its engine was released as an open-source project, and in October 2014, Microsoft announced that they would support Docker in their next Windows Server. The same year, IBM announced a strategic partnership with Docker for their cloud. Docker was all the rage back then - until Kubernetes emerged few years later.

To simplify the EC2 Reserved Instances planning and commitment, Amazon introduced three payment options for EC2 Reserved Instances, All upfront, partial upfront, or no upfront.

aws lambdaHowever, the most revolutionary service unveiled that year was AWS Lambda. AWS Lambda was unique since it eliminated the need to deploy, manage, and scale infrastructure to run applications. Developers upload code and the service takes care of the elements needed to run it -- and yes, there are still servers in “Serverless” computing – but, you don't manage them.

Also that year, VMware rebranded its vCloud Hybrid Service to vCloud Air in August 2014, which allowed VMware customers to extend their on-premises vSphere environments to VMware’s Public cloud.

Lastly, as mentioned previously,  HP acquired Eucalyptus in September 2014 to bolster its hybrid cloud offerings…which would eventually shut down a couple of years later.


A good indication of the state of cloud computing in 2014 was RightScale’s annual 'State of the Cloud' report. RightScale released its fourth annual 'State of the Cloud' survey in 2015, which surveyed 930 IT Professionals, and it included few interesting insights about the state computing field:

  • AWS was the undisputed public cloud vendor with 57% indicating they are running application on it, followed by Microsoft by a large margin
  • 93% of the survey respondents indicated they are using some sort of cloud model
  • Security was # 1 cloud challenge for the first time, with 28% followed by lack of expertise (27%) and compliance (25%). Managing cloud costs was #5, with 24%.
    cloud challenges

In the next article, we will continue with our review and focus on the period between 2015 and 2019.

As mentioned in the previous article, if there is a notable milestone or an event that you feel is missing, please let me know in the comments.

The series continues in part 3.

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