Who Did Coin the Term ‘Cloud Computing’?

Publish date:

Technology Review
, writer Antonio
Regalado delves into the origin of
this ample ingredient in tech jargon:
“Cloud computing.”

His research puts the date at
November 1996 — almost exactly
15 years ago. That’s when a renegade
group of technologists inside
Compaq Computer (later bought by
Hewlett-Packard) coined the phrase as a strategy to
sell more servers to Internet-service providers.

Not Google in 2006. Or Amazon, with its Elastic
Compute Cloud (abbreviated “EC2”). Or Dell Computer,
which tried to trademark the term in 2008,
only to get lambasted by the ever-vocal computerprogramming

Given the reach of the publication and the incendiary
nature of such a topic, I’m betting a dime
that Regalado gets lots and lots of comments (and
email flames) on his linguistic time stamp.

Think of this in plain old cable terms. Ever ask
an old-timer who built the first cable system and
where? It always comes out at least two ways: Oregon
and Pennsylvania, in a dead heat.

Besides, it just seems to me that “cloud computing”
must twist back farther than 15 years.

Here’s how the National Institute of Standards
and Technology recently defined the term:
“A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient,
on-demand network access to a shared pool of
configurable computing resources (e.g., networks,
servers, storage, applications and services) that
can be rapidly provisioned and released with
minimal management effort or service-provider

“Or service-provider interaction?” Not to quibble
with the nation’s standards-setting body, but for the
readers of this publication, and as this column has
pointed out before: Cable is a cloud. That’s even
more the case these days, as operators and programming
networks race to place clickable icons
on all of our screens that can play video, but aren’t
necessarily connected via a set-top box.

Think about it: Headends are morphing into
“data centers,” and every operator in the land is
readying its “as-a-service” suffixes — in the cloud
world, these go by “infrastructure as a service
(IaaS),” “software as a service (SaaS)” and so on.

That brings into question whether “cloud computing”
is synonymous with “network-based computing.”
I’d say yes.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter,
you can’t ever go wrong in reading MIT Technology
, which last year brilliantly asked whether
what’s going on is a cloud — or a swamp.

One line stood out to me in Regalado’s piece:
“ ‘Cloud computing’ captures a historic shift in the
IT industry as more computer memory, processing
power, and apps are hosted in remote data centers,
or the ‘cloud.’”

So, be super-nice to your IT people. They’re the
folks who will make sure you’re a cloud, and not a

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