TEN YEARS AGO, Amazon unleashed a technology that we now call, for better or for worse, cloud computing. As it turned out, the cloud spawned a revolution. Along the way, many were slow to realize just how big this revolution could be. But now, as 2015 comes to a close, they finally do.
Back in 2006, Amazon was just an online retailer, but it decided to try something new. It offered up a series of online services where the world’s businesses could build and operate software—websites and mobile apps, in particular—without setting up their own hardware. Simply by opening a web browser, these businesses could tap into a virtually unlimited amount of computing power. And they did.
Netflix and Dropbox, for example, built two of the world’s biggest online empires atop Amazon’s cloud services. But even as these businesses thrived in the cloud—moving at unprecedented speed, instantly grabbing more computing power as they needed it—some people said this way of doing things didn’t suit everyone. Big banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and other old-school operations couldn’t run their software in the cloud, these skeptics claimed, because the cloud wasn’t secure. It wasn’t reliable. Many of these skeptics worked at places like HP and Dell and IBM and Oracle, the tech giants most threatened by the cloud revolution, companies that sold the expensive computer servers and other data center hardware and software that the cloud could replace.