Cloud computing has rewritten decades of technology rules. Take a closer look at 10 innovators who helped make it possible.
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Before Werner Vogels got a cloud infrastructure to evangelize at Amazon, there was Chris Pinkham, designer of Amazon Enterprise Compute Cloud (EC2). Actually, designing the Amazon infrastructure was one of those collaborative ventures, like Sergey Brin and Larry Page at Google, where two heads are better than one. Pinkham was the project's managing director; Amazon software architect Christopher Brown was lead developer. Together they produced Amazon's first public cloud infrastructure.
I once thought Amazon Web Services must have sprung out of Amazon.com spare capacity. Not so. Initially they were two separate things, with the cloud merely the tail of the online-merchandising dog.
Amazon.com IT operations manager Jesse Robbins has told the story of how he jealously guarded the retail operation's data centers and didn't let experimenters near them. Pinkham, who gained expertise by running the first Internet service provider in South Africa, had joined Amazon in 2000 as director of its network engineering group, then became VP responsible for IT infrastructure worldwide.
Amazon had been discussing internally the possibility of creating a public-facing, virtualized infrastructure that could be sold as a service. Pinkham was the most likely candidate to pull it off. But "Chris really, really wanted to be back in South Africa," Robbins once told blogger Carl Brooks, who wrote: "Rather than lose the formidable talent ... Amazon brass cleared the project and off [Pinkham and Brown] went [to work in South Africa] with a freedom to innovate that many might be jealous of."
Pinkham had the knowledge of how things needed to scale in a Web service environment. Both he and Brown set about exploiting the possibilities of a fully virtualized data center. EC2 was developed with different goals than the retail operation: The customer would have to be able to self-provision a virtual server, receive separate chargeback and have enough control to allow for virtual server launch, load balancing, storage activation and adding services such as database.
The two pulled it off, and Amazon EC2 was born. In 2006 Pinkham left Amazon to start a new company, Nimbula. He now proselytizes its software, Vogels-style, saying it generalizes the Amazon environment for companies to use as a private cloud.
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