10 Cloud Computing Pioneers

Cloud computing has rewritten decades of technology rules. Take a closer look at 10 innovators who helped make it possible.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

November 20, 2012

11 Slides

It's hard to write history when you're still in the thick of recording it. However, in cloud computing we've amassed just enough background to name some of the early pioneers who've helped establish the relatively new computing paradigm.

The list is neither exhaustive nor all inclusive. And, undoubtedly, there will be other lists, highlighting other quiet innovators whose names we're just beginning to hear, and whose accomplishments will be well-known in the coming years.

But for IT managers in the midst of considering or adopting cloud computing, this list offers a commentary on where we have so recently come from, and where we may be going in the near future.

This list necessarily ignores how even these pioneers are standing on the shoulders of giants themselves. Consider, for example, the key work accomplished on distributed systems at Sun Microsystems and the early cluster builders, who preceded Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Rackspace on the cloud front.

Still, cloud development has moved at an accelerated pace compared to how long it took personal computing or client-server computing to emerge. Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service (S3) service launched just six years ago, followed by Enterprise Compute Cloud (EC2). Google AppEngine launched in 2008. Microsoft's beta version of Azure cloud services came in 2009.

The cloud paradigm is less than a decade old, but from the start, there seemed to be an understanding among its diverse pioneers that a new era was dawning and it would share a set of common characteristics. Any list of cloud computing pioneers would have Amazon's Werner Vogels near the top. But the architects and hands-on implementers who made his evangelism real, like Chris Pinkham, also deserve a nod.

Even the individuals named are in the habit of saying progress in the cloud is seldom an individual effort. Usually cloud advances are established by a large group of collaborators, and more often than not they are working in full public view with an open source code project like OpenStack (or Eucalyptus or CloudStack) or the Open Compute hardware project.

But some individuals were standing there before the pattern of cloud computing emerged. They acted at a time when the notion was still under attack. In believing, they risked being branded as charlatans and producers of mere vaporware, when in fact they were forging ahead to help define a new era.

Delve into our look at 10 pioneers of the cloud computing era. The order in which they should appear will remain under heavy debate as long as the cloud history is still being written.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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