In the beginning, the Internet was definitely the wild-wild-west.
Many internet service providers (ISPs) were small operations that were making it up as they went along. Basic internet services such as website hosting were often provisioned in the company's offices on whatever hardware was available.
Common server technologies in use today such as redundant disk drives, redundant power supplies and battery backup (UPS) systems were still a gleam in some hardware engineer's eye. Needless to say this lead to frequent failures, sometimes catastrophic.
I know this first-hand because I had the good fortune of helping start one of Tennessee's first commercial ISPs called EdgeNet (“The Edge”) in Tullahoma in the early 1990s.
I recall Spring being one of my least favorite times of the year due to frequent thunderstorms disrupting fragile computer and networking infrastructure.
With business success and general growth of the internet, most ISPs either created their own data centers or chose to co-locate their critical equipment in a regional data center.
These facilities generally provided the UPS-backed power and redundant network connectivity required to deliver high availability computing services.
Clients of the data centers would rent an entire rack and place their own servers inside with individual servers providing specific services. The downside of this setup is that the data centers were expensive to build and often under-utilized leading to high cost of ownership or co-location fees.
Over time, the advent of virtual computing (multiple computers emulated on a single larger computer) and the availability of extremely high-speed networking (based on optical networks) made feasible the current concept of “cloud computing.”
Cloud computing providers such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft allow customers to rent and operate a virtual computer that is only accessible over the Internet.
These cloud-based servers can be used individually or dynamically sized fleet of these virtual servers can work together to accomplish a task such as handling requests to an extremely popular website.
Tim Choate is President/CEO of Bondware Web Solutions in Murfreesboro, TN.