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Who Coined The Phrase Cloud Computing?

By John | December 31, 2008

Chris Sears, one of Atlanta’s finer cloud enthusiasts has earned some battle scars on the forums discussing the topic of “Cloud Computing”.   I remember him once telling me that he had done some research on the original sighting of the phrase “Cloud Computing”.  So this afternoon when I posted a tweet asking the titled question he sent the following response:

As for the origin of the term “cloud computing”, there are a few possibilities…

Much like “Web 2.0″, cloud computing was a collection of related concepts that people recognized, but didn’t really have a good descriptor for, a definition in search of a term, you could say. When Schmidt Google used it in 2006 to describe their own stuff and then Amazon included the word “cloud” in EC2 when it was launched a few weeks later (August 24), the term became mainstream. People couldn’t definite it exactly, but they roughly knew it meant SaaS apps and infrastructure like Google was doing and S3/EC2 services like Amazon was offering.

Topics: cloud computing | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Who Coined The Phrase Cloud Computing?”

  1. Reuven Cohen, Founder, Enomaly Inc Says:
    December 31st, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    In doing my research for the guide, I think I have found the first public usage of the term “Cloud” as a metaphor for the internet in a paper published by MIT in 1996. As side note, this article fully outlines most of the concepts which have become central to the ideas
    found within cloud computing. Certainly worth a read.

    The Self-governing Internet: Coordination by Design

    See Figure 1. The Internet’s Confederation Approach
    (Do find in your browser for “Figure 1″ and see image)

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Sharon Eisner Gillett
    Research Affiliate
    Center for Coordination Science

    Sloan School of Management
    Mitchell Kapor
    Adjunct Professor
    Media Arts and Sciences

    Prepared for:
    Coordination and Administration of the Internet
    Workshop at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
    September 8-10, 1996
    Appearing in:
    Coordination of the Internet, edited by Brian Kahin and James Keller,
    MIT Press, 1997

  2. Reuven Cohen, Founder, Enomaly Inc Says:
    December 31st, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Another common story indicates that Schmidt took the opportunity to use the term “cloud computing” in an attempt to steal some of the thunder from the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud which was also launching later that same month in 2006, a classic example of Google “FUD”

  3. Barry X Lynn Says:
    January 1st, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Hi, guys. Barry X Lynn, 3tera here. Happy New Year!

    Now Reuven, I KNOW I am A LOT older than you are. But John, what’s your excuse? :-)

    The first time I heard reference to something happening in the Cloud (having to do with IT of course), was before I was a poor entrepreneur – in the early ’90s, when I had a real paying job! I was CIO of Wells Fargo at the time and every telecom and their mother was pitching to get my frame relay biz for our ATM network (as in Automated Teller Machine, Not Asynchronous Transfer Mode for my fellow lurking geeks).

    The then viable U.S. West got my business. Why?

    Well, they were the only one among all of them – AT&T, PacBell, Sprint, MCI, etc. who actually provided me with end to end visibility into my network. I could monitor everything from the ATM all the way to the Tandem mainframes (remember them, John?) that powered them and everything in between – every hub, router, switch.

    The others all pitched their Clouds – a mysterious network into which I could not see, but did not need to. All I could see was the equipment at the site of the ATM. I would just take it for granted that the rest of the network was there when I needed it.

    I thought – What a bunch of poppycock. They are all trying to sell me a deficiency as a feature. Little did I know that years later I would muse that not knowing would have been a blessing indeed!!! :-) B.XL.

  4. Thorsten von Eicken, CTO RightScale Says:
    January 1st, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I remember that while I was trying to come up with a name for RightScale in February-March 2007 it was not clear at all whether, when talking about Amazon EC2, the term “cloud” or the term “elastic” would stick.
    So if you’re looking for the turning point where “cloud computing” became widely adopted I’m very confident that you have to look somewhere around summer-fall 2007. Schmidt may have pronounced “cloud computing” in 2006, but it certainly didn’t catch on at that point. I would be more interested in knowing who “made it stick” than who pronounced it first.

  5. John Says:
    January 2nd, 2009 at 7:02 am


    At the risk of starting a hockey game….

    Ok smarty pants, I was never a huge fan of TCAM and that TSO line editor stuff either, but, yes Virginia, I do remember TANDAM. They were that other whacky bunch on the other side of the comuter room (non IBM of course). We were way to busy writing system modification to our 4381′s and Cray 2′s to bother with those other type of weird computers.

    Anyway, did they actually use the phrase “Cloud Computing” during their marketing and usage of those machines? If so then I missed that one.

    btw… :) :) :) I added there smiles to let you know it is an honor to be made fun of by the CEO of 3Tera on my website. I encourage other CEO to pile on as well.

    Thanks :)

  6. John Says:
    January 2nd, 2009 at 7:08 am


    First off, thanks for not making fun of me :) I don’t mind CEO’s making fun of me but I have to draw the line at CTO’s.

    That is a great point about making it stick. Unfortunately, I am late comer to cloud compared to guys like Reuven and you. I would have thought the hype around Amazon’s EC2 would have been the one, but it sounds like it might have been someone/something else.


  7. Barry X Lynn Says:
    January 2nd, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    John: Hey, I wasn’t making fun of you. I was just trying to see if you were capable of paying attention on New Years Day after whatever debauchery you were guilty of the night before. The fact that both of us were lucid enough yesterday to post on a blog, is probably the real sign of our age.

    The first Tandem I acquired (pre- Wells Fargo) had serial # 6. Shows my age!

    Yes – the Telecoms (not Tandem) actually used the term “Cloud” in their marketing materials (in fairness, not “Cloud Computing”). They even all had PowerPoints (actually, they were probably overhead transparencies, as I recall)that showed your data center connected to a Cloud and your slave equipment (in this case, our ATMs) also connected to the same Cloud – yup – a picture of a Cloud and labeled “Cloud”. But they didn’t show anything inside the Cloud. That was the mystery,

    It was also a mystery to any network monitoring/management systems you may have had at the time!

  8. John Says:
    January 2nd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    It really is a sad state when you only have one beer on New Years eve and go to bed at 12:15.


  9. 3Tera Chairman Barry X Lynn on the Origin of Cloud Computing | Big Winner Says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 7:00 am

    [...] Link: Who Coined The Phrase Cloud Computing? [...]

  10. Jason Meiers Says:
    April 4th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Cloud Computing is from IBM, they have been providing on-demand application, infrastructure and service on demand forever.

  11. John Says:
    April 5th, 2009 at 8:10 am


    There’s a lot of FUD in that post..

    1) Trying to argue that the monolithic mainframes of the 80′s and 90′s has always been CC is a real stretch. Take it from someone who was a systems programmer for 4081 MF in 1980.

    2) Re: updates on a mainframe being easy. There are a lot of shops running 100′s and more zlinux lpars on zos these days and they are just as complex to update.

    my .02 cents

  12. Jason Meiers Says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    John, thats a pretty interesting story from the 80′s.

    Working with mainframes in 2009 things have changed a bit. On demand hardware resources for z/Linux lpars running Suse is reality and has been around for a while as well has added advanced technology changes VMWare, Zen and other virtualization technology havent even started to copy yet.

    For example, zAPP for Java to provided hardware scalability for enterprise java applications, not just an email spam app or facebook app but acutal life depending applications such as apps for Medicare and Medicade.

    Infrastruce-as-a-Service has been around forever its becoming more affordable thats the big change. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    my .03 cents,

  13. Martin Says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    You can ask google