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From ARPANET to AWS with Cloud Express: A Little Network History

Today, we use the cloud for everything: downloading music, storing photos, keeping current in our social circles and more. Businesses also are increasingly adopting cloud solutions to run applications on pay-per-use infrastructure now that secure options are available for compute, storage and network elements. It might seem like the cloud has always been around, but that is not the case. In fact, the cloud as we know it today, was actually the culmination of many events over the past five decades. So let’s take a little walk through history.

Development of the ARPANET begins. This precursor to the Internet is designed to create a fault-tolerant distributed, packet-switched network that is not based on the hierarchical circuit-switched networks. Meant for government and military use, ARPANET eventually evolves into a publicly available global IP network, enabling any-to-any connectivity.

Mainframe manufacturers such as IBM and DEC are using the earliest forms of computer resource time-sharing. IBM develops the VM Operating System, which extends this time-sharing to the earliest virtual machines.

Despite IBM Chairman Thomas Watson’s reported prediction in 1943 that “…there is a world market for maybe five computers,” by the 1980s the computer is rapidly being developed for individual and even home use, with more than 100 million units sold by the end of the decade.

Large telecom companies start replacing customers’ legacy point-to-point and private line services with more dynamic virtual network technologies that can carry voice and data with more efficiency and at a lower cost. To simplify this concept in discussions and sales presentations, telecom companies represent this complex deployment of routing and switching equipment in their core network with a cloud, which is much easier to draw on a whiteboard. The decade ends with all of these forces coming together and the 1999 launch of Salesforce.com. The idea of delivering enterprise applications via an Internet website is born.

With Y2K concerns in the rearview mirror, Amazon starts looking at ways to commercialize the expertise it has developed in managing its own large-scale retail compute and storage infrastructure and, in 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is launched. Originally targeting the developer community, AWS provides pay-per-use, on-demand resources to improve development cycle times and reduce infrastructure costs.

AWS is firmly positioned in industry analyst Gartner’s prestigious Leader’s Quadrant for Infrastructure as a Service Providers and has never looked back. Amazon delivers new features and functionality at such a rapid pace it is nearly impossible for competitors and niche providers to keep up.

In August of 2011, Amazon announces AWS DirectConnect, providing enterprises a more secure and private method to connect to workloads running in AWS clouds. Customers use AWS DirectConnect to avoid the increased risks and best-effort reliability of the Internet. They also provision private circuits to connect their users to applications running in AWS. With this advancement, the public cloud is now an option for enterprise workloads.

However, early adopters of AWS DirectConnect have some hurdles to clear. If they want to take advantage of the growing portfolio of services available, including e-commerce, archiving, disaster recovery, development and testing, big data, high-performance compute, content delivery, and more over their private network they have to build and manage it themselves. Creating dedicated, private connectivity into these dynamic workloads gets very complex and costly and not at all “cloud-like.”


Cloud Express

EarthLink Cloud Express™

EarthLink Cloud Express™ simplifies this solution by providing our private network customers the ability to quickly and easily connect their existing MPLS networks to leading cloud service providers like AWS. Through software provisioning and virtual network connections, Cloud Express™ provides EarthLink customers secure, scalable access to their cloud services without the threats of the Internet or the cost and complexity of dedicated network connections. With a growing ecosystem of cloud providers and future enhancements to provide increased levels of end-to-end visibility and control, Cloud Express™ can help customers easily deploy and manage their hybrid-cloud environments.

You can learn more about Cloud ExpressTM by clicking here.

Check back for future blog posts on how EarthLink helps business connect to other public Cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, while establishing a hybrid-cloud strategy.

About Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson has over 25 years’ experience providing IT infrastructure solutions for the enterprise. In his current role at EarthLink, he has overall Product Management responsibility for its Cloud Solutions portfolio. He has vast experience in public and private cloud infrastructure, network design, as well as traditional data center services. He holds an M.S. in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado and serves as an Adjunct Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he teaches courses in computer networking technologies and LAN/MAN/WAN planning and design.