How we are losing control of our data… and how we will get it back!

In recent years, cloud services have proven itself as indispensable in the consumer space. From personal file backups on web drives to AI-assisted smartphone applications, it is hard to imagine the current device landscape without cloud functionality.

Especially for businesses, cloud computing can unlock tremendous potential, e.g. by distributing data analyses across scalable IT infrastructure. However, companies are still reluctant to migrate to Infrastructure-as-a-service platforms due to security and flexibility concerns. In order to find out where these concerns come from and how they can be remedied, this article is going to take a brief look into the history of the public cloud.

The early days (1970s/80s): The symbol of the cloud as a representation of networks is older than the Internet itself. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Massachusets Institute of Technology led two projects that were intended to connect the communications equipment of the U.S. Department of Defense and the research units of the U.S. university landscape in a decentralized way. The results were the ARPANET and the CSNET, which are among the first known of computer networks and are considered the forerunners of the Internet.

The documentation of these projects includes cloud symbols as a way to abstract network infrastructure. So ultimately, the origin of the cloud can be seen as a metaphor for the internet itself, which represents the connection between countless servers and clients without the detail of every connection end point.

The breakthrough (2000s/2010s): The cloud as we know it today was popularized by Amazon with the inception of Amazon Web Services and EC2 in 2006. This first instance of Infrastructure-as-a-Service introduced a new way to approach IT infrastructure by offering on-demand compute resources. Soon, some of the largest companies but also up-and-coming startups would begin to offer scalable services to reduce costs while raising productivity. Other notable services are Google's App Engine, which was released in 2008 and the debut of Microsoft Azure in 2010.

Today: Currently, the perception of the public cloud resides in somewhat of a grey area. On the one hand, it is being utilized to great results in SaaS applications, which are firmly established on the market. From webmail over word processing to video on demand playback, countless tasks are handled by public cloud infrastructure. One might even argue that the term "cloud" has become so prevalent in a technology context, that most people associate it with data instead of vapor.

There have been numerous successful startups and large corporations that generated headlines by offering innovative solutions that would not have been possible with traditional IT infrastructure. The cloud computing landscape, which was focused on cost-effectiveness for nearly a decade, has shifted its orientation towards productivity and computational power. In recent years, AI, microservices, IoT, and numerous other advanced technologies have been made possible by the previously unseen power made available by cloud distribution.

On the other hand, there have been numerous articles about data breaches and hacks of cloud infrastructure that compromised sensitive private data on a large scale. It is still commonplace for companies to keep all data on-premises --- just for the reason of not exposing it to the wider internet.

The future? Understandably, companies are reluctant to abandon their physical IT infrastructure because they fear to also abandon its security and custom functionality. But that does not have to be the case! In recent years, Confidential Computing has become a rising topic in IT security due to its potential and the support of several big players. By protecting data and code while in use, it allows for an entirely new level of security which just might be what companies unsure about cloud migration need. And once we shed the old concerns of cloud computing, this may bring us an entirely new era in the history of the public cloud --- one where we are able to share results even with competitors without compromising sensible insights.

Want to learn more about the exciting new use cases of confidential computing? Read this blog post.

Related reading

View all