The intergalactic network is here. It’s just not intergalactic yet
J. C. R. Licklider had a big vision. In the early 1960s, before Australians even had the ability to direct-dial overseas telephone numbers, the US psychologist and computer scientist was talking about an "Intergalactic Computer Network".
Licklider was a key figure in the Pentagon's work on computer networking which led to ARPAnet - the beginnings of the internet.
"Intergalactic" is still a dream, but his vision of computers interacting "as an electronic commons open to all" is the basis of what we now know as "the cloud".
In cloud computing, large groups of remote servers are networked for shared data-processing, centralised data storage, and online access to resources.
The origins of the term "cloud" are cloudy indeed. But telephone schematics used to use a cloud shape to represent a network. Computer network diagrams adopted the idea to represent the internet.
Now it's come to mean different things to different people. In one sense, it's synonymous with the internet. In another, it suggests multiple computers in a co-operative project.
In another - and most usefully for business - it means offsite storage of data and, in some cases, applications, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
For example, in 1999 Salesforce (now known for its customer relationship management software) introduced the concept of delivering business applications via a website on a subscription basis.
Now internet firms big and small are offering competing cloud services for businesses seeking online software, accessible anywhere, and secure offsite data storage without incurring the costs of hosting it themselves.
There is much more to come.
For example, Telstra plans to invest nearly a billion dollars in cloud computing over the next five years, according to Simeon Joyce, general manager of Telstra's Hosting and Applications division.
"Our research shows that 80 per cent of insurers plan to be using mobile devices to process claims, field sales and customer service by 2015. Ninety per cent of them want to be using social media for marketing by then.
"However, security and reliability are crucial for the finance and insurance sectors - we get that.
"One of the biggest advantages of working with Telstra is that we recognise that we have to make the investment to ensure that our cloud is as secure and compliant as possible."
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