Get to Know These Eight Cloud Computing Pioneers

Who Created the Cloud?The concept of cloud computing has been around since the 1960s, but it is believed that the term itself was coined at an industry conference in 2006 by Google’s CEO at the time, Eric Schmidt. Digging deeper though, references to cloud computing can be found in a business plan written by NetCentric wunderkinds Seán O’Sullivan and George Favaloro in 1996, describing it as “software inside the internet.” Regardless of who receives credit for the term, cloud computing is still a young technology whose credit can be shared by a great number of individuals—eight of whom you can read about below.


8 Pioneers in Cloud Computing


Urs Holzle

“Every developer will want to live in this world...and it’s our job to build it,” Swiss software engineer Holzle once said of the cloud. But, Holzle didn’t set out to create his own infrastructure, it happened because he wanted to see change. As one of Google’s first employees, he was tired of being tied down by the restrictions of other technology providers, so he decided to build his own. Today, Holzle is credited as leading the design and build-out of the tech giant’s infrastructure. His technique and the tenets he laid down would be followed by Amazon, Microsoft, and others. Holzle remains at Google to this day as the company’s Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure.

Werner Vogels

Recognized by many as one of the most influential visionaries in the cloud’s earlier days, Vogels joined Amazon in 2004 as Director of Systems Research (he would eventually join the C-suite as CTO, and later, VP). Vogels maintained a vision for a new type of system that could scale out infinitely; this vision would make Amazon Compute Cloud elastic and robust, even if a piece of hardware were to fail beneath it. He made those web services credible, essential, and—moreover—accepted from an early stage. A proponent of distributing virtual server computing cycles over the internet and charging on a basis of time, he succeeded in convincing enterprises to adopt it.


Lydia Leong

When large enterprises first began adopting cloud computing in 2010, Leong became the primary analyst of Gartner—a global research and advisory firm—focused on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). She became a prominent spokeswoman regarding the cloud, and was named “Analyst of the Year.” Over the years, Leong has become known for her straightforward approach to cloud computing for enterprise, and helping establish its viability in this arena. She is currently the VP of Research at Gartner.

Reuven Cohen

Who is Reuven Cohen? In his own words, he’s “an instigator, part-time provocateur, bootstrapper, amateur cloud lexicographer, and purveyor of random thoughts, 140 characters at a time.” Cohen, as the founder of Enomaly in 2004, was among the first to create IaaS. Cohen is also the developer of the first commodity-style cloud computing service Spot Market, created under the name SpotCloud in 2011. Today, he remains a successful entrepreneur and an active commentator, contributor, and writer for a variety of publications including Forbes, Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review, and many others. Additionally, his three years with Citrix allowed him to invest in enterprise startups and create the next generation of cloud infrastructure services.


James Urquhart

In 2009, MIT Technology Review named Urquhart one of the 10 most influential thinkers in cloud computing. Just two years later, he was named one of the top three cloud bloggers by The Next Web. While at Cisco Systems, Urquhart was a market strategist and technology evangelist for the cloud from 2008 to 2011. It was during that same time that he authored the CNet blog The Wisdom of Clouds, making a case for cloud computing as an “operations model”—a way to use data intelligently—and not a new technology.

Sebastian Stadil

A cloud developer since 2004, Stadil founded his own company, Scalr, in 2007 to produce management products for IaaS. He says that his company began “right at the dawn of the public cloud revolution, from the challenge of federating dispersed IT teams over common cost and security standards while preserving local autonomy.” His model for handling this, the Scalr Organizational Model, combines proactive and reactive policies with a hierarchy that maps an organization’s structure. Stadil is also the founder of the Silicon Valley Cloud Computing Group, a user group of nearly 10,000 members who meet monthly to discuss the latest cloud developments in the industry.

Michael Crandell

A graduate of Harvard University and a frequent speaker at cloud events, Crandell has been an advocate for hybrid clouds when others were hesitant. To this end, Crandell created his own company, RightScale, in 2006 to act as a hub to move between dissimilar clouds. For the value it brought to cloud computing, his company was named a 2013 technology pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

Chandra Krintz

A self-described “researcher at heart,” Krintz is a professor of computer science at the University of California. She also founded and serves as the CTO of AppScale Systems, Inc., an open-source cloud computing platform that deploys and scales unmodified Google App Engine applications automatically over public and private cloud systems. As a renowned computer language specialist with many awards under her belt, Krintz has championed research projects that have led to innovations improving performance and reducing energy consumption in programming and distributed systems. Recently, she has turned her attention to devising applications in farming, ranching, and ecology, using a combination of cloud computing, data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Without question, there are tens—if not hundreds—more who played key roles in the creation of cloud computing. Although we are barely more than a decade beyond the mainstream debut of the cloud as we know it, its rapid growth makes it easy to miss some of those who played a role in its development. For now, we have these eight remarkable individuals who have changed the landscape of cloud computing, the way we do business, and the way we live, to thank.

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