Where is the cloud physically located?

12.04.2023 1,643 2

A cloud. No, not the ones in the sky. We are talking about the digital cloud or cloud computing. The ones you use for working or storing your files like Google Drive or Microsoft Office 365. These are cloud services that you use on the Internet, but where are they physically located?
The term cloud has become very popular. Even for regular users it is common to mention it more than once per day, especially during their work conversations, but they don’t know so much about it. The most common concept they link with the digital cloud is storage, but when someone asks for more information about it, many of them look to the sky hoping to find out the answers. The digital cloud is much more than just storage. That is why, today, we will talk about it.

Why is it called a “cloud”? Computer “time-sharing”.

First of all, let’s state that the term “cloud” is used to directly mean the Internet. We need a quick dive into the Internet or cloud history to understand this.
Both the development and the term “cloud” are already more than 50 years old. The first steps towards cloud development date back to the 1950s-1960s. Already in the 1950s, the first companies using computers (large mainframe computers at that time), faced the challenge of computers’ cost. The companies’ needs could be big, but the machines were too expensive (and big too). It was hard and budget-killing to buy a device for every employee. Therefore, during these decades “time-sharing” developed. It was a process that allowed users to simultaneously access different instances of the computing mainframes and limit the usage time. The process managed to maximize processing power, minimize downtime, and made much more efficient use of the costly processor time of central mainframes. This is considered the first antecedent of shared computing resources, a concept that is key in the modern cloud computing we all know now.

ARPANET creation

In the 1960s, the name of a computer scientist stood out due to an ambitious and modern idea. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider worked on a project to connect computers across the world to allow users access to information and programs no matter their geographical location. He collaborated in the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor.
It is important to mention that at this point, computers were real and concrete technology, but the concept of such an ambitious global connection between them was very intangible. Depending on the audience, it was hard to explain such an abstract concept. Among engineers and developers, the need to represent this concept in some way also arose. They chose the shape of a cloud to represent the Internet in their diagrams and flowcharts.

This is why it is called a “cloud”

Why is it called a cloud? Well, computing experts chose the cloud as a symbol to represent this intangible concept because it helped to mean a fuzzy area not controlled by the IT teams of the companies. This cloud helped to point to an area considered the “vast beyond” (all of the “stuff” you can access remotely over the Internet) of companies’ premises or employees. The use of the cloud to represent what we call the Internet nowadays got popular among people involved in its development from those early times.
In the following decade, the 1970s, the first virtual machines appeared, and they meant another step toward cloud computing. During the 1970s and 1980s, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple improved the use of dedicated hosting and cloud servers, and that represented benefits for the cloud environment. CompuServe surprised its users by offering them a little amount of disk space for storing files they wanted to upload (1983).

Later on, Salesforce was the first company that delivered business applications from a website (1999). Years after, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (2006), which included storage in the cloud. Computing services were soon joined by major technology players like Google and Microsoft.
Of course, we are reviewing the origin of the Internet (or the cloud) by fast-forwarding its history.
The Internet was built by many developers with different contributions, but one term that remained useful throughout was “the cloud.” As technology progressed and cloud computing became a reality, using a cloud as a metaphor for the complex technology behind it made it easier for regular users to understand and picture a wireless, accessible resource that could be used anywhere and at any time.
Of course, the marketing guys loved it because this term and its representation made their task (to sell it) easier too.

Who created the term “cloud computing”?

This is perhaps harder to answer than the whole technology behind cloud computing. You already know that very early on, developers drew a cloud to represent the intangible concept of the Internet (a cloud). This use and the term became part of the common computing jargon, but it is not clear who exactly created the term.

What you should know is that the success of this technology development generated serious debate and disputes – even about the authorship of the term cloud computing. It meant a revolution and many people wanted to be part of it somehow.For instance, in 2006, Eric Schmidt, Google CEO at the time, introduced the term during a conference. In a very brief version, he said something like “…the premise is that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing… They should be in a “cloud”, somewhere…”. After that, some credited Google and Eric Schmidt for creating the term, but controversy started immediately. People who disagreed defended that the idea and term dated back to the 1960s. Therefore, Google was only using, not creating, a term and an idea that existed long ago. Two years later, the company Dell tried to get a trademark on “cloud computing” but that attempt ignited the outrage of programmers.
Also, two men claimed to be the creators of the term: George Favaloro and Sean O’Sullivan. They said they created it during a business meeting in the offices of Compaq (1996). Then, O’Sullivan had a startup, NetCentric, and was negotiating a business opportunity with Compaq., while Favaloro was leading a new Internet services group within Compaq. The business they talked about was Compaq to start selling servers to Internet service providers, like AOL. And then, while plotting the brilliant future of this business, the term “cloud computing” was born.
Later, Sam Johnston, who was director of the cloud and IT services at Equinix (2011-2015) and also the editor of the “cloud computing” entry in Wikipedia, stated there were different claims of authorship through time, not a solid one, so he removed them from Wikipedia.

What exactly is cloud computing?

Those disputes over the authorship of the term, also involved in some cases, the idea of cloud computing, and all of that led to confusion about its meaning.
“Cloud computing” is a term that unites different services like storage, computing, platforms for apps and games, servers, and more. It provides powerful computers which clients can use (not own) for a subscription fee (monthly or annually). Usually, the service provider offers different plans that can satisfy small and big customers and provide options for upgrades.
There is much to say about all the services offered currently through the cloud.
Why not read “The differences between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS” to understand the different types.
Now, let’s focus on where it’s located.

Where is the physical location of the cloud?

Ok, by now, you for sure got that cloud computing does not live in the sky. The cloud is a combination of different data centers from all around the world that are connected to a grid (the Internet). Data centers are physical places full of high-end computer servers that require a controlled environment.
The locations are also known as Points of Presence (PoPs). They are strategically located around the world depending on their need. This is why you can find a lot more PoPs in Europe, North America, and Asia than in Africa or South America. The proximity of the data center and the consumers guarantee better and faster service.
Apart from the proximity and speed, the grid of the data centers has other advantages. It provides redundancy. If you have data in the cloud, it is not saved only on a single drive; it is divided among or copied to more than one disk or computer depending on the RAID configuration. If one of the drives dies, you won’t lose your data.
Redundancy will be an advantage in any case, for whatever reason you are using a cloud service. If you use the service to compute or to complete a task and one server is down, you will be able to use the resources stored in another drive.
The whole cloud is like a smart organism that provides resources and extra security to clients from all over the world.
So there you have it – the cloud is a vast network of connected servers that communicate with each other so you can get the best service, no matter where you are in the world. Therefore, the physical location of the cloud is in data centers across the planet, and all its services are mostly delivered through undersea and underground cables.


Mystery solved! Now you know where the physical location of the cloud is. It has regular addresses on Earth, just like you! For instance, Neterra.CLOUD is located in Sofia Data Center.

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