The very first Cloud Service was a Communication Service
I do know what readers expect when they read the headline for the first time – another post on either Microsoft or Google claiming to have been the first in the cloud. But let’s face it they have not been the first ones offering or using cloud services by at least 500 years. Yes, the Amerindians (I will stick to Indians from now on) have been there long before. You wonder how? I do believe this picture explains it at a glance:
picture by Frederic Remington
We all do know this from the old Wild West movies. The smoke signals were a communication method giving the Indians a major advantage in the hunt for animals but also later on in the fight against the invaders from the European continent. As we all know this advantage was made trifling for other reasons. Let us look at it from a cloud service perspective.
The smoke signal is a self-service set up without any doubt. Any individual could just start a fire with the wood provided by nature. The cloud device needed on top is a cover to control the flow of smoke. This could either be a sheet, a part of the clothing or with sticks and leafs even something that could be created.
Does it scale? Yes, of course it does. As the density of population was sparse enough so that the nature could provide all of them with means under no risk to burn down whole region it can easily be called a highly scalable service.
It also uses an on demand payment model if you would call the effort needed to set it up a payment. You neither had to carry the wood around with you nor did you need to book it in advance. You invested your time into wood gathering and fire making when you needed it. That is on demand not only in payment (effort) but also in planning (no need to register).
The other component which makes it a cloud service is the level of standardization. The basic setup is highly standardized across tribes. A layer of security is added through, let’s call it encryption. The meaning of smoke signals could only be understood if you were trained in the code being used.
So it is without doubt that this was the very first cloud communication service as it was also real-time.
What did become of this? The importance of communication across distances has not wavered but grown. While the landline telephony still showed some of the cloud characteristics, some were lost. Only in the last few years with VOIP, UC and mobile devices did the cloud approach of the Native American tribes become more apparent again. The freedom to roam without being bound by a cable as well as the integrated self-service approach (if not by individuals then at least by groups of them called enterprises) create a modern-day communications cloud service. Phone usage even in the old landline days has been mainly paid on demand so that is something that had been preserved through all means of communication. When you look at consumer cloud services voice communications still is and will be the backbone even in the future. While the discussions about the new world of work and all the cloud services have pushed UC slightly out of focus it is important to not forget it.
I do know that it seems unsexy in a cloud context sometimes as voice is a highly regulated industry and other areas are easy to target. I do know that things like “legal intercept” might complicate things but just make sure that you integrate voice. Without it, it would just not be complete.