The Evolution of Web Hosting – A Brief Overview
In the modern era, we take many things for granted. Many of our daily stuff that we don’t even think about did not even exist a few years ago.
One of the things that we use daily, and that we cannot imagine our lives without is the Internet. You are checking it so many times every day to see weather, news, social media, or to read articles like this one. In fact, even those who provide Internet content use the Internet to get that content most of the time.
We check dozens of websites daily, without even thinking about how they work. The only thing we notice is when they don’t work, because that is what makes us mad. But, most of the commonly used websites are up all the time and this is another fact that we take for granted. Those websites are up all the time because teams of experts are running them. And we are not talking about the people who are developing actual websites, adding content and making them appealing to the eye. We are talking about teams who operate behind the scenes, working on servers on which those websites are hosted.
Also Read: The Evolution of Web Design
You still think that it isn’t a big deal that websites run almost all the time? After reading this article, you will think a little differently. You will appreciate more things you take for granted, things like web hosting.
The Stone Age
In the Stone Age, people started making and using tools, but in the most primitive form.
The stone age of web hosting came with workstations. And yes, like tools from the Stone Age, workstations were clumsy, ineffective and primitive. But, at the time they were used, there was simply no better technology and they got the job done.
Running a web server from a workstation is rare today, at least we hope so. It has many drawbacks; a workstation is a PC that is tucked in under someone’s desk or hidden somewhere in a closet. What this means is that a whole website depends on the health of one PC; a coffee spill, or an accidental unplug, and the site is down. So the biggest enemy of a workstation was, and still is neglect.
This was primitive, yes, but it was a start. Many drawbacks of workstations made people find ways to improve them, and eventually evolve to something better.
The Bronze Age
In the Bronze Age, humans started exploring more and started showing early signs of civilization. More sophisticated tools were available, allowing growth, but everything was far from perfect.
The simplest solution for the common problems that workstations had was to put them all together in one room, where they would be safe from coffee accidents, vacuum cleaners and clumsy feet. This migration gave birth to data centers.
Hosting in a data center had other advantages too. The main danger of workstations is that they are too much “all-in”; everything depends of their hardware/software health. People started realizing the value of websites and started paying attention to data center security.
Redundant hardware, multiple power sources and connectivity solved the “all-in” workstation problem. Also, data centers became restricted areas, only for authorized personnel. Advanced fire detection/suppression and physical security systems were implemented.
And above everything, teams of professionals dedicated only for data centers were doing maintenance. This team was constantly improving and innovating the data center infrastructure and keeping everything up to date.
But, it is not all roses with data centers, they have a major drawback too; data centers are a huge investment. They simply consume too much; too much electricity, space, planning and time. They are hard to scale, hard to plan and simply they are too inflexible.
The Iron Age
Realizing the potential of using metal, but also seeing the drawbacks of using bronze, people needed a better solution. A solution that will be more viable, giving them better tools that last longer. This made them think in a different way, and they have started smelting iron.
In order to compensate drawbacks of data centers, people started thinking in a different way. They stopped looking for more; more hardware, more security, more space, and started thinking outside the box and thus the time of Virtual Server has come.
Virtualization was a total novelty, a level of abstraction never seen before. It separated operating systems from the physical hardware and by doing this it opened ways for application isolation and for better utilization of hardware. True power of virtualization showed when virtual cluster computing took place.
Although Virtual Servers did put the whole web hosting industry to a new level, it was still plagued with similar problems; it still required huge investments, had finite resources, and in order to keep up, developers had to put enormous effort and investments that had little room to payoff. Something needed to change.
Virtual Data Centers over time found themselves having similar problems that older data centers had. Yes, they were managed better and the servers were used in a better and more efficient way, but they were still tied to a single location.
The solution was so advanced, yet so elegant; Cloud hosting. It tackled every drawback of data centers.
First, Cloud hosting is very flexible and scalable; websites draw the exact amount of CPU power/bandwidth/RAM/storage they need, not more and not less. With cloud, resource wasting does not exist.
Secondly, Cloud hosting means there are no website specific physical servers, so the problem of growing data centers that need physical space on a single location was solved. Cloud servers are on many different locations and this has many benefits. Server distance was no longer an issue. Also, questions about data center integrity (think of floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.) were no longer relevant. Cloud servers copy themselves on other Cloud servers, so if something does go wrong, everything is up and running again in minutes. Although old-school data centers have backup too, if a bigger problems occurs, it takes hours to replace the hardware and setup everything again.
Virtualization separated hardware from the software, but Cloud put this on another level; it separated the whole datacenter from the hardware and software.
This changed the way people think about servers too. From a static resource and investment, with Cloud technology servers grew to become free-flowing and specialized. They disappear and appear as needed and always fit perfectly to the user’s needs.
All these improvements over physical data centers made Cloud hosting cheaper to operate and maintain, making it very affordable for the customers.
The Future of Web Hosting
Looking at the past of web hosting, especially the early days, should make us appreciate what we got even more. Few years ago, everything wasn’t so smooth, far from it. It is good to see how rapidly technology improves. Nobody knows what the future holds, but we can make assumptions.
We can only say that Cloud will be a thing for a while. It is still new and people are still finding ways to use it in the best way possible. It is rapidly changing the way people think about developing applications in order to integrate Cloud. Since legacy applications still have benefits, developers are finding ways to utilize them in a hybrid way, to use at least some benefits of Cloud computing.
Many popular services are dependent on Cloud even today, such as Netflix, Loggly and others. In the future we will see more and more services like this made available. So you can expect the cost of Cloud computing and hosting to start dropping, and with it the cost of services hosted on a Cloud platform too.
The future will probably bring something even more abstract and advanced than Cloud, but many years will pass until Cloud reaches its full potential. Maybe one day everything will be hosted on the Cloud, not just on the Web, who knows?