History Of Servers in Pictures, from 1981 to today

A couple of years ago we published this nice roundup. It is always amazing to see how fast technology evolves and how obsolete computer equipment can become.

Now that 2011 is down the drain and a full 30 years have passed since the IBM VM Machine, we thought you’d appreciate us to update and republish it.

Check out the updated ending, enjoy and comment!

1981 – The IBM VM Machine, first list server

The first LISTSERV was hosted on an IBM Virtual Machine mainframe over BITNET. LISTSERV enabled group email collaboration, and spurred the first list spams, flame wars and online trolling.


1991 – NeXTCube, first web server

The World wide web was born on a NeXTCube with a 256Mhz cpu, 2GB of disk, and a gray scale monitor running NeXTSTEP OS. Sir Tim Berners-Lee put the first web page online on August 6, 1991 while working for CERN in Geneva Switzerland. He also designed the first web browser and editor, WorldWideWeb, on this machine.


1994 – ProLiant, first Rack-Mountable servers

Compaq introduced in 1994 the first rack-mountable server, the ProLiant Series. It had an Intel P2 Xeon 450Mhz, 256Mb RAM, and a 24X CDROM player.


1998 – Sun Ultra II, first Google server

This is Google’s first server, the Sun Ultra 2. It first hosted Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s Backrub search engine – which, of course, eventually evolved into Google. The Sun server had dual 200Mhz CPUs and 256MB of RAM, located at Stanford University. Google now has 450,000 servers in its datacenters around the world.


2001 – RLX Blade, first modern blade servers

In 2001, Houston-based RLX Technologies, which consisted of mostly former Compaq Computer Corp employees, shipped the first modern blade server. RLX was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2005.


2008 – PS3 Cluster, distributed computing with GPUs

The Sony PS3 has the 3.2Ghz Cell Broadband Engine CPU, a 60GB ATA Hard Drive, a 256MB RAM, the 550Mhz RSX Graphics Processing Unit and built-in networking. A few months ago, the md5 hash algorithm was hacked with a 200 Playstation cluster. The PS3 setup as servers is especially interesting due to its GPU unit which can be leverage for heavy computing and HPC.


2009/2012 – The Cloud and beyond

In recent years servers have dematerialized. With the advent of virtualization the concept of server is not always associated with a specific hardware configuration. Applications will run on a machine that is not necessarily physically located in the premises of the person using it. The use of web applications and cloud computing litterally exploded. In fact, the concept of cloud computing is not new, it is as old as the Internet itself (and its military predecessor, Arpanet) , but with a significant reduction in bandwidth costs in the 90’s, it has now become a reality for the general public.


Concept of cloud computing. 3d render

The first big step was in 1999, with the arrival of Salesforce, which was one of the first companies to offer enterprise-class services through a website.

In 2002 Amazon  introduced its Web Services, a collection of cloud services including storage, computer calculation and artificial intelligence. In 2006 Amazon launched the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which allows small businesses and individuals to rent virtual machines on which they can run their own applications.

The other major step is 2009, as Web 2.0 has hit its stride. Google and several others have begun to offer applications for businesses, with services like Google Apps, which includes a fully functionnal office suite, accessible with a siple web browser.

For its part, iWeb launched in 2010 its first server to take advantage of virtualization technologies and brought to dedicated servers features generallassociated with Cloud (fast provisionning, easy migrations and upgrades, and a GUI to manage the server). With the advent of the Smart Server, iWeb firmly positionned itself in the market of  Cloud and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

2012 will definitely see a growth in the adoption of cloud computing, especially with the gradual disappearance of fears related to data security expressed by some in the beginning.

And you, how do you see the future of web hosting? What are your predictions for the next decade?