Not really, but it sounds cool. People like to talk about the cloud like it is something new that was newly created in recent history. In fact, the concept of virtualization as a service has been around since the 1960s, with mainframe technology.
In the 1990s I worked at a company called Sun Microsystems. We used this fantastic software from Platform Computing called LSF, or Load Sharing Facility. In a sense, it was a “cloud” of servers that were used for important things like simulating microprocessor regression testing, and doing off-hours massively-parallel analytics on a contract basis for other companies.
Later on, the world discovered server farms — specialized collections of load-balanced equipment designed to run important internet luminaries like Yahoo and Alta Vista and MySpace.
In 2007, when I was at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I started exploring a piece of software called QEMU. QEMU was a virtual machine emulator, that was a software-based system for running x86 operating systems on non-x86 platforms like SPARC, PowerPC, or ARM.
Over the years, QEMU adapted into something called KVM, which is Kernel Virtual Machine, a hypervisor that allows the simultaneous running of multiple operating systems on Intel-based hardware.
Now, instead of painstakingly installing each server and running the OS on bare metal, we can instead virtualize everything into a disposable container that is created and destroyed as it is needed.
Clouds are just made up of nodes, like undifferentiated stem cells. They are still server farms, and load sharing facilities, and massively parallel systems, but we call them something else now. Welcome to the 1960s!