How Seattle Evolved From Rain King to Cloud King

From left to right: Angel investor Charles Fitzgerald, Sudip Chakrabarti of Madrona Venture Group, Preeti Rathi of Ignition Partners and Sheila Gulati of Tola Capital. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

In celebration of yesterday’s incredibly successful third installment of the GeekWire Cloud Summit, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how the Seattle area has grown to become “Cloud City” or “The Cloud Capital of the World” and where we’re headed.

Our region has been blessed to be home to two of the pioneers in cloud computing, which currently control half of the worldwide cloud market share alone.

And with both Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s AWS seeing robust annual growth (75.9% and 46.3%, respectively) – not to mention a third company with significant roots here, Google Cloud, topping the charts for annual growth (81.7%) – it’s no surprise our region and our economy have been on cloud nine over the past decade.

Angel investor Charles Fitzgerald noted at the Summit that Seattle is the “landlord” of the internet because “your monthly rent check comes to Seattle every month.” As the cloudiest of cloudy cities, perhaps it should have been inevitable.

Clouds Start to Gather

The birth of Amazon AWS dates to an executive retreat at Jeff Bezos’ house in 2003, where the idea started coming together for “an operating system of sorts for the internet.” The company launched Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2, in August 2006.

Around this same time, Microsoft was working on a project codenamed Red Dog. Announced in October 2008 as Windows Azure, it would become commercially available on February 1, 2010 (and renamed Microsoft Azure a few years later).

By the summer of 2010, VentureBeat reported that AWS had already grown to $500 million business (it was nearly $8 billion in its most recent quarter), “due in no small part to the rapid rise of social games such as Farmville on Facebook.” While few of us have probably checked in on our virtual farms since that time, it’s hard to imagine getting through a day without access to the cloud.

And speaking of farms, Washington state – Quincy in particular – was equally fortunate that the growth in cloud computing presented an ideal location and environment to build the data center infrastructure (server farms) required to feed the appetite for storage and computing power.

Keeping Our Heads in the Clouds

As for where the industry is headed, just a few months ago we featured a guest post by IQS Directory on Edge computing where we questioned whether it may soon be time to replace the cloud. And earlier this year, a New York magazine piece examined if we’re reaching peak cloud given that today “it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t use cloud computing to some degree.”

Despite the fear-inducing headlines (our own recent blog included), it’s as clear as a Seattle summer day that the cloud isn’t going anywhere. Over the past decade we have witnessed a seismic shift in the way store and access information and services.

Seattle has been at the forefront of that revolution thanks to the presence of industry titans like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud as well as the countless disruptive startups pushing the boundaries of innovation in the cloud.

As this year’s GeekWire Cloud Summit highlights the many local companies shaping the next five years of the cloud, it seems safe to say the sky is (still) the limit.

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