A History of Web Servers in Pictures

Anyone who does anything online, be it through a local intranet or on the Worldwide Web, depends on servers to send and receive every kind of data from email to streaming video. One of the most fascinating things about servers is how they have developed from the small-base, localized servers of the past to the huge servers that keep major Internet information transfer nodes up and running. Here is a history of servers from 1990 to the present, complete with pictures. While some of this technology may look frighteningly archaic today, remember that all of this was state-of-the-art for its day!

1)      CERN HTTPd, 1991


( Source: http://tinyurl.com/n7fjbk )

The initial objective was simple for Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet. He wanted to make exchanging information simpler and more efficient for the scientific community, and his employment at CERN, Switzerland’s premier scientific clearinghouse, provided the perfect starting point for this ambitious endeavor. From 1989-1990, Berners-Lee developed the Worldwide Web protocol and the NeXT cube computer, the first Internet server in the world. The system went online on Christmas day, 1990, cementing its place in history as the first official Web server. However, the first Web page did not follow until August of 1991.

2)      ProLiant Rack Server, 1994


Rack servers are a familiar sight to anyone who has occasion to visit an IT department or look at the “guts” of a server system. Unlike the CERN NeXT server, the rack server was designed to accommodate multiple server computers at one time. The purpose of this design was to optimize performance while minimizing floor space. These rack servers had a major drawback, however: these systems were prone to overheating and needed dedicated cooling systems, with a commensurately high electrical bill.

3)      Sun Ultra II, 1998


(Source: http://questier.com/GRAPH/ultra-enterprise2.jpg)

Located at Stanford University, this server array was the genius behind Google’s immediate antecedent, Backrub. From this one server sprang a Web empire, as Google continues to dominate the search engine world. Part of this is because of Google’s incredible network of servers. While Google has been notoriously reticent about speaking publicly about their actual server counts, citing competition and proprietary information concerns, estimates range from just under 500,000 to over a million servers spread out over their eight data centers around the planet. Of course, in the last fifteen years the technology backing these servers has changed dramatically, as the next entry on this list will demonstrate.

 4)      RLX Blade Server, 2001


(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_server)

Blade servers have become the most popular and cost-effective server systems, because these modular computers function similarly to the rack servers discussed above but without the overheating issues that plagued the original rack server configurations. In addition they offer reduced power consumption, and these space-saving computing monsters can accommodate up to 128 blade servers in one system, as opposed to the upper limit of forty-two achievable in a standard rack system. Because of their combination of computing power and compaction, blade servers have proven the systems of choice for many server-based applications.

5)      The Cloud, 2009

cloud backup

While the Cloud, or virtual private server system, is still in its infancy by computer standards, this incredibly popular method of remotely backing up and retrieving information from anywhere on the globe has revolutionized the transmission of information, helping to redefine the possibilities of telecommuting and information transfer in a number of ways. While these “virtual machines” have prompted some critics to voice concerns regarding the security and privacy of information sent over the Cloud, Apple has become one of the greatest pioneers of Cloud-based computing, joining Internet retail titan Amazon at the forefront of Cloud technology.

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