Cloudflare TV

Cloudflare U: Tech Talk

Presented by Ellie Jamison, Alex Huynh
Originally aired on 

Cloudflare U is a new series on CloudflareTV for students interested in learning about roles and opportunities within the company. The series will cover all facets of Cloudflare from our technology to our culture. In this session, Alex Huynh, a Protoduction Engineer will talk about what Cloudflare does, how we scale and how an engineer can have an impact in the company. Ellie Jamison from our Recruiting Team will moderate and discuss how to apply and what roles are open.


Transcript (Beta)

Welcome everybody watching and thank you so much. We are hosting another episode of Cloudflare University.

Today's subject will be just a general overview of our technical projects, skills, and just a background about what Cloudflare does.

To introduce myself, my name is Ellie and I'm on the recruiting team at Cloudflare.

I'm based in San Francisco and a background on me, I went to the University of Virginia and I moved out to San Francisco about two years ago and have been working with Cloudflare ever since.

We have our systems engineer Alex with us today, so let him introduce himself.

Hello, my name is Alex. I do a little bit of everything here at Cloudflare and then I guess like my roots came in, I've been here what like almost five years now coming in from another tech company in San Diego and then before that Canada from University of Waterloo.

So yeah, I've been here for five years and then roles like changed and whatnot since then but I like the place so still nice.


Have you always been working in our San Francisco office? For the most part, yeah up until like very recently.

So then I moved up to San Francisco for Cloudflare and then I've just like stuck with them.

It's very nice. Great. Okay, cool. So I think that we can go ahead and get started and dive into our topic.

Do you want to talk a little bit about what you'll go over today?

Sure, yeah. So then I'll be running through I guess from a high level what Cloudflare does and then next is like how we do things at scale and also like how an individual engineer's code will it can have impact on like the larger whole as well as some examples of what those like larger components are.

So yeah, it's just like to see how everyone's piece sort of fits into the big picture.

Awesome. No, I think that this is a great topic especially for students and those you know outside of Cloudflare that necessarily doesn't know what we work on every day.

And then I'll end this segment and talk about the different open roles we have for new grads as well as internships this coming summer.

So I'm excited to talk about that as well. With that, I'll let you get started.

Alrighty. So then Cloudflare I know like does a lot of different services.

Traditionally though our I guess focus is our infrastructure and security.

So those are still the core tenets and then we're like branching out into more and more different things.

If I'm just going to share my screen so everyone can see.

So perfect. So within our network like we have a few different products and services which traditionally like do different things.

But then what we're known for I guess is how easy it is to onboard onto our system.

And then when someone wants to onboard onto Cloudflare or use us, they generally use our DNS and our caching.

So those are like the bread and butter. And especially like you can see like third party websites that are public resolvers like the fastest in the world.

So hopefully when people use us like as a product or service, they end up speeding up the Internet.

And that's really what we provide. Like either speeding it up through what was it like DNS or caching or serving content at the edge or speeding it up such that like content when it reaches the origin becomes a little bit faster with our other services like Argo, Smart Router, whatnot.

More recently like we've been or actually for a while now we've also ran into the security space.

So if you have say a website that you want to protect, if you don't want everyone just to access your website, we have another feature set called Cloudflare Access.

And then that puts like a little bit of a gateway. You can put two-factor authentication in front of it, whatnot.

And then that will help basically anyone who wants to put something on the Internet to have it a little more locked down than what you normally do.

A few of our other things that are also security related are Argo Tunnel, which like allows a whole punch so that you don't have to open up your whole network.

And more recently, remote browser isolation, which we have a blog post about.

So those are a few of the examples that Cloudflare does.

So the next general question is like, well, if you guys make the Internet faster, how do you do it?

There's a whole bunch of technology in there and that shouldn't slow things down, right?

So how we accomplish like speeding things up and keeping them fast on the Internet is basically scaling horizontally.

What that means is that like the Internet, there's a very famous quote by a senator that says, the Internet's just a series of tubes, right?

So then the longer your connection has to travel, the more tubes that have to go through, the slower it can get because information was like very fast, travels at the speed of light, which has a finite limit.

It takes time to go halfway across the world. So what we do is we horizontally scale all of the Cloudflare data centers, like where you actually talk to the DNS servers, where your content returns back from or is generated from closer to what we call the eyeball.

So when you access something on your phone or whatnot, that makes it a little bit faster.

Yeah. So then scaling horizontally also helps that.

And then within our data centers, these edge serving machines all run the same configuration.

So it's not like some of our competitors where you have DNS in one data center, right?

And then you have TLS in another data center.

All of our Cloudflare data centers do the exact same thing such that we return a, hopefully like a similar fast experience for everyone.

Not to put you on the spot, but do you know how many data centers we have as of today?

I have this lovely map under, it's more than 200. And then if you click view system status, you can get a rough estimate.

Yeah. It's a lot. It's a lot. Any number that I tell people will become inaccurate over the span of weeks or months because we just keep adding more and more.

Yeah. Right. Good question. Yeah.

Any other questions you have before I dive into other stuff? No, go ahead. All righty.

All righty. So then I guess the next point is more so like, well, if I'm an engineer here, right, how do I go about, say if it's my first day here, how do I go about learning all of this?

The good news is that we have decent internal documentation, but also like team members are very nice.

Also like the stuff that we do is also decent, like well-published on GitHub, for example.

And we try to open source some parts of our stack.

So if you look at that code, we have external reviewers that like submit PRs on GitHub to improve certain functionality, if not for our API, whatnot.

So I guess like with our name getting out there and our blog posts, as well as like bits and pieces of software that we write, people are very familiar in general with like the Cloudflare stack.

If not, then feel free to ask, like if it's your first day or you're interested in coming here, then there's a wealth of information.

Right. So once you like want to figure out like what things that you want to write, if you're to dive, try to dive into the code, right?

We have, I think we run Go, Rust, Python, and then C.

In that, I would say like descending order of priority or code base.

So when Go was a new hot thing, we jumped on it.

Rust is the new hot thing now. We're jumping on it. We still have a decent amount of code in Go and Go is performant enough for the majority of our day-to-day operations.

For more intense things, like we dropped down to the C level or we have like a few specialized kernel ASM hackers here and there.

But that's like the minority.

Although that's not to say that you, like if you're interested in that, you're more than welcome to dive into that area.

So yeah. So then once you, if you're to join or be interested in that, like I think skill sets in those areas are something we definitely look for.

If it's not, that's not a strength yet or whatnot, like still like express interest and then we can onboard you with a whole bunch of, I guess, like other experts on the team to sort of guide people into like writing good code.

Another point that I want to make is that within our company, we have, how can I phrase this?

We, we value mobility, right?

If there's another interest that you want to do, either in tech or not tech, we have some engineers switch into non-engineering roles like PM or whatnot, or then some engineers figure out like, well, you know, this like part of the stack is great, but then it's not really what I want to do.

So then they, they look around and then if they find a match, then they go in there and then apply and then it can work out.

And sometimes like it's, it's all like purely language agnostic, right?

So it's like people like, I want to work more on Rust or some people are like, oh, I, I really like ML.

And then ML, the new hot thing where, where we have, I think two teams now doing ML.

So, so people tend to gravitate towards those areas and whatnot.

Or what I do like more so nowadays is less on one specific stack, but glue different pieces together.

And this is one of the things that I wish like I told, or I knew as, as like a younger self, where the, the amount of people writing the raw code, like the performance code that becomes super fast on the Internet, like say, say our 1.1 resolver is, I wouldn't call it like minuscule, but it's, it's definitely smaller than the amount of people who glue everything together because you have the integrators and whatnot.

And so it is great to, to write like the latest and greatest, but it's also, you shouldn't for like, don't, don't take it for granted that if you're thinking like, oh, but I don't have any specific skillset, right.

Or it's like, oh, I don't stand out in the area, any of these areas, like, don't worry.

Like we have plenty of stuff. We have more problems than we can handle.

And we're always welcoming people that, that wish to apply.

All right. Definitely. What's your favorite to work on? Um, I guess it's, it's a mix of, I guess, very good.

I like solving problems is it. So then, and the good thing about that is that the day to day changes.

So that used to in the past, when I first joined spawned from fixing machines, right?

Like the machines would break and whatnot.

So then some of that is, is coding, but a lot of that is like splunking through files that changed into, I guess, like talking to different teams now to try to get, get agreement on like, oh, we should do this or we should do that.

But more so recently, we're, we're launching, I guess, more Cloudflare for teams, like a nice offering.

So then that those bugs need to be ironed out and then decisions need to be made as how like we should proceed.

So it's like, sometimes it's fixing the bugs.

Sometimes it's talking and basically trying to get everyone to agree, which is also a challenge.

Yeah. Um, yeah. And any other details that you'd like to know?

Well, I think that's a really good point, or just what you were saying.

I think um, most people that are very curious do well at Cloudflare.

Um, as far as just looking for problems to solve and working on those issues.

So that's a really important point. So then, oh, I, and I wanted to make another, uh, point on, on like the products and, and our like offerings.


So it also can get a little confusing. Um, if you're looking around with trying to connect a skillset to, to, um, things that, that we offer.

So it's, it's harder to look over here to say like, well, I don't know what technology the WAP is based on and whatnot, whatnot, whatnot.

Um, our careers page and job applications page, like can all tie those together or alternatively, because we, we are agnostic on language specifically.

It's if you come in with any decent, like any, any good language skills and it doesn't really matter because we'll find a fit and then we'll, we'll ask you, it's like, well, what, what interests do you have?

And then what would you like to work on and then try to find a role within there?

So, yeah, I mean, that's pretty good.

Let's see.

Ah, yes. Any other things that you'd like to add? I could go on like there's more.

Yeah, no, go on, please. Okay. Okay. Okay. So, um, I, I could dive through a few of, of our examples that we have.

Um, we can start from the top, DNS, CDN, and then access.

And then actually there is, uh, Argo smart routing. Yeah. So then the, our DNS infrastructure, if you're curious about, about that is mostly written in, uh, go, but it's being rewritten in, I think it's a, yeah, it's a rust sandbox now.

So then, so then that is like, we, we think we've hit the performance limits of go and then we're slowly switching our edge over to rust and its own little sandbox.

Our DNS services are, can be offered for free. Um, if you sign up and we also have like a, like with our plans, like a more higher tier service, whatnot.

Um, but also we have a free offering of, of like Cloudflare's public resolver, which is shown before, um, the DNS part.

So that was pretty nice.

Um, in terms of the CDN offering, we, we use our own set of servers, like geolocated around the world.

Um, and then with that, you can see, what was it?

We announced recently a partnership with the, uh, Internet archive, um, that, that allows for basically us scraping little bits of, of, um, websites on us and then putting that into the Internet archive such that we, they can stay documented for who knows how long, hopefully, hopefully a while.

Um, yeah.

And then I mentioned earlier Cloudflare access, right. That, that allows for securing bits and pieces of, um, Internet, like your, your private, suppose like, yeah, pieces of Internet that you want to keep private, but only allow certain people.

If you use Cloudflare access, um, you can restrict it to like certain GitHub accounts, certain Microsoft login, certain, uh, I think like you could use like a two-factor authentication or one-time code, whatnot.

All of that's built by, I think like if I were to think of the, the genesis of this team was one person who is now the engineering manager at, of like Cloudflare access.

And then they've, they've built a team around that to basically deliver, deliver this and then hook into all of the other pieces that we have.

So for anyone like wanting to come in with, with, um, just a purely technical thing, you can, and then you can definitely like stay in there.

But we also encourage people to, to say like, well, you know, if you want to do, um, follow a different like career path, whatnot, then, then we have the ability to like manage a team and do this and that.

And that's how like most of the stuff starts out over here. Like some, some of these things that we wrote were ideas that, that people were having over, over like dinner or whatnot.

Those like napkin conversations, it, it's a thing like, and if it works out, it becomes a real product.

I think, um, yeah, one of our other, other, uh, like I was trying to find it.

Yeah. Magic transit, for example. So magic transit, if I were to explain this is to route, um, your existing infrastructure network.

This is more of like an enterprise offering, but your existing network over, Oh, Oh, wow.

Um, over the Cloudflares private network. Right.

So we, we built out the private network and then we didn't have many uses then, or we're still figuring out the uses.

And then we're like, well, maybe we could send a little bit more information there.

Like, wouldn't it be nice? Like when customers want, um, I guess like redundancy, if, if, if it links went down or if they wanted a potentially faster service, like we, you don't have to be congested over the public Internet.

You, we can send it through from Cloudflare data center to Cloudflare data center.

And then that was like, of course, started off as a sort of napkin idea, but then we fleshed it out and then brought in different, uh, product managers in there thought about it.

And it's like, we can actually do this.

Like let's build this. And we did. And then now it's, it's a very like robust product after iterations and testing whatnot.

So like, yeah, I think I remember the engineers, uh, working with that started with two machines in our data centers, and then it moved on to like tens of machines in our data centers.

And then we rolled out a slow deployment to multiple data centers and then went out to the rest of the world.

So if you're writing code, like that's basically how you do it in steps, right?

You start off like small, roll it out a little more. And then from then on, like it can get deployed to over 200 data centers across the world.

Definitely. This reminds me just the mention of writing ideas on napkin, in the San Francisco office, we have framed post-it notes from, um, kind of the origin of Cloudflare.

The founders would write there what they needed to build on post-it notes and they ended up saving them and framing them.

But I definitely think that that's an overall theme that Cloudflare.

Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

We, we have a good idea. Like I like to think never, it never goes to waste over here.

So we have ideas that we've started to implement relatively recently that have been in, if not like physical sticky notes, then virtual sticky notes from way back when, like it was an idea on our internal wiki page and that's been stuck there.

And then someone read it and was like, wait, I think this is the time to build things.

So sort of an analogy that I think is like, like the, the iPhone, right?

Like when it was first released, it was ahead of its time because the data networks like could not keep up with the data rates and whatnot that you, you could push at the time.

Imagine if you were only working with data, like when the original iPhone was announced, like your phone bill would be humongous.

Now everyone has good data plans to, um, accept and use all their stuff such that you could live for a little bit without wifi.

So I feel like some of those ideas that, that we have could be good for a later time, or it could just not be the best time now, but then we still hold on to those ideas such that if an offering comes in or if, if like, um, I guess everything's right, then we start to act on it and then we start to like build a whole feature set around it.

Um, which is what we've done with, with, I guess, like a little bit of public routines as well.

Yeah, definitely.

So, yeah.

Um, what tips would you, would you, uh, like to give, I guess, Ellie for someone who's, who's looking for, I guess, applying for recent grad, whatnot, internship roles.

And then maybe I can help with that. Yeah, absolutely. I was going to ask you just your personal story, like what attracted you to Cloudflare, um, and then kind of like what keeps you at Cloudflare, especially now, um, as an engineer.

So, and then I think we can kind of dive into applying after. Ooh, perfect. Perfect.

So I think what initially attracted me to Cloudflare is the, like before, before I answer that, it's like, I feel like everyone, um, has an internal drive, right.

It's like when, when someone wants to, um, build something impactful, right.

Or if someone wants like their, their name, like plastered here or there, it's like, I want to be famous for X, right.

So I feel like my internal drive is that I want to help society move a little bit more forward, like shift the needle.

So in joining here and the previous company, like that's, that's what I look for when I, I apply for a company.

It's like, well, can this company be globally impactful, um, but also move society a little bit more forward.

So I found, I thought that Cloudflare has, um, had that idea when I joined.

And I still think like they, they have that, um, idea in mind such that like our, our mantra, for example, or to phrase it is making the Internet better.

Right. So then we, we speed things up for our customers.

And then that, that in turn, like makes the experience better for our customers, customers, even if you're not a customer, you can sign up for free.

Um, but also we provide these public services like our, uh, 1.1 resolver that like through no, no, like, I guess what the phrase that I'm working with is, uh, through no cost, right.

Like to, to end users, we help make things a little bit better.

And it's only a few companies in the world that can do that while still like, like juggling all, all the things that they need to do.


So then, yeah, that's what initially brought me here. And then what keeps me here is working with amazing people all the time.

Like, like the people that I talked to a lot smarter than I am a lot of different opinions, which is good because you want these, these different opinions to, to all, um, come together.

And then we pick like pick and choose.

I wouldn't say like one best opinion, but I feel like if you put everyone in the same room, then the better opinions sort of bubble up or they change.

Right. And then everyone offers their input. And then the idea that we push forward becomes the idea that we roll with, which delivers to these, these good products.

Yeah, absolutely. That's funny. You mentioned that too, because I came from a policy background and one thing that attracted me to Cloudflare, especially was Project Galileo and Athenian Project and, you know, all the good that Cloudflare is trying to do in the world, especially on the Internet.

Um, I think that that is very, you know, unique for large tech companies today.

And of course, like everyone has their, their fair share of critics, but then it's, it's also like, well, we, we put our stuff out there, right.

You can see our 1.1, like privacy policy, all of that. And like, we, we do try to uphold a high standard.

I think we're doing okay. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Um, okay.

I can share my screen and just talk a little bit about open roles. Perfect.

Okay. Okay.

You can see this, right? Perfect. Okay. So just a little bit of background and Alex touched on a couple of these points.

Uh, Cloudflare we launched in 2010.

Um, currently we have 14 offices and they're spread out all over the world. Our largest office being San Francisco, but Austin is slowly catching up with us.

Um, as of today, we have more than 1500 employees.

And, um, again, talking about our network spans more than 200 cities and over a hundred countries and, uh, more than 1 billion IP addresses pass through Cloudflare's network daily, which is just crazy to think about.

Um, we also are involved in more than 225 million Internet properties.

So moving on, if you're interested in applying, please go to our career site.

Um, you'll see a button that says, see open roles, click that, and then make sure you select university and the department dropdown.

Um, and then with that, you'll be able to see this page.

Um, we have multiple different internships open right now.

So please apply to those. Uh, those are all for the upcoming summer, summer 2021.

And then we also have a few software engineer, new grad roles. Um, and those have just started, uh, hiring for as well.

Um, the number one question that we're getting right now is will the internship be in person or the new grad role be in person?

Um, we, as of now, everything is going to be remote until we can safely open back up the office.

Um, and so the goal would be to be in person, but if we can't be in person, then we'll be remote.

Yeah. Um, tips for applying. I actually want to ask you this question that you interview often.

What would be just like a quick fire tip?

Hmm. That's a good question. Um, I would say keep, and the recruiting team is going to hate me for this, is keep in contact with your recruiter because things, things tend to slip between the cracks.

And then if you, uh, message them, I think like, well, once a week is like, all right.

Um, they'll be like, oh yeah, like, like, yeah, we can totally like, like give it a look.

Yeah. I actually completely agree with that.

I think there's a high volume of applicants and there is no shame in following up.

I actually think that that's really important.

So that's a great tip. Awesome. Well, we're just about out of time. So I wanted to thank you so much for joining me today.

And also I thought this was a great overview session of what we do and what we're all about.

So thanks, Alec. No worries.

Thank you for hosting. Yeah, of course. Yeah.

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Cloudflare U
Cloudflare U is a new series on CloudflareTV for students interested in learning about roles and opportunities within the company. The series will cover all facets of Cloudflare from our technology to our culture.
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