Dial Up Motive
Human-interest segment asking Cloudflare employees what their first Internet experience was and how it informed them joining Cloudflare. Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to episode 19 of Dial Up Motive. On this show, we explore the early technical and Internet histories of Cloudflare employees, when they fell in love with tech, when they fell in love with the Internet, and how that derived the career that they have today with Cloudflare.
Joining me today is Ronnie Kattappuram, actually a partner service delivery manager here at Cloudflare.
Ronnie, welcome to the show. Hey, Dan. Thank you so much for having me and happy New Year's.
Happy New Year's. Yeah, first episode of the year. I had to remember how to put on the show.
Took some figuring out. So first, to kick us off, what kind of work are you doing here at Cloudflare?
What is a partner service delivery manager?
Yeah, definitely. I can share a little bit about that. So I'm with our partnership team.
So really my responsibility within the partnership team at SDM is to really ensure the overall success of Cloudflare service partners as we're bringing added value around professional services and managed services on top of Cloudflare solutions and in our products with our joint customers.
So historically, Cloudflare doesn't provide services to our customers.
Rather, we're focused on engineering and bringing high -quality products to around performance and security.
My role is really to help empower some of our service partners to deliver services, whether it's around migrations to Cloudflare, managed security services, or really guide them on an end -to-end network transformation.
So I'm really there to empower and enable our partners to really provide really, really high-quality services around Cloudflare.
Awesome. So yeah, these are the partners that are potentially providing the manpower for a migration, for developing worker scripts, for ongoing management of the Cloudflare solutions.
So if a customer didn't want to manage it internally or decided against managing internally, they can reach out to these partners to support the product.
Yeah, exactly. Instead of us saying no, obviously we want to say yes and enable and empower and bring in and refer some of that work over to our stable of partners that's growing actually every year.
And so I think one of our biggest goals of this year is obviously growing out our partnership and our ecosystem, our stable of partners.
And so that's really exciting work we have to do ahead of us.
But yeah, it's a great role. It's a new role for the company.
And so I think historically, Dan, you've been kind of doing this by yourself.
So I'm kind of excited to kind of help you along this journey of growing our partnership team in terms of services.
Awesome. Yeah, I look forward to it.
And we were joking about this before the show kicked off. Ron actually reports to me.
So he had no choice but to commit to this show. He had to kind of say yes.
And we thank him for taking the time. The checkbox is now checked.
Like I owe you nothing else for Cloudflare team. Right. All right. And so with that in mind, I'm happy to kind of take it back to go down the path of nostalgia and really understand some of your first experiences with either computers or the Internet.
You know, you look behind me. I have essentially what was my heyday, which was the Packard Bell, floppy disk, early DOS.
I'm really kind of interested in learning more about you and your early experiences.
Yeah, sure. So I can start with at least the computers.
And so the first time I think that I ever got a computer, I think this was in probably the mid 90s, probably 96.
So I was around 10 and 11 years old.
So I'm a fringe millennial, as I call it. So I'm going to kind of belittle being a millennial.
And so to give you some context there, you know, I grew up in the 90s in Wisconsin.
So in the suburbs of Milwaukee. So kind of a slow adoption to technology compared to some of the coastal states.
So but I do remember my dad coming home with a big IBM desktop computer that he got from Circus City, the now defunct Best Buy rival.
And so and I literally thought that was a video game console, because I was a gamer back in the day.
So I was just super excited to have a new video game console, you know, coming into to our household.
But when I put it up, I was so confused.
I was like, What is this? I had zero clue. Where does the cartridge go?
Like, Exactly, like, where do I put what I put away below in the cartridge to put it in?
Like, where is it? Right? So it was funny, because, you know, my dad was that was a technician at GE healthcare working on like CT and MRI technology.
And so he was a very hands on hardware guy. But he saw, I guess how software is really going to change things in the future.
And so he really bought that computer for my brother and I to really interact with technology more specifically with the software.
It worked for me, because I got into obviously the tech didn't work for my brother.
He's a pharmacist. So he went on the other route.
But I mean, it inspired me so much that you know, I, I remember taking a visual basic course at a community college, and a summer course between my freshman and sophomore year.
And it was it was funny, because it was I was surrounded by a bunch of older engineer folks.
And it was me this like 13 year old.
And it was just, it really inspired me to kind of see, you know, what I can do in terms of software in terms of what I can actually just come up with my own my own brainpower, right in terms of software.
And it was funny, because these older folks around me was like, you know, who is this kid, this 13 year old kid in this class with us?
Is he in the wrong class? Or is he this like genius programmer?
It was neither being interested in technology, right. And so that was pretty cool.
And I remember our next PC that we got was a gateway computer.
I don't even remember the actual computer. I actually remember the box that it came in.
I'm not sure if you noticed that. But it's a box with like a cow pattern on it.
And so yeah, I mean, one of the most probably successful branding, you know, initiatives to just own kind of that image or have a very unique, you know, boxing and branding strategy, because at the end of the day, they were all beige boxes, right, you know, until till Mac tried to disrupt it.
And so to have that memorability that stuck with you of like, yep, it was the cow box.
That was what it was.
And like, on top of that being in Wisconsin and being in the cheese state. And like, that just tied everything together with like, like you said, perfect marketing, right.
And so the fact that I remember the box and don't even remember the computer itself, like that says it right there.
But we that was like, you know, our next, our next computer for, you know, and, and I remember, I asked my dad, like, how much did one of those latest computers cost?
And I think he said it was around like $2,000 or something around that time, which is in the mid 90s, like a lot of money.
And so it was and I don't know the specs of it. But it was just, you know, I think my parents saw that, you know, it was a big investment in us.
And obviously, it seems it seems like it paid off, at least for me that, you know, it kind of changed the trajectory in terms of, you know, my career going towards, you know, software computers, you know, early on, because I did AP Computer Science in high school.
And then I did like more Java work in software engineering in college. And so that I mean, it'd be it'd be really interesting if my parents didn't buy that computer and see like, where I would have been now, like, you know, and so that kind of changed the trajectory of where I am.
And at this stage, like computers were available in in your school system, you were there was a computer class available.
So the beginning of kind of structured education around computers was starting as well.
Yeah, it was starting there. But I don't think there was just that mass adoption of it.
I think it was there. I don't think people just used it. I don't think people really knew the actual capabilities, right, that it could actually do it in terms of computing, but kind of moving forward, actually, it's a good segue to the Internet.
So my earliest experience with the Internet was actually in middle school.
Again, it was around the late 90s. I just remember rows of compact desktop computers, you know, fresh install of Windows 98.
And again, being a very avid gamer, you know, I thought, you know, we're just excited about the PC games that, you know, we at this point, I was really into PC games, I was really into Half-Life, that was like my, my, my poison right there of gaming.
And so we were just excited to see, like, you know, how can we actually load or side load, you know, like Half-Life to these new, compact, you know, PCs that we got in middle school.
And I remember that we just had a kind of like a tutorial about the actual desktop itself.
But really, it was really more of a tutorial of the Internet itself, and not actually the computer, because I didn't really have any access to the Internet at the time.
And so I just remember, like, the IT administrator kind of going through the top websites that you need to use to do your research papers on, because that's what these computers were mainly, mainly for, and the Internet was for, which is kind of doing research papers, and doing our research and gather information.
And so AskJeeves, Google, AltaVista, Lycos, like, they're kind of showing us how to actually use these sites to take advantage of kind of finding information.
And then naturally, I think, for me, that just kind of, you know, I think that just kind of sold me on the Internet itself, just kind of finding more information and learning.
And, you know, I think, eventually, I kind of told my parents, kind of sold them on actually using the one of the hundreds of free trials of AOL that came in the mail, to actually use it.
Getting all these disks, why not? Right, exactly. Right. And so, so I popped it in.
And, you know, and the way I sold my parents was, so my parents have an encyclopedia at their house, this rows of, you know, this 20 volumes of the Encartes, the Britannica.
Yeah. So information used to come in giant books.
Yeah. That you bought a collection of. Started by alphabetically, right? I've actually lamented, like, how am I going to, like, explain to my children, like, that was actually fun for me as a kid was to flip through E and like, look at pictures of eagles, like, there's that you won't have that.
Right now, you can just ask Alaska, right?
You're done. So my parents really hated the fact that I would use the, I mean, I would use the encyclopedia collection, but I would cut pictures out of it, and take it out and put it in my research papers, right?
So half of the encyclopedia was just like, cut up pictures of like, You didn't have copy and paste back then.
Right. So, so I sold them like, hey, mom and dad, there's no longer for me, am I going to actually cut up the encyclopedia that you spent a lot of money on?
I'm just going to print it from the Internet, right? Any images that I saw.
And so they were totally sold on that and it worked. And so I think we signed up with, with like AOL or net zero back in the day.
I think we just use free trial, free trials, making sure that we actually understood it until then we can actually have value on it and pay for it.
But yeah, those were kind of my early experiences with, with the Internet itself and from school and then from the computer and my dad kind of giving that IBM and that awesome gateway computer that we got.
So yeah, as a, you know, if you're pitching your parents back then on why the Internet is important, you know, replacement to your, the encyclopedia collection, like in my case, it was upstairs.
It was, it was a nice pitch was, you know, what if we got even access to more information than what's in this, in these books and more pictures?
Right. Yeah. It's like a growing, ever-growing encyclopedia, right?
Like that you can, you know, over the Internet, but it was funny because we, my parents, we come to my parents' house every day because they watch the kids.
And so they still have that encyclopedia collection. It's not in the garage now, but it's still there.
I think you just don't want to let go of that because they spent a lot of money on it, but it was just, it was just funny that they still have that for like nostalgia purposes or what, but it's pretty cool to see that still in the garage.
Awesome. And, and so from those, those early days on, on AOL and what I assume is a dial-up motive kind of how did that pivot in either increasing your learning about computers or kind of get you even more interested to, to pursue computers in undergrad?
I think for me, I mean, it did definitely inspire me for, for, you know, for a career point of view, but also inspired me in terms of like just from friendships and from a social perspective.
Well, I remember one specific example was, so, so right now, you know, when I first learned about the Internet, I thought it was just about research, just getting information.
I didn't know about the aspect of actually connecting with folks, with people.
And one, a good example was that it was, I remember I went on a cruise with my family, I think it was early 2000s.
And in this cruise, there was this kid's club.
And so basically like pretty much anybody who's like, I guess, younger than 18, but older than 14, you guys kind of hang out, you know, in this, in this kid's club area and you're kind of stuck on this cruise, right?
For, for a week.
So you kind of make your friends and kind of just, you know, have your own group of friends, you know, over the week and you kind of really connected with people.
And I remember like at the end of the cruise, everybody was just writing down their screen name to everybody, sharing it around to everybody.
And, and I was just really confused.
I was like, why am I giving out my screen name to people? I was like, all right, here you go, take it.
And when I got back, I got all these messages from these kids from, you know, that I met from London, South Africa, Australia on this cruise.
And I was just like, it blew my mind that I can actually take this relationship that I've like, you know, started on this cruise ship and then continue it on over the Internet, you know, through, you know, AIM, right, through instant messenger.
And so I think that was really, really big on me in terms of that there's a human aspect to, to the Internet in terms of like developing relationships and learning more about people.
And I mean, honestly, I think I've talked to one of those guys I met on the cruise for over a year, which is pretty amazing.
Right. And so, so the connection right there was, was really big. And then in terms of like inspiring me in terms of my career, I think for me, I mean, I was definitely in more on the engineering side in undergrad and I did biomedical engineering.
So I was mostly focused on healthcare. But when I, my first project as a consultant, when I was at Accenture, I think that was when I first, I saw the power of the, of the Internet.
So I was a performance test engineer for a website modernization for irs.gov.
And so I really needed to actually understand the amount of traffic that's hitting irs.gov to know, you know, how much, you know, traffic I need to actually break it and just find the breaking point.
So were you to blame while it was, why it was so slow?
Yep, partly. Yeah. Because I was literally the only performance test engineer for a while.
So all accountability was on me. I mean, people are already coming to irs.gov with a lot of frustration.
Yeah. If that doesn't load quickly, you're just, you're just multiplying the problem there.
Yeah. April was a very, very busy time for my life. But yeah, it was just, it was crazy because, you know, I, my first time, you know, seeing like all the stats that's hitting the website and it was, it was a lot, it was like millions of page hits, unique views.
And it was amazing kind of just seeing the breadth of the Internet and that's hitting a live website.
And like, and this is a part of your job.
And I remember I had to do a performance test on a performance test environment.
And I was just trying to break the website. I was just throwing a hundred thousands of concurrent users at it and it like, it wouldn't break at all.
I was like, am I doing something wrong?
And I found out eventually that there was a CDN in front of the performance environment and you can't really break a CDN over a hundred thousand users.
And so I think right there, I learned about CDN. I learned about the power of the Internet and this global scale of Internet and how it could really, really, really, you know, protect, you know, obviously websites and obviously you can, you know, increase performance on the Internet as well.
I think that, right, that project inspired me to kind of just, you know, learn about the cloud, learn about AWS and kind of just get on that cloud path, you know, moving forward the rest of my career.
So you were legitimately trying to DDoS the IRS website and failing just due to scale.
Right. But it was a good lesson learned that I cannot do that even if I tried, and it would cost a lot of money in terms of like, you know, licensed virtual users to do that.
Right. But yeah, I like how you touched on just getting that kind of insight or being able to see that perspective.
Cause when you join kind of the Internet as, as just a user, you know, you have your experience, you have your favorite websites, you have your chat apps, but then to really see it from the other end and as a website, potentially having thousands of click requests, a second, you know, millions of visitors, what that starts to look like as a provider.
And then all of the, you know, the series of tubes is ultimately making it all work behind the scenes and all the engineers and SREs.
And that's always a fascinating perspective to be able to capture.
Yeah. And actually it saved our butts a little bit. Cause I remember when we went live, like some of our app servers were just not live at all.
And some of our web servers were down and, and like, we were kind of playing solo.
I mean, only just because of the CDN saver, but like that, you know, it was like, it really saved us big time.
And so it was, and I saw the power of it in terms of like, yeah, reliability as well.
Right. And so but yeah, like you said, like seeing the live amount of hits and especially on a government website that everybody wants in their life, we'll probably end up going on iris.gov and just seeing the power of that was, yeah, it really opened my eyes.
I'm like, okay, this is going to be a serious thing in the future.
And then I'm around the same time as when AWS came up and, you know, the cloud.
And then, so that's, yeah, that really kind of piqued my, my interest and that kind of just want to hitch my wagon to, to the cloud, you know, moving forward.
Awesome. And, and so I guess, what were some of your, your next big projects or some next experiences on the Internet that, that led you to Cloudflare?
I think one of our other biggest projects was Obamacare, the ACA. And so I was an integration engineer there, I was building pretty much kind of like a secure web gateway, pretty much the front door of the iOS.
In terms of ACA, you need to actually have your family income size, your family income verified, and your family size verified, and you go to the IRS to actually get that information verified.
And so we have a lot of requests coming to the, to the IRS, and we need to kind of our front door secure web gateway.
I think back so back in the XML gateway, it's now kind of an API gateway, they call it.
And so I saw that there's a lot of requests that are coming in from healthcare.gov, to the IRS, and we had to create a lot of, you know, policy, rule-based engine policies, to really protect, really authenticate, validate, you know, authorize that, that information coming into the, protecting the Internet or protecting the IRS.
And so I saw that, you know, as a, as a, we actually did not host that in the cloud, we're about to host that in the cloud, I think, going forward.
So that was a really neat project in terms of just, you know, the overall value of actually providing, we're actually, you know, ACA was actually giving, you know, you know, the ability of Internet of insurance to, you know, folks that couldn't afford it.
And, you know, we were actually using, you know, the cloud to actually kind of help facilitate that a little bit, right.
And so, so that was one of our pretty big projects that actually had some, you know, major, you know, implications to, to actually the American public.
So that was, that was a really cool project that I worked on. And then just going forward, you know, worked on a lot of cloud migrations as well.
And I worked a little bit with Cloudflare and then some other CDNs as well.
And, and yeah, I just saw like just the business drivers in terms of like, you know, total cost of ownership going down, innovation going up, right.
And I think all of that together, you know, I just saw that really inspired me to kind of move forward, you know, with, you know, moving into the cloud.
And yeah, that's one thing that I've always found fascinating is, you know, the Internet has just this power of connectivity between people, technology and computing in general has this, the magic to scale a simple task, you know, client requests and, and the server response.
And so to multiply these things together, to just increase the amount of connectivity that's going on between the world, you know, even this, you and I being able to have this conversation between Austin and Oakland and share it with who, you know, all of our lovely viewers at Cloudflare TV, and just think that this wasn't possible a half decade ago, a decade ago, or it was just more difficult.
And so really expensive, right? More expensive. So it's, it's this, you know, triumvirate of lowering costs, increasing scale and increasing connectivity that just leads to amazing things.
And with that, I'm looking forward to pivoting towards the future.
What do you think, or what are you most excited about, you know, with your work here at Cloudflare, some of the work that's being done on the Internet as a whole that, you know, you'll get excited about with your children, and where you see the tech going?
Yeah, I think, yeah, I think good segue in terms of children, you know, I think for me, I would love to see, you know, disruption in terms of education, and how the Internet is going to disrupt education in terms of remote learning.
You know, I have two kids right now, and I have a five year old, and he just missed the cutoff in joining kindergarten this year.
And we were kind of happy about that, because we didn't know what schooling would look like.
But you know, maybe a year later, like maybe end of this year, I really, I'm really hoping that, you know, educate remote learning is going to be a normal thing, right, in terms of the past, in terms of in the future, it's right.
And so I actually had the same amount of performance, same amount of, you know, level of quality, and remote learning moving forward.
So I really hope there's some kind of disruption with with education.
And also, you just don't want to pay for their college costs.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I saw projecting, you know, how much college would cost in like 2030 or something.
Oh, yeah, I'm trying to avoid it.
I was like, my 529 is definitely not there yet. Like, here's, here's some like, like, you're just hoping for the micro learning and the micro degrees.
And, you know, we won't need these institutions anymore.
Yeah, I mean, I mean, there's something big companies are like removing, like college graduates or college degrees as an actual, you know, prerequisite, right.
And so you're seeing that shift, I feel like in terms of, you know, like the last degrees of like formality and accredited, you know, in terms of degrees moving forward to get a job and all that.
So but yeah, that'd be really nice to kind of lower my my burden of college education for my kids.
But yeah, so I really hope and you know, I mean, for me, like, I really love.
So we got an Oculus for, for Christmas. And my son was just using and he's really into space and all that stuff.
So I've been teaching him the solar system.
And this is one app where you can actually go to Mars. And actually, you can, you know, show you different characteristics of Mars and Venus and all the different planets.
And I think he learned so much just from like a virtual reality set, right.
And I would love to kind of see that maybe going forward, you know, in the future of like being immersed, right, in terms of learning.
And then that's kind of how you learn like the most.
And that's how you're gonna stick making to you when you're kind of immersed in that type of environment virtually, right.
So you can almost see Yeah, this next generation being one of augmented reality, being kind of so forward, or just so infused in their lives, that that's how you potentially learn, that's how you're sitting in the classroom, you're able to access things in a way that you couldn't before, you know, if we were the connected generation, you know, depending on which pre millennial, early millennial, quasi millennial, what have you, if we were the first generation that had that ability, like, yep, I can continue to connect with my friends, I can play games online, I can learn online, that might be the next wave of here are kids that know that all of this is available, and it's packaged to them in a way that it's indistinguishable, in many ways from reality, like you can just throw on the headsets into, you know, your lesson plan, and kind of self teach and self self direct.
Right? Yeah, I feel like my kid right now, at least, you know, being five years old, he thinks the Internet is just like, one big, you know, I guess, like realm of gaming, that's it.
So if I get to kind of just, you know, pivot that a little bit in terms of like learning and education, and I mean, the help of the cloud help of the Internet, you know, and really big providers to kind of push that way.
Yeah, I think that's gonna have a massive impact, because you know, how much of that, that knowledge gap they're learning, I mean, they're experiencing right now.
And how can we close that with, you know, with virtual reality, augmented reality, and all that technology moving forward?
I mean, that's when you just nudge him. I'm like, Hey, you want to create a game?
Right? Let's go ahead and get that. Because I think that's definitely the the engineering bug for a lot of people I've talked to have, like, you get the computer, and you're like, wait, I can make it do things, right?
Like I can program, you know, be a very basic dungeon crawler, or very simple, if this than that kind of game, that seems to be the pivot point, you get them interested in the games.
And then you're like, Oh, hey, by the way, you can run a Minecraft server, let me teach you how.
Right, right. Yeah, I kind of, I kind of push him to ask questions like, you know, why are why is the game structured this way?
And how would you make it different?
Right? And like, what are your ideas? And you actually, you know, he has a lot of ideas.
I'm like, you can actually make it happen eventually in the future, right?
And so yeah, that's a really good point. But yeah, that's another angle to kind of, you know, push them in towards technology and, and all that good stuff.
You start dropping hints around object oriented programming.
This is obviously a class. Yeah, I think it's a little too early for you know, encapsulation methods and all that stuff.
Hopefully, we'll get there. But then I think another thing in terms of just on top of education, I think healthcare as well, I think, so I had a you know, born and like, we're in the beginning of the pandemic, end of March, and we did a lot of telemedicine, you know, just like virtual visits, you know, with the baby, and it actually worked pretty seamlessly, right?
And it kind of saved us a lot of time in terms of flexibility.
And, you know, I think that was, again, the power of what we're doing right now on streaming, right?
And just think that right there, I feel like that we can really tap into, in terms of just having telemedicine as the norm, in terms of, you know, my parents are going to getting up in age, they don't want to get in the car and just drive, you know, 40 minutes in Dallas traffic to go to the doctor's office.
So they can just kind of do that, you know, over the Internet. And so, because they're very, you know, well versed in FaceTime now, this year, especially.
And so they can just kind of take advantage of that knowledge and just do telemedicine.
So I feel like healthcare will definitely be disrupted somehow, you know, with the power of the Internet.
So a lot of these older formats were in many cases, you were just exchanging information, you had to be in a seat or drive to the office.
And in many cases, we're finding that over time, you don't actually need that to the same degree, you can have a conversation over webcam or, you know, handle medical issues.
And it'll be really curious to see how that evolves. And, you know, congratulations on, you're not a newborn anymore.
So hopefully you're getting sleep.
Unfortunately, I'm not. But thank you. We're hopeful 2021 won't be the year that we sleep.
That's, that's always its own challenge of just over two and just over one year old.
And so it's, that's its own adventure.
Yeah. All right. And with that, I think we'll come to a close.
So, Ronnie, thank you for taking the time. I'll be sure to mark your MBOs, you know, appropriately.
Awesome. Appreciate it. Thank you. It was great to have you and take a journey down nostalgia road and, you know, remembering all of the gateway boxes and the cow advertisements.
Definitely. Yep. And I'm pretty sure my dad still has a box.
He still has encyclopedias. I'm sure he still has a box somewhere as well.
Well, yeah, then you just become a pack rat and you put all the encyclopedias in the box and you store it in the attic for like a lot of money.
But yeah, I don't know. Are old Encartas with the pictures cut out worth anything?
Maybe I'll find out what you do. I'm sure that on eBay, there's just lists of, of all the encyclopedias that are still for sale.
Oh yeah. Cut up encyclopedias for my end.
But yeah. All right. Well, Ronnie, thank you for taking the time and everyone tuning in either catching the live stream or one of the recordings.
Hope you enjoyed the show and have a wonderful morning, evening, or good night.
So a hybrid cloud is a cloud deployment model that leverages two or more types of cloud environments.
A hybrid cloud usually combines a public cloud with either a private cloud on-premises infrastructure or both.
An example of a hybrid cloud deployment would be combining the GCP public cloud with the Microsoft Azure private cloud so that they essentially function as one combined infrastructure.
Similar to a hybrid car that combines electric and gas power, hybrid clouds combine the benefits of multiple types of technology for better efficiency, functionality, and price.