Cloudflare TV

Dial Up Motive

Presented by Dan Hollinger, VB Malik
Originally aired on 

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.

This week's guest: VB Malik, Partner Solutions Architect at Cloudflare


Transcript (Beta)

Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 32 of Dial Up Motive. I'm your host Dan Hollinger dialing in from the Bavarian coast.

With me today, I have VB Malik coming in from, I think, St.

Louis. Awesome.

So on this show, if you've never caught it before, first of all, thank you for dialing in.

Whether you're catching this live or one of our many recordings, glad to have you here on episode 32.

The goal of this show is we chat with Cloudflare employees about some of their earliest Internet experiences.

Some of those definitive moments that we all had, depending on when we jumped on the Internet, that really helped guide us into the careers we have today.

And particularly here working at Cloudflare, where everyone's trying to help build a better Internet and connect our customers and partners to a better Internet.

So I've already introduced myself.

I'm happy to hand it off to VB. And would you mind giving a quick intro and the work you're doing today at Cloudflare?

Absolutely, Dan.

Hey, everyone. So my name is VB Malik. I am a partner solutions architect within our global partner organization here at Cloudflare.

What that means is I work with our customers, enterprise customers, business customers to support all the products that Cloudflare sells from application services to Zero Trust services to our developer services and helping our partners scale as our customers and enterprises are moving towards cloud and very distributed architectures.

Awesome. And how long have you been orange clouded so far? Yeah, I've been very new.

So it's only been a month here. And I'm so glad that Dan, I get to do this show with you.

It's kind of surreal as well, getting in front of our own customers as well as our colleagues as well here and having this session with you.

So what I'm afraid of is you're going to just hand me a list of feature requests for all of our partners.

And then I'm going to have to go through them live on the air and like, backlog, backlog.

OK, we can do that one. I want to do that one. Yeah.

Now, having heard everything that you have been doing, I'm sure we'll find a common ground and work through that.

So, yeah. Awesome. Well, glad to have you here at Cloudflare and glad to have you on the partner team.

And I'm happy to jump right in and start going through the nostalgia trip that is our lives on the Internet.

As you can see from the background behind me, this was really the era I grew up in, in kind of compact, backyard bell, kind of gateway days, the joystick and the floppy disks and CD-ROMs and just kind of the very beginning of 56K modems and the Internet as it is today.

I see your diagram behind you. I can't imagine that's when you started, but I'd love to learn what early era did you jump into the Internet on?

Yeah. Yeah. So thanks for bringing this up, because as I was starting to get ready for the show itself, I wanted to have this kind of a picture, which kind of new to me as well, something that I saw a few years back.

And I was so astonished and surprised to see what Internet was supposed to be, you know, as it was, you know, starting to come about.

And this is one of the pictures, you know, from the early days of Internet, which, you know, for me, you know, I growing up, I didn't knew what it was, you know, supposed to be from the university research days and things like that.

So I grew up in 80s and 90s, you know, I'm an 80s kid overall.

And for me, you know, I feel Internet, it's kind of a parallel world with me.

And like most of us, you know, we are living in the day of Internet now.

But for most of us, it's like a parallel world that came about like a kind of, you know, a parallel cousin with us, you know, who is coming about the same age as us itself.

For me, when I, you know, I started to get to know Internet, I guess, before that, even, you know, for me, early 90s, it was, you know, discovering, you know, computers in general, you know, computers on, you know, you know, I still remember the days assemble those computers by, you know, ourselves, you know, doing, putting up the hard disk and all of those things.

And where it was much more like a physical relationship overall with the computers and all.

And by the time I started, you know, discovering Internet and everything that came along, it was by the time a very surreal experience.

But it was very frustrating experience because it was too slow.

You know, the Internet was too slow. And the kind of the things that we used to do on the Internet were very limited in that sense overall.

So, yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. I don't know if some of our, you know, younger viewers even realize, you know, watching, you know, streaming video at such a quick pace on all of their devices, sharing social media instantly, you know, having ubiquitous connectivity, none of that existed, you know, the way you phrased it, I think was really well done of, you know, this was an alternate world.

You know, you came home from school or you had it available at campus, you dialed in like that was your you accessing this totally separate environment that, you know, was painfully slow.

At best, you get some text, you know, the more images and like, I think this was early flash image days, at least for me, you know, all of that just took time to load.

And, you know, that's arguably where I got my patience from that has been doing wonders as I raised my kids.

I don't know about you, if you developed a healthy sense of patience from your dial-up days.

Yeah, I mean, I think that the kind of things that we have gone through with Internet, I think it's a totally different experience that our kids are now living in.

They have iPads and things like that, you know, all the time with them.

For us, it was a very different experience altogether, because, you know, for us, it was a kind of a novel concept overall, on how we looked at these kind of things, you know, for us, for at least for me, you know, I can say that when Internet started itself, you know, I grew up in India, you know, I grew up in India, and I lived 22 years of my life in India.

And in India itself, you know, Internet, we believe it's for the richest of the countries out there, you know, it's not maybe for the countries, you know, who do not have that means, like, I still remember, if I look back, like, Internet came in India in like late 90s or so, you know, starting getting into the, which for India itself, it was very expensive to even get Internet overall, you know, and then even if you can get Internet, you know, we can never get Internet at our homes or so, you know, we used to go to these, you know, cyber cafes, and, you know, these fancy places to actually access the Internet, you know, and for us, Internet was nothing but a big encyclopedia overall, where we can access this information.

And, you know, okay, instead of me looking at an encyclopedia book or something, I need to now go, you know, all these things that we look at on reservations, you know, these come very later in our lives, you know, on how we looked at it, it was just a form of either entertainment, going to Yahoo, or Rediff, or mail, you know, doing going into these chat rooms, to just communicate with people, they were so fascinating for us, you know, to take a look at, oh, can you talk to these people across the globe in a chat room somewhere?

And that was like, how can this be possible? But there was a lot of reservation, I believe, as well, at that time, where we thought it's just a fad, you know, this will go away, you know, this is, you know, this is something that will not sustain for the longest time, not like not only for us, I think, for the longest time, you know, a lot of people had this concern, even like, in the late 90s, or so, by the time, I believe, you know,, and a lot of proliferation of, you know, the websites of online shopping, and things, you know, starting to come about, there was still some kind of sense that we could make out of it, okay, this is where it's going, this is where it can go, the kind of, you know, things, but in the early Internet days, it was, it was too much of, and at that time, it was more about, I believe, connectivity itself, it was never, in that days, it was about, oh, this thing can be breached, as well, this thing can be hacked, as well, you know, I mean, there were people, I'm sure, criminals, and hackers, and whenever, whenever the new technology comes, they always had this, you know, they are always at the forefront of the technology, you know, of all these people, but for us, at that time, it was just mainly about connectivity, and less about security, in that sense.

Oh, yeah, I mean, it was the wild west back then, like, security was, was an afterthought, and, you know, compared to just, how many people can we get connected, who can we connect to, you know, which is one of the reasons Cloudflare is even in business, is because we're trying to make sure that, you know, it's not an afterthought anymore, and, you know, I'm curious, you mentioned Internet cafes, was, was that a key part of your, your social life growing up, like, were there elements of like, yep, we're going to go to the Internet cafe, and hang out on the Internet, or, you know, see who's on the chat rooms?

What would that look like for you?

Yeah, it was, it was just certainly like that, you know, one, obviously, you know, parents were concerned by why we were, you know, in the cyber cafes, in these chat rooms, and whatnot.

And then for us, it was like a way to, you know, express ourselves, you know, be, you know, in these chat rooms, you know, talk to some people, make pen friends.

At that time, you know, we were sending, like, I remember some of my relatives who were outside, my cousins and all, in London, or wherever, you know, I was sending e -greetings to them, and things like that, that we used to do, you know, all those kinds of things.

So, but I think my relationship, I started, you know, feeling when I was like, in my high school or so, and, you know, my interest towards, you know, computers, I was doing HTML coding, you know, I was doing, you know, starting to put up web pages around and things like that.

And I was like, okay, this thing, you know, seems cool.

And, you know, when you're doing all these things, you feel like, oh, I'm the cooler kid overall, right.

And, you know, I remember, I still remember, you know, I took up a subject, which was all about, you know, I was really into, more into the formal software side of the house, but more into the hardware world overall.

And I took up a subject, which was into, you know, resistors and transistors and capacitors.

And it just fascinated me, you know, how these things work.

And somebody asked me, hey, do you want to be in the software side or hardware side?

I would say, I'm a hardware guy, you know, I want to be. So that itself, you know, I, you know, I started poking around with resistors and capacitors and all these things.

And I said, maybe I want to become an electronics guy, you know, and things like that.

And never, you know, in our dream, we knew that everything is going to become, you know, this, you know, software, we're going to rule the world.

And, you know, I just took up a subject in my engineering.

I went into my engineering and I took electronics and communication engineering.

And there itself, you know, with this whole, you know, shifted me towards, you know, communications, telecommunications, Wi-Fi, all these technologies, which, you know, which ultimately, you know, became the better part of, you know, the broadband services, the cable modems, and, you know, later on the 2Gs and 3Gs and 4Gs of the world later on.

And one thing I always enjoy, especially about those early days, you know, you were able to very easily take apart, you know, a website and say, great, here's the HTML, here's the CSS, you know, this was free CSS back then, you could easily go into your computer tower and be like, yeah, I need more RAM, I need a new modem, like that was so accessible, that in some ways, we've lost that as we've moved to tablets, as we've moved to these very unified devices that are very powerful, you know, I'm worried in some ways other than, you know, for my daughters, that I can't just open up, like, I've got it all on my desktop, like, yep, let's put in some new RAM, let's put in a new graphics card.

But I think that exposure to how easy it was to disassemble and then reassemble something spurred a lot of passion and, you know, future engineer yourself saying, great, I'll keep tinkering with this, I want to learn more.

How does this resistor work?

How does this, when you put it all together, turn on a screen or connect me to the Internet?

And I think those are fascinating pieces of history that, you know, in some cases, I have to rebuild or rebuild in a different way, you know, using the microcomputers that are now available in cheap and, you know, all the Raspberry Pis, but, you know, can you tell me more about, you know, how you continue to use the Internet kind of throughout your university days, and particularly the first job you got out of college?

Yeah, so initially, like I said, you know, for in, so I grew up in India, and in India, it's generally, you know, Internet was majorly used for the biggest of the business cases that we had, right, not business cases or personal use cases, okay, hey, I need to go and download this particular form, which is only available online, or I need to go and see a certain results of, you know, an application that I get, and that's only available online.

So those were the kind of things that we were doing, other than the entertainment kind of, you know, the things that we were all doing at that time.

But I believe, for me, Internet became much more substantial when I came to US here, you know, for me to connect back to family, you know, doing, you know, even if the Internet was still horrible, even at that time, you couldn't do a lot of Skype video calling, like what we are doing right now today.

But in general, like when I came to US in 2010, right, and at that time in India, still, you know, we were, we were, we were having quite decent overall connections, but nothing compared to what we have today.

And over here, I feel, you know, when I saw like in US, it's probably leapfrogged, you know, in terms of what India was doing in general, at that time, you know, the kind of things like I was doing at university looking at online, you know, courses and things like that, you know, even at that time, it was, it was fascinating, you know, we were doing so much over here on Internet than what we were doing in India.

And, you know, here, I actually went for my master's and I came for computer networking itself.

So, you know, in my four years of university, one thing I made sure was something that I wanted to do with my career is going to computer networking, going to, you know, this world of, you know, communication in general.

And I came here for my master's, and I took a bunch of courses that really, you know, you know, opened up a different meaning for me, like, I went into the deep, deep nets of packets and frames and protocols to BGPs, and, you know, SSL, and everything that we know of in this day and age is something that, you know, I went deep into those things, you know, I took up a course, I remember still, you know, our famous professors, Kevin Epperson, you know, class Internet routing protocols, and that just opened up so many doors for me in terms of, you can do with this, but also, you know, at the same time, showed me that what this thing is becoming and what it can become, and what we need to do to protect this thing as well, in terms of security, in terms of so many implications, regulations, you know, how this whole thing is turning out to be.

So that just, you know, in the last whatever years, and after, you know, my master's, you know, I went into the, into the, you know, the managed hosting company, which is all nothing but providing, you know, Internet services to largest of the enterprises out there.

And that's how whole my, you know, journey in the last decade itself, before I now come to Cloudflare, to now build a better Internet for, for the world out there is kind of a, like a surreal experience overall.

Yeah. Yeah, it's always funny, like looking back and try to connect the dots of like, you know, this, this early moment, and you know, that's one of the things that spurred this show is, you know, this early moment of like, I fell in love with, with X on the Internet, or learning about this technology, led to me like, yeah, you know, computer science, let's go do that.

And then diving into like, okay, well, I need a master's or need to learn more, which leads to, you know, your first job, then your second job, and ultimately, continuing down that that line, and you know, because you're just continue to be curious.

And one thing that you touched on, I think it's always been fascinating is, you know, understanding that early on, people didn't couldn't go to the Internet for information, you know, you had to go to the book, you had to go to library and like, what, what is this HTML thing?

What is this hardware thing?

And at some point, there was that just sudden transition of like, no, I can go to a website for this.

I can go to Wikipedia, you're right, right around the time teachers were like, No, you can't source Wikipedia for any of your articles or any of your essays, even though that was becoming a very good source at the time.

And so it's, you know, fascinating to see. And particularly from your perspective, going from a hosting provider and seeing how much the Internet has just grown, how much connectivity has just grown.

Can you can you speak on that? Or how that's that's changed?

Absolutely. So, so I work for the largest service provider here in us, you know, for the for the good eight years or so.

And, you know, for for us, we obviously had a lot of customers who were still using Internet, DIA, Internet access, and everything, you know, overall, but at the same time, for the longest time that we know of in, in 2000s, and, you know, 2010, to now the previous decade itself, where most of the customers still relied upon, you know, private connectivity, because they just couldn't, you know, be on the Internet, you know, for the things, you know, one, obviously, for the performance reason, second of all, for the security reasons, you know, and, you know, for the day, they, you know, a lot of the service providers itself have built, you know, private connectivity lines, which takes a lot of their traffic, either they want to connect all their office locations, or whether they want to go on the Internet itself.

And those has been very legacy way of doing the things now we look at legacy, but at that time, it was the only way and that is the only way, you know, most of these enterprises could literally be on the on the network.

Otherwise, you know, they couldn't even, you know, one, like I said, you know, on the Internet for performance reasons, and then for security reasons.

So for the longest time, most of the office enterprises built upon this vision of having a private networking through the MPLS lines that the service providers, you know, built upon.

And now when we look at it, you know, the way our world has shifted, I always say one thing, that if you look at this thing, right, from the last 25 plus years that you know, we have been using Internet, there has never been a time which we all took it for granted, we took it for granted.

Yes, this is the thing, you know, you know, I call this concept overall, like, you know, electricity overall, right, that this is there, okay, we live through it, and that's fine.

But now I believe that always in one lifetime, there comes a time and for us, it just became the pandemic, right, that everybody shifted towards understanding what this could become and what this has to be, you know, and that just totally changed the meaning for not only like private users like us, but also for the largest of the enterprises out there, they just couldn't do the things that they were doing from last 10-20 years.

And for them, you know, how they have been consuming the applications, either the SaaS applications, or the public applications, or even the private applications that just couldn't, you know, bear up the load through the private connectivities that they have been doing, you know, having tromboning the traffic to, you know, your employees, your customers, your end partners hated what you were doing overall.

And that's where I felt that a lot of enterprises who were a step ahead, they realized this change, maybe few years back.

But now every single enterprises out there is trying to understand, yes, we have to, you know, make ourselves productive.

Yes, we have to do all these things. But also, at the same time, if we move from those legacy applications, you know, MPLS private lines towards this new way of doing things through the Internet itself, how can we be more protective?

How can we be more secure? And I believe in the last whatever, five, seven plus eight years, you know, what I've been doing in my past companies, and what I'm now here pursuing here at Cloudflare, is, you know, helping our enterprise customers to be more safe, more secure in using the Internet itself.

And those could be either through our Zero Trust services, which Zero Trust is another word of not trusting, you know, not trusting and not having that implicit trust, you know, making sure that, you know, not using those legacies ways of, you know, tying your infrastructure through IPs itself, but having more into a kind of an identity based model approach is transforming them.

Yeah. And yeah, I think it's fascinating, you know, all of these companies as they were going about, they wanted all the benefits of the Internet, while still having the ability to control, you know, traffic access.

And that worked very well, when the Internet was, you know, younger, smaller, you still had a contained workforce, you know, most people were dialing in from the office.

And so the pandemic then came in and blew most of that up, you know, movement to the cloud, and all these digital transformations blew it up to some degree.

And so as you mentioned, the digital natives kind of saw this coming to some degree, they're like, yeah, I already have a global workforce that are mostly dialing into my meetings or in the internal applications.

But the rest of the world is now starting to see it or really have that lever pulled during the pandemic.

And what I think I think was fascinating is, you know, mentioned early that the Internet was always this kind of external world, this third world or second world that you connected into.

But we during the pandemic, it really started to merge more heavily, like, that was how you celebrated birthdays, that was how my grandchildren talked to their grandparents, like, there, there was that blending of this digital world was now much more front and center and important for how people lived, how people worked, you know, allowing them to connect to each other, when most people have to try to stay at home for, you know, the health and safety of others.

And, you know, what we've seen here at Klappler having kind of a front row seat to this continued evolution is probably what continued merger and continued simplification in many ways of what the Internet was trying to do and what it needs to be doing in the future.

Absolutely, absolutely.

Yeah. And I'm, you know, I'm optimistic about the future about what it is gonna have in terms of what the Internet can do.

And at the same time, little, you know, I won't say concern, but little in terms of all the new technologies of AI and machine learning and things, you know, the greatness that it will bring, and the kind of, you know, the threats it will bring along with us.

And those are the ones that we at Klappler and in general, at the global Internet community itself needs to be aware about all those threats from quantum computing to all those things that are coming along with now chat, GPT, open AI, cyber, crypto, and whatnot.

All these things, you know, will become much more inclusive into our lives.

You know, we have already seen a lot of these things in, you know, entering into our homes in terms of, you know, IOTs and, you know, whatnot, and, you know, how the future is gonna look like.

We all need to, you know, come together to make this, you know, I'll say again, you know, our Internet world a safer place overall.

And with that, you know, in our last few minutes, you know, I'd love to learn, what are you most excited about for the future of the Internet?

Either, you know, what some of the work Klappler is doing, some of the work that some of the other major Internet or technology providers are doing, and what's the most exciting thing for you, and particularly what speaks to some of the work you've been doing or some of the things from your early Internet day?

Yeah, you know, I've always felt Internet itself brings a lot of equitable and diversity across the world overall, you know, bringing, you know, people together, and I still feel there are, on the Internet, no one knows, no, no one knows you're a dog on the Internet, you know?

Yeah, but at the same time, you know, we, you know, some of the developed world overall, we feel fortunate, but there are still many, many parts of the world, but do not have even access to the Internet out there, you know, and I feel that bringing that Internet to a lot of people around the world is definitely, you know, something that I feel will bring more equitable opportunities for people to, you know, be on the Internet, do the kind of things that maybe people only in the developed world can do, you know, that is something I really, you know, want in the next coming few years that that becomes much more, you know, transparent to the people as well.

Other things I believe overall that, you know, Cloudflare is, you know, truly and, you know, before, you know, joining Cloudflare, I always felt a lot of companies have these taglines just for the bare walls itself, where, you know, we are doing this, or we are doing that.

And then when I started, you know, in the last month itself, and even before that, with my research, you know, during the interviews and all, I was like, okay, they say it's making Internet a better place.

How is exactly that gonna happen? Or what exactly is happening?

And as I started learning about all these things with the kind of, you know, the innovations that Cloudflare has done towards Internet, or the kind of things that it is providing, you know, even for the most, you know, organizations across the world itself, you know, either be those government organizations or the organizations which cannot speak for themselves, you know, in those cases, what it has done to actually provide those kind of means towards, you know, making this Internet a safer place is something I'd love to be a part of an organization which is doing that and be a small part into that.

Yeah, so you found in your time here that we try to live the mission as much as possible, compared to some other companies that, you know, used to try to not be evil, but you know, maybe change or some of the other models that are painted on a wall look good on a brochure, but are not actually lived day in day out by the company or the employees.

So it's good to hear that, you know, we're holding to our sincerity. Yeah, yeah, I'm loving it.

So in general, you know, you know, I think this is a fascinating topic, and we can go for hours and hours on this one.

But, you know, just to, you know, level set overall that, you know, as you know, our famous CEO, you know, says Matthew that Internet was, you know, what it has become today, you know, it was not meant to be, you know, for this kind of thing.

And now it has since, you know, we have been using it daily, not only for our personal reasons, for our office reasons, for corporate reasons and whatnot, it's, it's our global duty to, you know, make it, you know, protective and safer and secure, so that we can do whatever we want to do on this on this beautiful place.

And I mean, I love what you said about this equitability of the Internet.

And ultimately, the more people that are able to log in, are they able to join some of these global conversations, the more inputs and perspectives that we have, you know, are vital to helping us solve some of the biggest problems, you know, we're facing as humans on this planet.

And this speaks to us building that second place, you know, that everyone's welcome to jump into that forum, you know, and arguably here at Cloudflare, we're trying to make that safer and better, provide more accessibility across the globe.

And, you know, it's been fascinating to be a part of and, you know, glad to have you on board.

Yep. Thanks a lot, man. Thanks a lot for doing this.

All right. So with that, we're near the end of time. I want to thank Bibi for jumping in and volunteering to be on Cloudflare TV.

For all my viewers, thank you for jumping in as well.

We're hoping to continue the dial -up motive series over the next few months.

And we'll look forward to catching you next time.

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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.
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