The Six Five at Google Cloud Next ’22 with Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
by Daniel Newman | October 13, 2022

The Six Five “On The Road” at Google Cloud Next 2022. Hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead are joined by Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google. This historical conversation revolves around the journey from the creation of the internet to the development of the cloud. They also discuss the lengths Google Cloud is innovating and supporting its customers in their digital transformation. You may even hear some discussion on the interplanetary internet.

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead, we are live at Google Cloud Next 2022 at the beautiful new Google Building in Pier 57, and I’m here with my cohost, Daniel Newman. Daniel, how are you my friend?

Daniel Newman: Doing well, buddy. I’m doing well and I’m excited to be here. These conversations today have all been great and we’re going to have another one.

Patrick Moorhead: I have to tell you what I am super excited for this one, I barely need to introduce our guest, Vint Cerf, co-architect of, yeah, the internet here to talk about innovation now at Google Cloud., how-

Daniel Newman: Wait, did I hear that right?

Patrick Moorhead: How on earth did somebody hire you to be here? This is amazing.

Vint Cerf: Actually, this was very easy. I sent a note to Eric Schmidt in 2005 and said, “Eric, do you want some help?” He sent a note back saying, “Yes,” that was my job interview.

Patrick Moorhead: By the way, very expected from our point of view because it’s not like you wake up every day. There can only be so many co-inventors of the internet here. And I know maybe you don’t describe yourself as that, but everybody has heard of you, and so thank you so much for being on the show.

Vint Cerf: Oh, believe me, I enjoy these conversations. They allow me to explore ideas, so let’s have at it.

Patrick Moorhead: Excellent.

Daniel Newman: So let’s start from the beginning. Let’s go back to, you basically helped find… The internet’s not new anymore, by the way so you’ve been around, you’ve been doing this a while. You’ve been from the onset of the internet and now you’ve been involved in the sort onset of the cloud. So we’re here, Google Cloud, Google Cloud Next. Talk a little bit about that, the journey, and talk a little bit about what excited you, that you heard today in terms of how you’ve been watching this, it’ll proliferate.

Vint Cerf: This is sort of like, “Describe the universe in 25 words or less, give three examples.”

Daniel Newman: Got two minutes. No, no, take your time.

Vint Cerf: So well look, in fact, take you all the way back to 1969 and the experiments in packet switching. That was a heresy at the time, but our purpose was to connect different brands of computers together so that the people using them could collaborate and share their computing power and their results. Then we realized, this stuff might work for command and control. So then we said, “Okay, how do we do that?” And we realized that, that meant that some of the computers would be in aircraft and ships at sea and mobile vehicles, and all we’d done up till that point was to connect computers together with dedicated telephone circuits. So the tanks run over the wires and they break, and the ships get tangled up and the airplanes never get off the tarmac, so we had to do packet radio and packet satellite.

So now we’re up to 1973, we’re trying to figure out how the hell are we going to do that and make all the different networks look like their uniform. That was what led to the TCP/IP Protocol Suite, followed by a bunch of implementation, followed by, in 1990, well actually ’89, the beginnings of the world wide web were from Tim Berners-Lee. ’91, he releases the first version, ’93, the Mosaic guys from the National Center for Supercomputer Applications released Mosaic. Everybody sees that and says, “Wow, the internet turns into a magazine formatted text and imagery.”

Jim Clark sees that from Silicon Graphics and says, “This is the big deal.” He drags him back, starts Netscape Communications in 1994. They go public in 1995, the dot boom is on, and I’m at MCI building two internets for them, and it just keeps going from there. And here we are today, all of that is a consequence of people willing to try stuff out that might not work, and you have to be given the opportunity to do that. And Google is really good at giving engineers a chance to try something out that might or might not work. Oh and by the way, if it does work it had better scale, because everything we do seems to end up having to scale up by 10x.

Patrick Moorhead: Gosh, I appreciate the history lesson, and I guess I was born for all of that, by the way. And in fact, you and my father-in-law may have worked together at MCI.

Vint Cerf: No kidding.

Patrick Moorhead: Andy was at Bell Labs, we’ll talk in the green room about that. But it is incredible how public and private partnerships have made this happen. And I’m sure you’ve seen this, a lot of the public-private research has gone away, and only a few companies like Google is able to be able to do that research to come up with literally the next big thing. Now, here at Google Cloud Next, we’re talking a lot about how Google solves today’s problems in the cloud. But the great part is, you’re thinking a lot about the future of the cloud, and I’m curious, what are some of the bigger challenges for the future of the cloud and how does Google approach that?

Vint Cerf: Okay, so first of all, reliability and scale are huge challenges, resilience, huge challenge, arranging for isolation of the people who use the common resources of the cloud, huge challenge, which is why confidential computing and now confidential workspace have been introduced into the mix in order to give people not only the feeling, but the reality of isolating and protecting themselves and their data from inappropriate access. So those are big challenges that we have to meet. We also are noticing that there’s more heterogeneity coming in computing now. Remember RISC chips and how important they were. They had a reduced instruction set and they ran like hell. In fact, the chairman of the board of Google was one of the inventors of RISC chips, John Hennessy, and one of our other employees, Dave Patterson, was at Berkeley at the time, was the other inventor of the RISC chip stuff.

So we believe in hiring people with a track record. So those are big challenges that we have to face. And I’m seeing this thirst for standardization and commoditization where we can, to get interoperability and then a great desire to take advantage of unique resources. So for example, the processing units are special purpose processors like GPUs, or someday QPUs, if we can get quantum computing at a scale where it actually works. So I’m really excited about this. It feels like here we are in the third decade of the 21st century, and it feels like it’s just the beginning of stuff that we can do in this collaborative and aggregated environment.

Patrick Moorhead: Isn’t it amazing? I like to look at it as an according or history is repeating itself, right? We aggregate, we disaggregate, we aggregate, we disaggregate, right?

Vint Cerf: Yup.

Patrick Moorhead: I mean, because gosh, 40 years ago, companies like DEC and IBM still were building very monolithic, their own designs, doing their own technologies. And then Intel came along with x86, Moore’s law, but guess what? We’re having trouble keeping up with Moore’s Law so heterogeneity is back in style.

Vint Cerf: It is, absolutely.

Patrick Moorhead: And vendors are doing their own semi silicon. And by the way, gosh, okay, I’m going to move this interview along here. I love chips, Daniel loves chips too.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely, I could think of another 30, 45 minutes we could just spend on that topic right now.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, exactly.

Daniel Newman: Plus we’ve got a kind of bit of a pioneer here. I do want to just take a 20-second jog back to the earlier part of our conversation. I just want to say, you said something about allowing people to fail and I think that’s amazing and putting that on the record that you’re at a company that actually does the fast fail thing, for real. It’s been a really popular TED Talk and it’s been a really popular in articles in Forbes and Fast Company, but that is the real world example of companies that kind of need to say, “Hey, we’re going to take a big risk. We’re going to try something and we’re going to either build it to be a hundred times bigger or we’re going to scrap it.” And most company never do that.

Vint Cerf: So let me do a tiny little reset here. We don’t try to train everybody to fail, that’s not what we do. We do not do that.

Patrick Moorhead: Noted, noted.

Daniel Newman: No, I wasn’t suggesting that. I just think you allow it.

Vint Cerf: So no, we actually hope that everyone will succeed, but we want to give them the freedom to try things out. It’s funny, in science, sometimes you learn more from an experiment that doesn’t work than you do from the one that does. I mean, a classic example of this guy’s got this theory and he figures out, “Okay, I’m going to do an experiment to test my theory,” and he’s got this chart and he predicts what all the results are. Then he starts doing the measurements and they come in there and it’s perfect, it’s matching up exactly right. And then there’s this measurement over here. Now, there are two kinds of scientists. One of them says, “Eh, measurement error,” and ignores it. “My theory is perfect.” The other guy looks at this and he says, “Huh, that’s funny.” And he gets the Nobel Prize when he figures out, “What’s that doing here?” So we want people to try stuff out. We would love it to work all the time, but we accept that we may learn a lot from things that don’t work.

Daniel Newman: But all that AI and ML has taught you probably something about probability. I mean, you do call it big query. All right, so let’s end on a big idea so, am I mistaken in reading that you’re sort of working on an interplanetary internet? So there’s a big idea, tell us about it and is it going to succeed?

Vint Cerf: So do you remember that in 1997, we landed on Mars for the first time in 20 years. The Viking lands in ’76, nothing works for the next 20 years, Pathfinder lands in ’97 and I go nuts. I go out to the Jet Propulsion lab and we meet and we say to each other, “What should we be doing then that we’re going to need 25 years later?” And so we said, “We need an interplanetary backbone network in order to support man and robotic space exploration.” So we’ve been developing that for the last 20 plus years. We have prototype stuff that’s been running on Mars and the orbiters and the routers or the rovers. Since 2004, we’re on the Artemis mission to return to the moon. We’ve standardized the protocols, which are not TCP/IP, it turns out. I wish they could have been, but it turns out the speed of light is too slow.

And Mr. Einstein says you can’t do anything about that. So we’ve developed a new suite of protocols for that. Here’s the thing that I’m really excited about, we are right at the cusp of commercialization of space outside of just near earth space with low earth orbiting satellites, which are already a big deal. I mean, pretty soon you won’t be able to avoid access to the internet thanks to Elon and his Starlink and the other guys are doing the same thing. But we’re going off planet at the end, it’s going to be important to have commercially available communication capability. Even the Artemis missions are contemplating the possibility of commercial mining on the moon. So think about the implications of that. I mean, what if there’s a dispute? What are the governance rules? And in which jurisdiction will you manage that? Your head is, mine anyway, is just boiling with all these non-technical questions in addition to the technical ones. But we’re right here in 2022, ready to harvest that cusp and change, so it’s like chapter two of a much longer science fiction story.

Patrick Moorhead: Do you really have to get to a talk in a few minutes? Because I could sit here about two or three hours and talk about this, but no, seriously, my brain has increased in size listening to this talk. And what I love though, it wasn’t just about technology, it was the application of the technology on the moon, inside of our solar system and beyond. I think that’s really cool and it’s something that I know I’m going to want to be following along the way. So I mean, then, what can I tell, what can I say? Thank you for coming on the show, I’m so impressed you’re in the game and keeping, bringing, I mean, your big ideas. And quite frankly there’s importance, I think at companies like Google for history and not that history always repeats itself, but a lot of the times you can keep from making the same dumb mistakes that people make before. And if I’ve learned anything from watching the media and even talking to my kids, they don’t teach history like they should or they do so I really appreciate you being on the show.

Vint Cerf: Well, those of us who are old enough to have lived through history and can still remember it, at least can remind younger people, “We tried this stuff.” I’ll tell you one lesson I’ve learned though, I’ve had kids come up and they say, “Why don’t we do X for some value of X?” Right? And I’ll think, “We tried X 25 years ago and it didn’t work.” Then I have to remind myself there’s a reason why it didn’t work and maybe things have changed, parameters are different, powers, less power is needed, higher speed is available, more memory is available, maybe X would work. And so I’ve had to rethink a lot of things as a result of hanging out with a lot of younger people led Google.

Daniel Newman: And then you’re not here to just crush the dreams of the young folks, right?

Patrick Moorhead: That’s right.

Daniel Newman: Some of those big ideas that came to fruition, there was probably a whole bunch of people that at some point in time said it wasn’t possible and you were one of the dreamers that kind of brought these ideas along and made them happen, so.

Vint Cerf: Dreaming is a good thing. We should encourage it.

Daniel Newman: Right. Well, thank you so much for joining us here on The Six Five, on the Road. Everybody, you just got to see here and listen to someone that made a really meaningful contribution to your history. Probably the fact that you’re watching this right now has a little something to do with some of the invention. And of course, all that playing, streaming, socializing, and other media that you are doing has been built on the backbone of the internet. And by the way, while you’re on the internet, hit that subscribe button. We love that you joined us here at Google Cloud Next ’22 at Pier 57 in New York City. Lovely place, lovely day, lots of great news, tune in for more episodes. We’ll see you all soon. Bye-bye now.

Vint Cerf: See you on the net.

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio