Eric Schmidt says Google's cloud is the culmination of his epic career in tech
Today, at a Google cloud event in San Francisco, Schmidt shared that in a lot of ways, his career has come to a head with Google Cloud Platform, the company's cloud computing service.
During his stint at Sun in the 1980s, Schmidt says, the company worked hard on the concept of "the network computer," with the goal of making it easy to write applications that could run on huge distributed networks of servers.Schmidt was actually the Sun executive who got to announce the Java programming language on stage in the early 1990s - the same Java that would go on to conquer the world of developing applications for the Internet and beyond.
It was a good start, Schmidt says. But during Google's early days, they were dealing with scales more massive than Sun could have ever predicted. And Googlers were getting slowed down by the lack of tools available for writing applications that could serve the search engine's exploding audience.
And so, Schmidt says that Google invested heavily in developing an "Internet operating system" for Google's data centers, such that programmers could quickly and easily work on new servies and features.
Once those data centers were running that kind of operating system, "you could build Gmail," Schmidt says. "You could improve search."
In 2008, Google opened up its AppEngine cloud service, a precursor to Google's current cloud that let developers use something very much like Google's internal services to build and run their apps, on Google's own data center infrastructure.
Schmidt thought this was finally that "network computer" that he had been after since the Sun days. But now, he says, "it didn't work.""There's something fundamentally wrong with what we were doing in 2008," Schmidt says. "We didn't get the right stepping stones in to the cloud."
Meeting where you are
AppEngine is great for bleeding-edge developers, but Schmidt says that it was less great for enterprise customers with existing applications. Since not everybody has Google's scale, not everybody has Google's problems, either.
Which brings us to the Google Cloud Platform of today, which applies all of the lessons from Google's 17 years of operation in to something that's friendlier to real live enterprises.
Rather than forcing developers to build apps the Google way as AppEngine did, Schmidt says, Google Cloud Platform helps them manage the Linux-based virtual machines they're already using. With Google's expertise at automatically managing huge infrastructures, it's a secret recipe that can't be matches, Schmidt says.
"We've finally invented the Internet operating system, but meeting you where you are," Schmidt says.
Now that this Internet operating system exists, Schmidt says, it's just the start of what's possible - now, it's up to developers to come up with what can be built on top of it. And he humbly suggest that machine learning, the basis of artificial intelligence, is going to be that next step.