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Nigel Poulton talks about Kubernetes
Episode 15 - June 23, 2020

Nigel Poulton on How Kubernetes Can Make or Break the Devops Workflow

Featuring Nigel Poulton, techoholic and Kubernetes trainer
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Since its initial release, Kubernetes has seen a fantastic rise as more and more organizations are migrating production workloads to containers. But how do you know if the next big thing is the next right thing for you? Who better to ask than our guest – Nigel Poulton, famous author, and Kubernetes aficionado?

Nigel is a popular trainer and author, internationally recognized for his Docker Deep Dive book, rated as one of the best Docker books of all time by BookAuthority, but also for his legendary courses on Kubernetes.

We talked about:

  • How passion for technology shapes the future
  • Importance of knowledge sharing
  • The opportunities and challenges of the Kubernetes adoption
  • His latest book – The Kubernetes Book

Listen to our entire conversation above, and check out my favorite parts in the episode highlights!

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Highlights from this episode

Darko (00:02):  Hello, and welcome to Semaphore Uncut, a podcast for developers about building great products. Today, I’m excited to welcome Nigel Poulton. Nigel, thank you so much for joining us, and please go ahead and introduce yourself.

Nigel: So, I’m Nigel, and I refer to myself as a techoholic sometimes. I just love technology. Even as a kid, I always just loved it. So, here’s a quick story for you. When I was about 16 or 17 years old, I signed up at a local college to do an evening class learning to program in C. So, the way that it worked was it was on the same evening that Star Trek: The Next Generation would play on BBC 2 in the UK. So every week before this C class, I would watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to pump me up and get me excited to go along to my C class, because one of the things that I loved about Star Trek was all the computers, and being able to talk to the computer, and command the data, and stuff like that. I dreamt of living in a world like that.

From learning to teaching

Darko (02:03): From there, I guess it progressed slowly to where you are right now. What were the next steps that you did?

Nigel: My first job in technology consisted of resetting passwords, changing backup tapes, and creating user accounts and things, but because I love the technology so much, I was able to progress really quickly within the organization. And at that time in my life, books were super important to me. In fact, I still have a copy of the most important book from my whole life called Mastering Windows Server 2000 by Mark Minasi. It’s a huge 1,500-page hardback book.

That book was really important to me because it allowed me to really push my career forward as an individual. I always said to myself then that if I got the opportunity later in my life or my career to give back to the community in a way, or to write a book, then I would do that. But of course, I also bought other books that were actually not very good, and I’d be really disappointed because I would spend ages trying to pick the right book, I would spend my hard earned money on it, and sometimes I would read bits and be like “I still don’t understand” after I’ve read it. And that really annoyed me.

So I always thought I want to be able to write a book one day to give back to the community. But look, I will make it the best book that I absolutely can so that nobody will buy it and think “I read what a Kubernetes deployment object is, and I still don’t understand”. I was like that’s never going to happen with one of my books. I’m going to make sure that everyone that buys it gets great value. So, I was super fortunate enough to be able to write a book, and I’ve written three books since then.

And I also do video training courses as well, which are kind of a modern spin or a modern interpretation of the old technology book, I think. I can have more of a conversation like you and I are having now, and I can make jokes, and we can make it fun, easier than it is to do in a book. Because sometimes when you read something in a book, it doesn’t come across the way you intend it.

How is Kubernetes shaping the future?

Darko (08:31): There are many things going on in the industry lately. A couple of years ago with Docker, it was something that never existed before in that form. It was so powerful. And we ended up with Kubernetes, something that should run it at scale, and help us manage those containers. So, I’m really interested in hearing how you see that progression on one hand, and also what are you seeing from teaching maybe this year? What are the trends, and maybe what are also some of the challenges that people are seeing when learning all these things?

Nigel: We live in a golden age of technology, and a golden age of learning technology. And a great thing about learning is you’ve got to break things to fully understand how they work. And I think we all know when we’ve done it, when we’ve broken things, or we’ve lived through P1 outages and things, those are some of the times where we learn the most. Now, you can tear it down, you can build it again, almost at the click of your fingers.

Can Kubernetes be a deal breaker?

Darko (14:32): And through teaching maybe Kubernetes as kind of the last thing in this continuation of things, what do you see as maybe the biggest challenge when people are adopting it, or learning?

Nigel: I think Kubernetes as a platform – you can have your cloud infrastructure or your data center infrastructure underneath it, VMs, cloud instances, networking services, and things like that. And then you layer Kubernetes on top of that and deploy your applications to Kubernetes, which is abstracting all of that stuff underneath, a little bit like an operating system used to abstract CPUs, and dims, and network stacks, and things like that.

I see people struggling with it all the time, and almost being forced into deploying to Kubernetes without having enough sort of knowledge. A lot of people deploying to Kubernetes are deploying with just enough Kubernetes knowledge, and that worries me. And I feel like it worries a lot of them as well, that that’s okay to deploy something with just enough knowledge of the underlying platform when things going well, but then when they’re not going well, do you have what is needed to sort of troubleshoot it, and to dig deep, and to fix it?

Kubernetes is sort of big and complex ; there’s lots of moving parts to it, but then Kubernetes itself is a cloud first technology. You can run it in your own data center, of course, but most of the time you’re deploying it to a public cloud, and that’s moving and iterating so fast.

I feel like Kubernetes is not for everyone, but it’s being marketed as if it is for everyone. For sure, Kubernetes does loads of bright things for loads of people okay, but if you do not have a specific need for Kubernetes right now, don’t just pick it up and deploy to Kubernetes to be cool, because if you don’t get it right, and you don’t fully understand it, you’re going to put yourself into a world of hurt.

Darko (19:33): Do you think a simplified distribution of Kubernetes is going to be available in the future?

I think a move towards a long-term stable might be a good thing, but also, in the meantime, a great on-ramp to Kubernetes, and something that simplifies for a lot of people, is the hosted Kubernetes platforms in the cloud. So, Amazon, and Google, and Microsoft Azure, and people all have a hosted Kubernetes service where basically you log on to their cloud portal and you say, “Look, whoever your cloud provider is, please just give me Kubernetes”. “You please take care of the high availability, the performance. Maybe give me a few knobs to tweak when it comes to upgrades.

Now in doing that, right, you have to understand that that’s a decision you’re making to almost outsource the responsibility of the performance, and the high availability, and what have you to your cloud provider, and not everybody is comfortable doing that, and not everybody is allowed to do that. But if you are, that is a super slick way to get something that is “production grade Kubernetes” with just a few clicks, right. And of course, you have to pay a monthly fee, or an hourly fee for the use of the control plane and what have you, but 2019 was a massive year for people that wanted to use Kubernetes saying, “Look, I can’t be bothered with it. In fact, it’s not core for me, or for my company, or for my team to actually learn how to build a highly available Kubernetes cluster. Not ever envisioned myself wanting to do that maybe, but I have a trusted cloud provider, and I’m going to just let them take care of all of that, and I will deploy and manage my applications.”

But you still have to learn about Kubernetes pods, and services, and deployments, and StatefulSets, and config maps, and secrets, and operators, and the list it’s still long, but it does take away one potential hurdle there.

About The Kubernetes Book and latest video courses

Darko (30:00): We mentioned you’re getting started with a Kubernetes course, and you said that you are just working on an update, which is two or three years old. Maybe you can just share with our listeners where they can find it, when is it to be released, what’s cool about it.

Nigel: The easiest place to see everything I’ve got, video courses and books, is my website, which is nigelpoulton.com. I’m @nigelpoulton on Twitter. I’m Nigel Poulton on LinkedIn. All the different places. And I love to connect with people and talk about technology. On the books front, I have a book called Docker Deep Dive, and I have a book called The Kubernetes Book. Both will take you from 0 to 60 within a single book. That sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s kind of what it is. I’ve tried to write both books from the perspective that you don’t already need to know what containers, and Kubernetes, and stuff are. I want to start at the beginning and explain everything from the ground up.

Most of my video courses are on pluralsight.com, but I’ve got all the way from super high level, what even as Docker and Kubernetes if you’re not even sure what a container is to getting started with Kubernetes, getting started with Docker. Those are sort of deploying your first applications. Simple “Hello, World!” stuff. Then I’ve got a Docker deep dive video course, which kind of gets into the weeds of how it all works so that if you want to go to production with Docker, you’ve got that solid understanding that you know when things break, I’ve got the kind of the skills and the tools to be able to dig deeper. And I also have a Kubernetes deep dive course, which is on a different website called acloud.guru. But if you just go to nigelpoulton.com and click books or videos, you can see everything that I’ve got.

And I’m busy working on a new version of getting started with Kubernetes so that it’s bang up to date. After that, I’ll do a new version of getting started with Docker, and I just go forward, refreshing those, keeping them up to date, keeping them as fun as possible, as hands-on as possible, as many examples as possible. But I am one of those people that I love technology, so I love teaching it. And I love to just connect with everybody as well.

Darko: That’s great. So, thank you, Nigel. It was great talking to you.

Nigel: Yeah, pleasure. I’ve enjoyed it.

Meet the host

Darko Fabijan

Darko, co-founder of Semaphore, enjoys breaking new ground and exploring tools and ideas that improve developer lives. He enjoys finding the best technical solutions with his engineering team at Semaphore. In his spare time, you’ll find him cooking, hiking and gardening indoors.

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