Episode 061: Dive into Kubernetes with Nigel Poulton

Mike Pfeiffer on February, 05, 2020

In this episode I catch up with world renowned Docker and Kubernetes author Nigel Poulton. We had a great conversation about how to navigate the world of cloud native computing in 2020 and beyond.

Nigel Poulton is a techoholic who spends his life creating books and training videos on the latest and greatest cloud technologies. He’s the author of best-selling books on Docker and Kubernetes, as well as the most popular online training videos on the same topics. He’s a Docker Captain. Prior to this, Nigel has held various infrastructure roles for large enterprises (mainly banks). When he’s not playing with technology, he’s dreaming about it. When he’s not dreaming about it, he’s reading and watching sci-fi. He wishes he lived in the future so he could explore spacetime, the universe, and tons of other mind-blowing stuff. He likes cars, football (soccer), and food. He has a fabulous wife and three fabulous children.

Full Transcript:

Mike Pfeiffer:
All right, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of CloudSkills FM. Really appreciate you guys tuning in as usual. And we got a special episode this week. We’ve got Nigel Poulton on the show, basically needs no introduction, but if you haven’t heard of him, he is basically the King of Docker containers and Kubernetes. Nigel, what’s up man?

Nigel Poulton:
Oh my God. Honestly, Mike, it’s an absolute pleasure to be on the show. I’m quite sure that I do need an introduction now. I think you played me up a little bit there.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Well, I’m just saying from my perspective and a lot of other people that I know, you’ve got a ton of respect in the industry, man, so not trying to put you on the spot. You’ve been doing a lot of this work for a long time, especially when these technologies were really new to a lot of people, and they even still is, man. So I really respect your work. And so if there is somebody that doesn’t know who you are, maybe you could just talk about that and maybe how you got to where you’re at today.

Nigel Poulton:
Sure, yeah. Okay, so my name’s Nigel. The accent can be confusing at times. Some people think it’s Australian, it’s actually British. And actually, yeah, the name Nigel, I think very British as well and over here in the UK. So I know Nigel isn’t a popular name across the globe, of course, but it’s not even popular in the UK. Within the UK, it’s very much a geeks name. So you get in with the IT crowd and people, and you might find the occasional Nigel, you get outside of the IT crowd and there just aren’t any Nigels out there. So that’s something interesting. But yeah, so do you know what? So I don’t know how long ago it was now that I first came across a Vmawre. I think it was VMware 2.2. And I didn’t really start getting into it until it was like 2.5 personally.

Nigel Poulton:
But I remember back in those days, it’s… I’m no good with dates, but it must be 20 years ago now. And I remember that moment of first coming across VMware and grokking or really getting an aha moment. And I just remember thinking, “Man, this makes so much sense and it’s going to be something pretty spectacular.” And obviously it was, and it helped propel my career forward and a lot of other people’s careers forward. Then if you fast forward that clock forward, ooh, 10, 15 years or something, I had a very, very similar experience with Docker. And it was starting to gain a little bit of traction. I got into Docker around about Docker 0.9. And I remember when I first got my hands on it and really understood what it was doing.

Nigel Poulton:
Again, I had one of those… I could almost call them VMware moments when I was like, “You know what? This is going to be something special.” I was working in storage and a bit of networking in Lennox at the time and took a huge risk and said, “You know what? I want to try and be at the bleeding edge of something,” because I wasn’t really on the bleeding edge of VMware. I was quite early, but not one of the really early adopters. Now, I remember back then thinking, “Gosh, if I was to see something like this coming again, I would love to get in there really early.” So when I saw Docker and had that moment, I thought, “You know what? Look, you only live once, right? Mike? I am all in on this Docker stuff.” And I’ve been super fortunate since then, like I say, “I’m rubbish with dates. I don’t know what it is seven, eight, nine years ago, something like that, about that.” I have not looked back. I’ve been super fortunate, yeah,

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s an awesome story, man, because I think that there’s a lot of us in the industry and you can relate. I know that when I started with VMware it was a game changer for me. And I don’t know if people realize how old the VMware really is. It goes back to late '90s. So I went through that, had that same similar experience, but I did not double down at Docker at the time that you did. But I think what’s interesting is when you did and you started really getting known for teaching Docker, it was just like your courses were pretty amazing for people because it was a different way of delivering content. And I’m wondering, were you teaching before that? How did you get into it so proficiently, right out of the gate because you were good on timing with Docker, but then also the content was really good?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, so if you don’t mind, if I dial the clock back a little bit, and so when I started my IT career in the late '90s, I did a bit of NetWare, but quickly started getting into Windows NT 4. And at the time, I studied for my MCSE in Windows NT 4, took that and passed it. And then I also recertified for Windows 2000. And at that time, books we’re a huge, huge influence in my career. I still have a copy of Mark Minasi’s Mastering Windows 2000-

Mike Pfeiffer:
Oh, I had that book.

Nigel Poulton:
[crosstalk 00:04:39] 1,500 page tome that I took on my honeymoon with me. I read it on the [crosstalk 00:04:46] he had no seriously. But to be honest, those books at that time were really important to my career. And I always thought to myself at some point I would like to give back to the community, and I’d like to write a book. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s more to writing a book than giving back to the community. There’s no money involved in an IT book. Well, you certainly not going to retire, but I will hold my hand up and say, “Look, it is good for your career as well.” And an opportunity came along quite few years later for me to write a book on data storage, networking for Wiley [inaudible 00:05:15].

Nigel Poulton:
So I wrote that book for those guys, and it took me about a year to write. I was doing a 9:00-5:00 in London at the same time as well. So it was a really tough year of my life. About halfway through the year, a train signal, who were… This is back in the day when video training was really new. You would buy a course like one of David Davis’ courses or whatever, and they would ship you out a bunch of DVDs, stick in your laptop and watch. So that’s how long ago it was. But they came along and said, “Look, we’d love you to do a video course on storage networking.” So I did that. They were acquired by Pluralsight, flew me over to the States to one of their events and said, “Look, we really like your teaching style.”

Nigel Poulton:
I’m going to be honest. A lot of people like my style and stuff. But I think at the beginning, just like the accent because it was a little bit different, but they were like, “You know what? We would like you to make more videos for us in any area that you would feel comfortable teaching.” Well, I felt a little bit like a mistake at the time. I told my wife that because I was getting paid quite good money to work in London, and London was a long way away from where we live. And she was like, “Wait a minute, you could maybe make videos from home and you wouldn’t have to go to London all the time. I think you need to try that.” So she strong-armed me into making that decision.

Nigel Poulton:
Made a bunch of courses for Pluralsight. And then when Docker came along, I honed my skills I think a little bit in creating videos because creating videos is a very different experience to writing a book. Writing a book it’s really hard to get nuances across and to express humor and things like that. It can be taken the wrong way if you read it, a different way. Whereas with a video, you can express who you are, and you can a joke, you can have a laugh, you can make the learning experience. I felt a lot more interesting and entertaining, and I fell in love with that style of teaching.

Nigel Poulton:
And back in the early days, I remember being in my office once recording a video. And of course, I’m stood in front of a laptop like I am now with a headset on, and I’m talking to this laptop, and I’m throwing my arms around with passion and an excitement as I’m explaining something to do with containers, and I’m hopping from one foot to the other like I’m presenting in front of an audience. And then I catch my wife in the corner of my eye and she’s having a bit of a giggle and I’m like, “Ah, yeah.”

Nigel Poulton:
Anyway, look, I don’t want to bore people. But yeah, so I took that plunge to start full-time, being a video instructor. And I know I haven’t looked back since then. The early days were really hard because I quit quite a well-paying job, then I started recording videos. And it’s like a Netflix model almost, where the more content you have in any one online video library, the more income you’re going to generate. And when you don’t have a lot of content in there, I taken a risk of quitting my job. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to people these days, certainly not to start out with at least anyway. And because we had some quite hairy financial moments early on, and we’re all good now, don’t get me wrong. And it is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to connect with people.

Nigel Poulton:
Now, I can share my passion. I do love technology. Like I say, look, I was really into learning from day one in tech. Those books were that important to me. People… Yeah, they still read books and stuff now, but a lot of people consume through videos. And it just gives that opportunity to give something back. And then I bump into people at conferences and stuff and they’re like, “Hey, do you mind that I took your video courses. Do you mind if I say hi?” And I’m like, “Heck, yeah. How cool is that?”

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right, that is really cool, man. It’s a pretty fascinating thing. I talked to people a lot, especially when I’m talking to people that are ramping up for new stuff, our customers, our students and stuff like that. I always tell people that teaching is one of the best ways to learn. And I would imagine that you’ve gone to that, where it’s like getting that perspective of looking at it from the teacher’s point of view and then trying to convey those things, completely changed the way that you look at this stuff, right?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, so I’ve probably got two things to say on that. When books were important in my career, that book from Mark Minasi, Mastering Windows 2000, I absolutely loved every page of that book, with the exception of the certificate authority and certificate services chapters. I found those quite dry, and I still find that PKI technology today quite dry. But Mark’s book was immense. But I bought other books at the time, and generally I would buy them. And this is early on in my life, setting up my own life and stuff, and you pay good money for a good textbook. And I would buy a book because I needed to learn something. And so often I would buy that book and read it, or read a particular chapter and I needed to understand something about. And I’d get to the end of the chapter, and I’m like, “Man, I still don’t understand that you’ve not done a good enough job in teaching the concept.” And that would frustrate me so much, Mike. Honestly, I’m getting passionate thinking about it now.

Nigel Poulton:
So I know when I came into writing books and to doing the video courses and stuff, I was hell-bent on making sure that I would teach something in the clearest way that I possibly could because I didn’t want anybody having the experience that I’d had with books and being like, “Ah, yeah, thanks a lot, Nigel. I’ve just wasted an hour of my life listening to you teach something on video and I still don’t get it.” I’m sure that maybe does occasionally happen. But I work so flipping hard to make sure that doesn’t happen because I’ve lived through it, where you spend your money and you spend your time, and you’re like, “Shit, what a waste.” So, yeah, I’m super passionate about being as clear as possible as well.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It shows, man, it shows on your content and shows in the scores on your author profile. And I agree with you 100%. I was just talking about this with some folks a couple of weeks or earlier this week that respecting somebody’s time when you’re teaching is incredibly valuable. And there’s just a lot of that not happening out there. And so I really love that you brought that up, man. I’d love to switch gears a little bit though and find out what you’re working on today because I know that talking about books, you’ve got books out, and so I’d love to hear about that. And then what are you doing right now with Kubernetes and everything that’s going on?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, so for quarter one and quarter two this year, the three main things that I’ve got on so, I have a book called The Kubernetes Book. I’m not the most creative when it comes to naming, The Kubernetes Book will do. So in the past, that book got two updates a year. So a technology like Kubernetes and anything in the container space seems to be iterating really fast. Listen, I mean writing books is hard work, don’t get me wrong. And I would love to be able to write a book and have it on sale on Amazon and be relevant for five years and I don’t have to touch it. That would be fabulous. But the reality is the speed at which some of these technologies are iterating these days. Any written book that’s like I would say for sure 18 months old is becoming dangerous to the reader almost because things have moved on so much.

Nigel Poulton:
So in the past, I’d always updated The Kubernetes Book twice a year. I’ve committed this year I’m going to update it four times a year. Now, those updates will come in the form of some new content to existing chapters and potentially additional chapters. But a lot of it as well is making sure that all of the examples and things work on the latest versions of Kubernetes. So for quarter one this year, we will be publishing a Ma… Sorry, a March, a February 2020 edition of The Kubernetes Book. So that is pretty much into proofreading at the moment. I am working on a new Kubernetes course for Pluralsight. So that will cover persistent storage, the persistent volume subsystem, and it will cover multi-container pod use cases, which I think will then fit into a wider learning path. My understanding is along the path of the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer, the CKAD exam.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Got you.

Nigel Poulton:
And so I’m working on a new video that will be… My commitment is to have that to Pluralsight by the end of March, and then I think they probably have a few weeks before it gets published.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I was going to ask you about that. I was just curious if the course was going to land in a learning paths for certification. So that’s cool.

Nigel Poulton:
I believe so, yeah. That was the plan when we originally talked about it. And so that’s on storage in multi-container pods. And then in the background to that, I… So I’m a partner at a company called Magic Sandbox, so msb.com, which is… I would recommend people go check it out if you’re interested in learning Kubernetes, msb.com. There’s some free content on there, whether is behind a paywall. But the idea is that within your Chrome browser, you get a multi-node Kubernetes cluster, a bunch of curated learning content that I’ve created, and a live dashboard that shows your environment in real time.

Nigel Poulton:
So you have access to your cluster, you can deploy scale, rolling update, roll back your applications, all that kind of jazz helm, all that’s in their pipelines and see it all live in your browser, but have me handholding you through it. And that’s an ongoing thing with me. And the reason I got into that, and I don’t know what your experience is, Mike, but people would come to me after they’d read the books or watched the video courses and be like, “Look, I really enjoyed them. Thanks very much. What do I do now? What’s my next step?”

Nigel Poulton:
And it was always get your hands on… Look, don’t get me wrong, with cloud and Kubernetes. It’s never been hard to get your hands on. Not like if you wanted to learn Cisco networking or EMC storage back in the day and you’d have to buy loads of 10 from eBay and plug it into your garage and it’d be a nightmare to learn. Spinning up containers in the cloud and stuff is relatively easy. But MSB or Magic Sandbox gives you less than one click. It’s already pre-built for you, a multi-node cluster that looks and feels and smells without sounding cheesy here. But folks it doesn’t smells like a production cluster, so you can do proper scheduling and stuff on it.

Nigel Poulton:
What I mean by that is it’s not like a Docker desktop or a mini cube on your laptop, where you you’ve effectively got one VM and all of your master in node components are running on one. And it’s okay, but it’s not really what the real world looks like. So MSB is more like… I think is, at the moment, the best way to take your Kubernetes journey to the next level by getting hands on experience. Now, I’m not saying it’s the only platform out there that does it, there are and will be others. But that’s just what I’m continually helping improve in the background. So that will be going on all four quarters of this year and into next year as we improve that platform.

Nigel Poulton:
But that’s me at the moment, working on the books, four updates a year, more video courses across different platforms. I would like, I think by the end of the year, to have something, CKAD Certified Kubernetes Application Developer. I’d be interested in your take actually on it, Mike, because I’m not a huge fun personally of certifications, but I know that they do have a-

Nigel Poulton:
Of certifications, but I know that they do have a value and are becoming more and more valuable in the workplace to HR departments and things like that. So that’s kind of on the radar for a little bit further out into this year.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s great because I actually, I’m a fan of certifications because it really amplified my career and I think the benefit is that it puts you into a situation where you’re looking at stuff in a different way. You’re looking at stuff that you probably wouldn’t have looked at before. What I love about CKA, CKAD is that you actually have to do it, improve, you know what you’re talking about. To me that is the pinnacle of certification where it’s like if you’re applying and we can actually validate that you know what you’re doing, that’s important because I think we both went through this, we started our IT careers in the late '90s. You were mentioning the NT4 certs and stuff and we both saw that and kind of go downhill right, when the answers got leaked on the internet and then certification lost.

Nigel Poulton:
Multiple choice, yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right? Yeah man. It’s just like it took a hit, right? Things like CCIE have always been really prestigious because you have to know what you’re doing. To me, I love the idea of Kubernetes certification. Then I also, just to circle back to what you were talking about, for anybody listening that hasn’t looked at MSB, you know, insanely cool, not only the content but the interface is beautiful man. So I think that that would be a cool way to get your hands dirty. I think ultimately it’s about that, right? You can’t really be effective with this stuff if you’re not applying what you’re learning.

Nigel Poulton:
No. That that’s right. I mean, I find it myself as well that when you read something or even if you watch it, I don’t know what numbers are, I’m sure people have done research on it and stuff, but I forget so much so quickly. Whereas if I’ve actually got my hands on it and implemented it then it tends to stick a little bit better. I know everybody learns in different ways, right? I always said that with the video courses people will be like, “Hey, so you Kubernetes book versus this particular Kubernetes course. Is the content the same or?” And I’ll be like, “Well look Kubernetes is Kubernetes at the end of the day, right?” If I’m talking about deployments or stateful sets or something like that, it’s going to be similar between the different mediums because it is what it is at the end of the day. I would say generally to people, I would recommend both reading and watching, but if they had a preference, do you prefer to watch stuff or do you prefer to read then just pick one of the two but always get your hands on afterwards or while you’re doing it because that is the thing that makes it stick.

Mike Pfeiffer:
100%, and that’s what’s cool about your books and your courses because it does take people down that road of labbing it up, which is super important. On that point I would love to… Well let’s switch gears from the training step for a minute. I want to come back to that, but I’d love to get your opinion on just the state of Kubernetes right now. There’s been a lot of people that, you know, it’s interesting, right? Because there’s a lot of hype, but the reality is this is insanely awesome if you’re doing it the right way, but there’s been people recently that have been pushing back I guess you could say about people going too fast with that, getting in over their heads. Enterprises that don’t really have experience with containers and then not spending enough time ramping up and just diving into it. Are you seeing that out there and what are your thoughts on that?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah I’m seeing that. I think it’s good for people to push back. It’s so easy. And I’m guilty of this myself right, in my books and my videos and stuff as well. I’m a technologist at heart and I love things like virtual machines and containers and Kubernetes and things like that just for the sake of the technology. because I love learning stuff and I love to be able to break things and build things and I think it’s fun, but I understand that that’s not the way that businesses work. At the end of the day, you should be deploying these things if there are benefits that are going to come to your business and if you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and it looks like it’s going to be a good thing for you to do. Have you got the right skills? Have you got the right appetite within your organization?

Nigel Poulton:
Have you got the right projects that you can start kicking the tires with? All of these things are super important. I wouldn’t ever recommend that anybody deploys containers for the sake of containers or Kubernetes for the sake of Kubernetes so you can show off or put it on your resume for your next job or anything like that. That just seems a bit irresponsible. I like this whole idea of pushing back because I know as much as I love the technologies, I know that all of the vendors and people behind it, they’ve invested in it. It’s a good on-ramp to a lot of cloud platforms. It’s a good on-ramp to a cloud platform that you then start paying for services from as well. Everybody has an agenda to get you onto it. I do think the general trend, and I’ll say this when I speak quite a lot, right, I assume that it’s generally speaking is correct, okay?

Nigel Poulton:
If you were to look at your career or even your business or your organization from before virtual machines and if you were taking the decision not to go down the virtual machine route, where would you as an individual in your career be and also where would your organization be? I think you would be in a worse place than you actually are now because you jumped on the virtual machine or the VMware bandwagon. I hope that makes sense. I think as an individual you’re open to more job opportunities and things now if you understand virtual machines and all the tooling around it. As an organization for sure you cut down lead times on delivery of real metal servers and you know your application density per serve and stuff like that was is just fabulous with virtual machines compared to if you hadn’t done it.

Nigel Poulton:
I would encourage people to yes, take a measured approach to deploying Kubernetes and containers and stuff or to start if you haven’t started looking into it and start to doing it, definitely do that because the change between bare metal and virtual machines is relatively small. I think between the change between virtual machines and containers just because of the way that they get the most use out of containers. Now I know I’m going to be using buzzwords here, right, but you want to refactor or redo your applications in a more cloud native and microservices way. You could take your legacy applications from a bare metal server, right? And lift and just dump them onto a virtual machine. It would still work and you would get a lot of benefits of like density and improve lead times and all that kind of stuff, right?

Nigel Poulton:
Whereas to get the benefit of containers, you really want to take those old replications and just for wont of a better term, and I’m being a bit high level here but rewrite them so that you get the maximum out of containers and Kubernetes so it’s a bigger step, right? If you don’t choose to go that route, you will be further behind than if you hadn’t chosen to go the VMware route, if you know what I mean, because I think you’ve got to change your applications and your infrastructure and your way of thinking and the market really for everything just looks like it’s going in that direction and it’s unstoppable and will eventually get most people there. If you as an organization or an individual haven’t done that, just think you’re going to be super far behind and that’s not… Listen, that’s not me saying, therefore you should go out and buy all of my materials, right?

Nigel Poulton:
I just, I genuinely do feel that, that it’s going in this direction and if you want to be, and I make the mistake sometimes Mike right, of thinking that most people in technology love technology and are super excited every day when they get up to go to work and stuff. And I know that that’s not always the case, right? I do think we have a lot of people that, and I would hope we have a lot of people that enjoy the work that they do and if you want to be on the interesting projects and getting the good jobs and things in the future, you just want to be going there. That’s what it feels like to me.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I agree, man. I think you touched on a lot of important points there. Number one is you can’t put your head in the sand because innovation is going to happen and if you don’t pay attention, you’re getting left behind. The other thing you mentioned was, or kind of alluded to, was the fact that some people do it out of obligation or they feel pressured or they feel like that’s what all the cool people are doing. That’s obviously the wrong reason. I’ve run into that man. The biggest problem that I’ve seen with it isn’t that, oh, it’s a new thing and now we’ve got to learn this because that’s just the game that we’re in. We’re in the change business.

Nigel Poulton:
It is, yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
The problem I see is managers or leadership want to buy transformation, right? They’re just like, “Oh yeah, just invoice me and then give it to the team,” and they’re kind of punting their responsibility to the paint division to get the people there to take the time and earn it because completely modifying all the way you run your apps is not something you can do overnight. I think the unrealistic expectations and a lot of the failures that I’ve seen of any of just cloud projects in general, not just Kubernetes and containers, but it’s just been that rushing into it. I think patience and also knowing your strengths as a team. Like you mentioned, what are the skills on the team, but really having a point and a purpose like why are we even doing this? Is this solving a problem? And so to what you said I think is an important underline for everyone listening that we can’t just ignore this stuff. It’s not going anywhere.

Mike Pfeiffer:
There’s so many services that are now predicated on these technologies. We have to understand it, but we also have to know that it’s not happening overnight for some people. Some people will just go right in and they’ll be great, right?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah. If I could make a comparison to when we first started deploying VMware properly at an organization I worked for a lot of years, right? A lot of years ago. We sort of prototyped VMware in a lab and then we started talking to the wider organization about how cool it was and you know, what it could do and how it could save money and stuff like that. We literally came up against a brick wall. I remember at the company he was effectively the data center manager back in the day when like being a data center manager meant that you kind of were in charge of applications and stuff as well, at least at this organization.

Nigel Poulton:
We came up against the data center manager and the help desk manager who were pretty much, yeah guys it looks cool but under no circumstances will you get anywhere near anything production with that VMware stuff. We were forced to then pick and choose the right project so they would be bite size. I look cheesy, right? But the low hanging fruit, if you will. Obviously nothing that was business critical line of business or anything like that. And we took like, we were almost forced into taking small steps and I think most people probably had a similar experience, right? As you gain experience and as you gain skills and all of that kind of jazz and then you gain respect within the wider organization management structure, things like that, then we were able to grow it within the organization. We need to do the same thing now with containers and Kubernetes but the pressure is almost reversed. Whereas like you’re saying, senior management people are coming in and saying, “Get it done,” which is the opposite of what they were saying with virtual machines when we were trying to sell it from the bottom up. It’s like kind of coming from the top down. Get it done. We have to be the responsible ones this time that says, “Well, actually yes, but we will do it in a methodical and a professional way.”

Mike Pfeiffer:
100%, dude. That’s so true. That is spot on and I went to that. In 2007 I worked at a place where it was all physical, right?

Nigel Poulton:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Pfeiffer:
And there was a fight to get BM’s. It took 10 years. I just, a couple years ago, I migrated their last physical server to this virtual environment. It was like at the beginning it looked like this is never going to work. No one’s ever going to get, you know, and we’re never going to convince anybody. And then it took 10 years, but eventually now the whole place is virtual. And you’re right man. It’s history repeating itself.

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Let’s switch back a little bit. I have a couple other things I want to touch on there but you mentioned you’re going on these other platforms. Everybody knows you from Pluralsight. I think a lot of people have seen your books on Amazon. You’re also on A Cloud Guru. What are you doing over there? because I haven’t been watching that platform and I know that they just merged with another big vendor and things are getting kind of really interesting over there. I’d like to hear some stuff about that.

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah. Well so just sort of from my high level perspective, right? Pluralsight is a fabulous platform, right? I was originally with Train Signal. Train Signal got acquired by Pluralsight. The people at Pluralsight have been fantastic with me. I think there’s a great culture within the organization. You know, generally speaking, the people that I deal with, they’re passionate about it. To me, I know it’s growing as an organization, right? But it still has that sort of almost family startup feel about it that it had back in the early days. However, I just personally, and I think my wife was influential in this as well, we can’t have all of our eggs in one basket.

Nigel Poulton:
You shouldn’t do that in technology and production and stuff should you? You don’t want to stick everything in the same data center on the same set of floor tiles under the same whatever you know, HVAC unit.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s a great analogy man. It really is.

Nigel Poulton:
Well always right? We just thought we need to spread our risk a little bit. Like I say, look, I’m working on a new Pluralsight course and another one of my goals this year is to refresh and update a bunch of the Pluralsight courses I’ve got out there already, but we need to also have content out there on other platforms as well. Honestly just, it seems like everybody that I work with in these companies are super passionate about it. I’m yet to come across somebody who’s just a numbers business person. I know that they do exist in these organizations, right?

Nigel Poulton:
I feel like video training is still, what do you compare it to? Printed books, right? It’s obviously still super new compared to those and all of these platforms have been built by people who were passionate about it and did it because they wanted to change the world and they wanted to do something and that kind of culture to some extent. I don’t want to take it too far but still pervades within all of these organizations. I’ve had great experiences with them all. I mean, some platforms are bigger than other platforms, so get you access to more people and some offer better royalty packages and things like that. That’s different between them all. If I could say one thing that frustrates me though, Mike, is that I just wish that I could have all of my content under one roof without there being the risk that if they were to change things or anything was to happen that then I don’t know how I feed the family.

Nigel Poulton:
Do you know what I mean? A little bit like, we’ve got Netflix, there’s Hulu, there’s Amazon Prime, there’s over in the UK, we’ve got Sky, there’s all these different platforms and you want to go and consume your content and you’re like, you have to have five subscriptions almost.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right.

Nigel Poulton:
I will talk to people at conferences and they’re like, “Oh, are you going to do a Kubernetes deep dive course?” Well actually I have done one on A Cloud Guru and they’re like, “Oh, but I’ve got a Pluralsight subscription.” or maybe it’s the other way around, you know? That hurts me as just as an individual and as a trainer because I know again, like we talked about, when you’re training somebody, you have to value their time, right, and make the best use of that time that they are effectively giving to you. People’s money is also quite valuable to them, of course, and for them to then have like potentially multiple subscriptions. Look, I know we live, I do feel like we live in a golden age of learning and access to all these learning materials is way better than it has ever been before. It does just hurt me a little bit when I have to say, “Oh, sorry, this particular course that will be great for you isn’t on a platform that you’ve got a subscription for and there’s not really anything I can do about that.” That’s the drawback for me, if you will.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, I get it, man. It makes sense. I’m the same way. I’m publishing content on Pluralsight, but I’m also in other places and you know, they understand because they’re in that business and it’s cool. The reason why I work with somebody is the reason, kind of like what you said is to reach more people and also try to do more because you’re just putting, putting your eggs in one basket like you mentioned that’s a limiting thing. But-

Mike Pfeiffer:
One basket, like you mentioned, that’s a limiting thing, but… Oh go ahead.

Nigel Poulton:
No, I was just going to say, because a lot of them will deal only in exclusive content, and I would almost say to them all I would take a lower royalty if I could have it on other platforms, and I know that they might think, “Oh well yeah, you just want to broaden your reach and get more money overall,” or something, and maybe that would happen, maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know. But I do know that it would just make it easier for other people. Unfortunately I don’t have influence with these organizations. And look, they know their business models and stuff way better than I do, I just know containers and Kubernetes. What do I know about business and [crosstalk 00:00:42]-

Mike Pfeiffer:
Focus on that and let the other guys figure it out. You mentioned a good point though, it’s not going to be sustainable when you have to get a subscription for every service. So at some point we’ll have to figure something out. But I think it’s awesome what you’ve been doing, and I think that there’s a lot of people listening that probably have watched your stuff and like, “Oh man, this is impossible to do.” But you sharing your story helps because there’s probably a lot of people out there that have a thought in their head like, “Man, maybe I could do this someday. I know a lot of stuff. Maybe I could shoot a course.” What would you say to the people that are thinking that out there?

Nigel Poulton:
So have you seen Inception?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yes.

Nigel Poulton:
There’s this line, I believe, it’s in Inception, where… I’m going to butcher it here. But they talk about the power of an idea, and once you have that idea, I at least feel like I don’t want to get to the end of my life and I’ve had an idea or a desire to do something and have not tried. So I would encourage people, if an idea keeps coming back to you that you want to create something, look, it could be a piece of software. But if it’s a video course or if it’s a book or if you want to build yourself a blog or a website or whatever is cool these days, a YouTube channel, I don’t know. Anytime you get an idea like this that really keeps coming back to you, I would encourage you to do something about it because we just… I’ve talked about living in a golden age.

Nigel Poulton:
We just live in an age, well for most of us in the Western world and all of that, I understand that of course it is more difficult for people in other parts of the world and I’m not ignorant to that. But I think generally speaking, for the majority of people listening, the opportunities for you to be able to follow through on your passions and your dreams has never been better than it is now, and there’s no better feeling than, I don’t know, doing something that you’re passionate about. I will say to people, “Look, if I could start my life again and do my career over again, I would like to be a football or a soccer player.” Of course, I was never good enough. That’s never going to happen. So if I couldn’t make it as a soccer player, I would do what I’m doing now again, 100% of the time absolutely, I love what I do.

Nigel Poulton:
And by loving something that you do, I’m teaching everybody how to suck eggs here, but by loving something that you do, you just have a much better chance of being good at it. If I had chosen to do, I don’t know, law or something like that, I’m pretty sure I could be okay at law, but I’m not passionate about it so I would not be as good at law as I am at doing video training courses, and that’s not me saying I’m any good at video training courses. I’m just saying that if I did law, I wouldn’t enjoy myself as much, I wouldn’t be getting out of bed everyday thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m working on this today. I’m excited to do it, work until late in the night because I love it.” So yeah, if you think you’d be passionate about doing any of those things, honestly go ahead and do it.

Nigel Poulton:
But, again, like deploying Kubernetes or anything like that within an organization, you need to be careful about how you do it and plan it, so don’t jack in the day job or anything like that and think you’re going to make a lot of money on YouTube, but put in the effort and put in the hours and just love it, get out there and crush it. Seriously.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I love it man. I agree 100% and if you get that calling, you get that bug in your head or whatever man, you got to listen to that. I really agree with that and it’s a good way to… I think there’s a lot of people that are passionate about the tech, but they’re in this corporate grind position and they’re like… And this is a cool way for people to scratch that itch. But I would like to switch back to the more technical stuff real quick. What do you think about… There’s the CKA and the CKD track of you going down and really mastering the internals of Kubernetes. What do you think about people focusing on Kubernetes as a service in their chosen platforms?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Maybe higher level, like they’re focusing on Azure Kubernetes service, or EKS over at Amazon or GKE over at Google. Do you think there’s a play there for people that don’t want to necessarily become a deep dive internals Kubernetes person, but they want some more efficiency at the managed service layer?

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, I do. It’s an interesting thing. I think I’ve got two opinions on that. I see a lot of people that have a business need or somebody in the business at least telling them to start deploying stuff to Kubernetes, and I feel like the managed Kubernetes platforms… Interrupt me here Mike, if you think I’m not addressing your question or if I’ve totally missed what you’re talking about here. But if you were to start consuming from Google or from Amazon or Azure or DigitalOcean or somebody like that, so really easy on-ramp to Kubernetes, they provide a quote unquote production grade experience for you. And look, production grade means different things to different people, so read the small print there. But yeah, it’s a really cool on-ramp, and my encouragement would be yes, play around with them, consume them, put your applications on them, but at some point you need to master it and how it works. Otherwise when things start to break or they don’t go well and you’ve been enjoying yourself because somebody else is managing a platform for you and suddenly it’s not working, you don’t really know what to do or how to troubleshoot. It’s not a great situation to be in.

Nigel Poulton:
So yes, I would say, 2019 was a great year for all of the managed Kubernetes platforms out there, and I think 2020 will be going forward, and you look at things like… So generally speaking, 2019, the managed Kubernetes platforms were saying, “We will take the control plane aspects of Kubernetes for you and we’ll manage that for you, but you still manage all the nodes that your user applications run on.” And then you look at things like Virtual Cube written things and how they’ve been integrated into some of these managed platforms where you may potentially no longer have to manage the nodes that your applications run on. So it’s like more of an entirely managed service, and I think that that’s great from the perspective that maybe I’m a developer and I want to focus on applications and that’s a good thing. We don’t really want the infrastructure to get in the way or for it to be a huge learning curve for people. So if you’re that kind of application developer or a business that says, “I don’t really want to be in the business of building my own infrastructure and stuff, I just want to consume it as a service and run my applications on it.” I do think that’s a great model.

Nigel Poulton:
But I would always, and I might be old fashioned here Mike, because I come from an infrastructure background from the late 90s and the noughties or whatever you call them, and I just got this hangover that you’ve got to understand… For line of business production stuff, if you don’t understand how your application works and how the infrastructure and stuff works, you’re running the risk of… I don’t know, when it goes wrong, you just haven’t got a clue what to do. I feel like I’m waffling a little bit there. Yes, I love them. But I would like people to say if you’re using them as a quick on-ramp, still take the time to invest in really understanding how Kubernetes and everything works underneath so that you can consume it properly.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I think it makes sense. Especially if people are talking about doing the managed service version of these things to be a stop gap from getting vendor lock in. So if you have that conversation with a customer, then it’s like, “Well if you’re completely relying on managed service and you don’t really know how Kubernetes works, if you go to another platform, now you’re going to have a problem there because now you got to learn that platform.” I think it depends too on who the person is on the team. I think there may be some people that maybe they can have a higher level idea, but to your point, people supporting production infrastructure, whether it’s managed or not, they got to understand what they’re dealing with so they can ask the right questions. I know it was kind of a gray area, but the reason I’m asking is because those conversations are starting to come up. But on that note, kind of related to that, I’d be curious to hear your perspective on… And since you interact with so many people that are working through this, is there any common patterns that people get stuck on that you notice over and over and over again?

Nigel Poulton:
I know that people get stuck or find it harder when you move away from that low hanging fruit. So again, tell me if you don’t feel this is addressing your question, but as you get to the more complex applications, adoption and migrations just seem to slow down quite a lot. So things that require persistent storage and require more application level persistence and things as well. I don’t know, persistence is just a harder thing to do than… Or stateful is harder to do than stateless. We can all run stateless web servers and things like that in containers and on Kubernetes, that’s pretty easy and you can get a good head of speed going as you start deploying things, but once you start hitting things that require, call it a database, on the back end on, you want to run that on your container platform as well, that then becomes more of a challenge.

Nigel Poulton:
Then I see that people will start to say, “Okay, well we will and consume whatever our cloud’s native database… This type of database or that type of database is.” So let me just step back a bit. So they wouldn’t maybe go to… One of the reasons they might go to Kubernetes is that it will give them that ability to move from one cloud to another and even to an on premises Kubernetes deployment if they wanted to, because Kubernetes is Kubernetes wherever you run it. So if you write your application to run on Kubernetes and it’s in Azure today and you want to move to DigitalOcean tomorrow, relatively easy compared to if you weren’t running Kubernetes to abstract all of the cloud below it.

Nigel Poulton:
But then they’ll say, “Okay, we’re deploying our applications to Kubernetes and we’ll get into the stateful stuff and it’s a little bit hard. So we’re on AWS and we’ll start to consume some of their database as a service services.” And then if they want to move away from AWS to another cloud or to on premises in the future, those parts of their application are a bit stickier with AWS. I hope I’m not waffling there. Am I making sense there?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, that makes 100% sense to me. It’s great to get your perspective on this stuff, and it’s still so early too, there’s going to be so much that we see happen over the next couple of years. But this has been really valuable, man. I’m going to link up a ton of stuff in the show notes. So for everybody listening, there’s just tons of content from Nigel that’s going to be awesome. Magic Sandbox is really insanely cool. You guys should check it out. Nigel, last thing I’d want to ask you, man, is, what is the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Nigel Poulton:
It was indirect. I was at a friend’s house a lot of years ago now, and I’ll be careful how I say this, just because I don’t mean any disrespect to anybody when I say this, but his dad was in a bit of a bad place in his own personal life. I remember him saying it. He just having to get out of bed on a Monday morning to go to an awful mundane job that he really didn’t like, and I remember being sat there and just thinking to myself, “Cannot bear to allow myself to get into a life where I would literally hate to have to get out of bed and dread a Monday morning.” I’m super careful about how I say that, Mike, because I understand that we all have to do what we have to do to support ourselves and our family. And in no way am I disrespecting anybody that has a difficult, mundane job. But I remember thinking on that day, “I have got to prepare myself for a life where I can enjoy going to work and enjoy getting up on a morning,” and don’t get me wrong, I’m not a morning person by any stretch, but I do love what I do and I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in something where I was like, “Gosh, how can I face another like 20 years of this?”

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s a really good message. I agree. It’s important because you spend most of your adult life working and if you’re going to be doing that and you might as well enjoy it. All right, Nigel Poulton, I really appreciate you taking the time. I know there’s a big time difference for us as well, so thank you so much, and maybe we’ll have you back on another episode sometime later this year.

Nigel Poulton:
Yeah, by all means.

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