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Expert talk: creating infrastructures with Kubernetes and Containerization

  • Geplaatst op woensdag 12 mei 2021

As the Operations lead for Avanade in France, Netherlands and Belgium, I have the honor to work together with a great team and a lot of experts. For this series I will interview some of them to learn what they did to become an expert in their field. We also talk about the role that Avanade plays in their development and what it is they are eager to learn more about in the future.

For this first interview, I had the honor of interviewing Ted van der Voorde, Kubernetes and Containerization expert at Avanade. Since this interview, Ted stepped up and played a critical role in ensuring that Avanade remains Microsoft Gold Partners in the Datacenter competency. And still, he is just like you and me. Perhaps most importantly, Ted is also kind and fun to talk to.

Hi Ted, thank you for taking the time to talk to me! Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

Yes, of course. I'm Ted van der Voorde. I'm an infrastructure and security architect at Avanade. I've been working at Avanade for three years. I started as a professional in IT in 1992 after I finished my Bachelor of Computer Science at what was then called the ‘HTS’ in The Netherlands. Before that I had been working on my Commodore 64 since approximately 1985, so I've been in IT for a long time.

As for my personal life: I'm married and I have two daughters who are 15 and 17, so these are interesting times. 

I can imagine! Can you share what you are currently working on?

I'm currently involved in two projects. I'm working for one of the largest optical retailers in the world. They are developing a new point of sale system and I'm part of that team as the infrastructure and security architect. I've been part of that team for more than a year. We started in January of last year with an architecture phase and a proof of architecture. Around July we started with the actual implementation. In August of this year we expect to have the first MVP (Minimal Viable Product) ready.

As this is not a full time assignment, I'm also involved in a project for a Canadian firm where Avanade is developing a solution that checks how a vaccine injection is performed, based on video that captures the procedure. They have a model that they want to test in Azure Machine Learning, which is being deployed on Kubernetes and they had some issues with that. I got involved to optimize the deployment to Kubernetes. This is a very interesting assignment as you can imagine.

Absolutely and it sounds like it's very relevant to society at the moment.

Yes, indeed it is.

It also sounds like the two projects are very different. Do you like the variety in projects?

They are very different and that makes it interesting and fun. But they are both very technical, which I like a lot.

In these two projects, what skills are most critical for you?

In both roles my understanding of how Kubernetes works is essential. Part of my role specifically, is to understand the impact of a certain choice on a design and on other systems. What is the impact of a decision to implement something in a certain way on existing systems and the environment in which we are deploying our solution? Either from an infrastructure or from a security point of view. It is key that I can oversee all aspects of the solution and that I understand and clearly communicate the impact for the client. That is actually one of the things that I do in most of my projects. And not just for the infrastructure and security elements but also how it will impact the software development and vice versa.

How do you determine that impact? What do you need to know to be able to do that?

Often, it's experience. But it's also about completely understanding the technology. Not just knowing how to implement it but really understanding how it operates behind the scenes. That understanding allows me to determine how it might impact other systems.

Does the experience you mention mean experience of where you have seen things go wrong in the past?

Yes, I think so. But also, where it went well. Not just from a technological but also from an organizational point of view. I think about whether a specific implementation will work for the organization itself.

So you don't just consider the technology side, you also have to take into account things like the organizational structure?

Yes, indeed.

How did you build your technical skills? And how did you determine that this was the topic that you wanted to know more about?

That's a good question. I've always been interested in the technical side of things. I’ve been doing other work as well, more managerial, and even finance, but my heart lies with technology. I didn't consciously choose a specific topic. I really liked operating systems, and everything related to that, so that's something that I was more involved in during the first years of my career. Currently I'm more focused on containerization and security. I don't have a clear list of technologies that I'm interested in. Often new technologies come along, become relevant at a project or for a client, and I dive into them and adapt. I can easily switch to something else if that's required. There's no predetermined path of things I want to work on or that I want to excel at.

I relate to that. I never know what I will do next, it always sort of happens. Do you have anything that you are currently interested in that you would like to know more about?

I would like to understand more about certain enterprise scale aspects of for example containerization. I've worked on many enterprise implementations, but I'd like to know how these solutions behave when scaled further. I'd like to gain more experience with for instance 10.000s of containers, or very large clusters. To understand how that behaves and what impact it can have one a solution or on an organization. I've worked on implementations for 10.000s of users but I would find it interesting to see what the dynamics are when you scale the containerization and Kubernetes part to the next level.

Are there already a lot of organizations that are working on containerization at that scale?

I think there are. For example, organizations like Netflix and Spotify are using containerization at a huge scale. And some of the organizations that I have worked with have a lot of clusters. While the clusters itself aren't that big, the dynamic of having a lot of clusters is also interesting.

What achievements so far are you most proud of in your career?

Having had the opportunity to start with Kubernetes a few years ago I have really put my focus and energy into becoming an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in that field. And I feel that having achieved all the Kubernetes certifications in a relatively short time is a nice achievement. And that after completion I'm still working with it and using that knowledge almost every day. That is something I really like, that I'm able to do that.

And you really are our number one expert on the topic of Kubernetes!

Oh now I feel the pressure :)

Nehh, that's just the recognition. Can you describe the role that Avanade has played in supporting you to develop your skills?

I think Avanade has really helped me because they have very interesting customers, which are on the forefront of technologies. It's not the standard work, but often the more interesting challenges that we get to work on. That is a part of my work that has developed my skills that I probably couldn't have done at my previous employers. This is one of the reasons that I'm very happy that I made the move to Avanade. That I'm able to do more of these kinds of projects . It is a more challenging environment. We work on a much higher level, so you are easily inspired to step up your game to be able to compete with even people in the organization.

I recognize that too. I always thought I was working hard and developing myself quickly before I joined Avanade, but the pace at which things move at Avanade - projects but also skill development - always keeps you sharp and interested.

Yes, there are a lot of smart people here and it's inspiring to be surrounded by all of them.

What advice do you have for other people who want to know more about Kubernetes and Containerization?

My advice would be to just start and get hands-on experience as fast as possible. Find some labs that you can try or just experiment with it for yourself. There is a lot of information out there so it's easy to find guidance on how to start. It's also completely free to start. You can find many free environments online that you can spin up and that have the full functionality. And as I said, it's a really fun type of technology. Just experiment and start playing around with it. To get a good understanding it's important to work with it often. Containerization and Kubernetes are really technologies that you learn by doing.

You don't get very far by reading about it?

No, it's important to be hand-on with it and actually do it. Reading about it won't get you very far in this case.

Is there anything else that people who want to become a Containerization and Kubernetes expert like you should know?

If you are experimenting with the technology and you see something happening that you didn't expect then you should really investigate. It's important to understand what triggered the behavior and why it works in a certain way. If you take the time to understand the details you will also really learn to understand how the technology works. It's also fun to experiment. If you are working on a lab then try to modify the lab and look at what the impact is of the changes that you are making. That will teach you things about the technology besides the basics that are covered in the lab. So in summary: experiment and really make sure that you understand the technology to its core.

When you're working on a lab you shouldn't be afraid to break something in it?

Indeed. One of the ways in which I learned a lot about Kubernetes is by installing ‘ Kubernetes The Hard Way’ . I followed an instruction that I found from a Kubernetes expert on the internet that was created for AWS and I upgraded it to a recent version and modified it for Azure. That really taught me a lot about all the different aspects of Kubernetes and how they all interact. That was a very useful experiment to start learning more about Kubernetes.

Is there any other advice that you have that we should mention before we close?

Yes, I think it's important that people spend time working with the technology. You shouldn't jump into architecture straight out of school. It's important to first understand technology and the impact on an organization. You need to experience that first hand. That prepares you for being able to advis e a customer on how to implement the technology and at least as important, when, and why not to implement certain technologies. You need to fully understand the complexity of the technology and organizations to be able to give sound advice. It's important to be patient and take your time to grow in your role and in your career. Don't go too fast, you might miss interesting aspects of the work and the role.

That sounds like excellent advice. Thank you very much for your time and for sharing your insights with us!

It was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

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