Steve Buchanan Interview

Steve Buchanan is based in Minnesota and has worked in Tech for over 20 years. His current role is Director on a Cloud Transformation and Mid-West Containers Services Lead’ with Avanade/Accenture.

Steve has a massive portfolio of achievements and experience including, 10 X MVP (Microsoft Most Valued Professional) awards, He is an international Public speaker including at Microsoft Ignite events, he has written many books, he is a PluralSight Author, Devops, AKS, AzureStack Hub and more! After having gained so much in his life, his passion for sharing knowledge has grown.

I must admit, I did go a little crazy when putting together the interview questions as there was so much to cover about Steve, but it still wasn’t enough! He is also the first Azure Stack Hub interviewee so you’ll find some great info in Steve’s interview on how to get started with Azure Stack Hub from home. Steve also explains the importance on learning Power Shell and how it can help in your career. I’m sure most of you will know Steve, but for those who don’t he is easily approachable and another one i will be looking out for at Microsoft tours!

Note: If you have any questions or feedback, please use the comment box towards the end of the interview. All comments are reviewed before we approve and notify the interviewee. Thanks

Steve Buchanan Interview

Tell us about yourself?
Well I am based in Minnesota and I’ve been in tech for 20 + years. My interests in computers began in my senior year of high school when I landed a job building computers/servers and working on networking for a small computer company. Now I am a ‘Director on a Cloud Transformation and Mid-West Containers Services Lead’ with Avanade/Accenture, author, Pluralsight Author, and a nine-time Microsoft MVP.

I consider myself a technology generalist who enjoys architecting solutions that solve business problems. Throughout my career I have mainly worked with Microsoft technologies and Open-Source technologies here and there with Open Source becoming more and more on a day to day. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology and a bunch of certifications.

I like to blog about my adventures in IT on my blog BuchaTech. I have been blogging there since 2007!

What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
Finishing my first book. This was a monumental task and I never pictured in a million years I would become an author. I also had a lot of nay sayers in the beginning telling me not to do it.  Instead of becoming discouraged I moved forward and it felt great to be published. The book has opened many doors such as leading to becoming a Microsoft MVP, speaking around the world, training opportunities and making really good friends around the world.

How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
Well I have been working with Microsoft technologies for all my career. At one point I was fortunate to specialize in the System Center product suite and ITIL. As the world shifted to cloud from on-premises so did I. It was easy for me to make the transition from a System Center focus to an Azure focus taking much of the knowledge I had using PowerShell to DevOps and System Center/ITIL to the native management tooling in Azure. It has been a great experience working in Azure and seeing how fast Microsoft is able to enhance it especially the native management tooling in Azure.

What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
I am an Azure expert with a focus in general Azure IaaS and PaaS. I do cloud foundations, Azure networking, Azure Management, and even SAP on Azure. In addition to that I also work with DevOps (Azure DevOps, Github etc.), and in the container world with Docker and Kubernetes. I get to use these technologies on a day to day basis with one of the top IT consulting firms in the world and I do training on the side via Pluralsight spreading my knowledge to help other tech professionals.

Could you tell us a bit about Azure Stack Hub? And what type of businesses would want to deploy Azure Stack Hub? What are the benefits? Why is it so expensive?
Azure Stack Hub is a true Hybrid Cloud solution extending Azure to your on-premises and or edge. Azure Stack Hub is essentially Azure running on your own hardware in a physical location you manage and control. Benefits of Azure Stack Hub are being able to run Azure where you have disconnected or field scenarios, if compliance and regulations are keeping you from running workloads in public Azure, if you have data sovereignty laws you have to follow, and if you just want to run Azure but gain more control. As far as the cost you are essentially purchasing a full cloud data center. No matter how you spin it running your own full blown cloud is going to come with a hefty cost. 

In your view what are the pros and cons of Azure Stack Hub?
Azure Stack Hub is a great way to bring Azure to your business when you have reasons keeping you from using public Azure. Also, Azure Stack Hub is a great way to extend Azure to geographies where public Azure isn’t yet available. I don’t have any hard set of cons for Azure Stack Hub, I view it as either there is a use case for it with your business or there is not. Azure Stack Hub is not a replacement for Azure but an extension of it giving us a true Hybrid Cloud platform.

I read one of your tweets about you recommending PowerShell being good for a techie’s career. Why do you feel this is the case?

Ah yes, you must have been referring to this tweet:

So, Jeffery Snover the inventor of PowerShell and Jason Helmick the PowerShell Program Manager retweeted my tweet! That felt really cool. I tweeted this right after I was a part of another Ask the Experts session at Ignite.

What this tweet essentially means is that PowerShell can be a game changer for your career in tech. PowerShell is a great tool for automation which can make you look good at work while improving things, it’s everywhere i.e. used in most Microsoft products, VMWare and AWS have PowerShell modules, and it’s in Linux, also it can be used as a gateway technology to the world of DevOps. It has been known to boost salaries, lead to promotions, and even open up new doors for careers. Again, if you haven’t been using PowerShell get started today!

We have heard of stories where techies have picked up and learned Powershell within months? How much effort is actually required to learn this skill when starting from scratch?
Learning PowerShell is all about practice. If you want to learn it yes grab some books, check out the documentation, and some training courses on it, but most of all dive in and figure out some low hanging task you can automate. Then automate away! It may take a while but once you get running with PowerShell you will be able to do some cool things.

You were recently part of an Ask the experts panel for Azure Kubernetes Service. What were the key points from this session?
Yes, I was a part of an AKS Ask the Experts session this year for ignite. The session was really a chance for attendees to interact with Microsoft AKS product group folks and community experts. It was focused on new functionality in AKS.

For someone who has never heard of Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), what is it? Who is it for? And what experience is required to get started with AKS?

AKS is an offering in Azure that is a managed Kubernetes. With AKS Microsoft manages part of your Kubernetes cluster to free you up to focus on the workloads you will be running on Kubernetes. With AKS, Microsoft also brings the benefits of Azure and Azure services to Kubernetes. For example, you can use Azure Policy, Azure Networking, Azure RBAC, Azure Monitor, and even Application Gateway with AKS allowing you to utilize tools in Azure you may already be familiar with. Microsoft has also started enhancing UI experience for Kubernetes by bringing the ability to see and manage Kubernetes resources right in the Azure portal. AKS is the fastest growing service on Azure and I am personally excited to be working with AKS on a day to day basis. Also keep an eye out for what Microsoft is doing with Azure Arc for Kubernetes.

Shameless plug here. My most recent book is on AKS. It is titled: “Introducing Azure Kubernetes Service: A Practical Guide to Container Orchestration“ and can be found by clicking the following link, Introducing Azure Kubernetes Service: A Practical Guide to Container Orchestration

I noticed you are involved in an Azure User Group. Could you give us some info on this group and who is the target audience is?
Yes, I help run the Minnesota Azure User Group. We have a board of 7 amazing folks who are committed to the Azure community. We typically do in person meetings but have recently moved to virtual meetings due to COVID19. I have been a part of the user group for several years now. It’s a lot of fun.

How could an existing IT Professional, for example with experience in IaaS get started with Azure Stack?

1) First download the Azure Stack Hub Development Kit (ASHDK)

2) Load up the ASHDK on your own server for lab time. Then check out the documentation for Azure Stack ASHDK

3) Watch a course I made on Azure Stack here: Implementing Azure Stack

4) And finally pick up my book on Azure Stack here

All of that should get you going with Azure Stack Hub!

What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
I hold the following certifications A+, Linux +, Microsoft Professional Program: DevOps, AZ-400 DevOps Expert, MCSE, MCSA, MCP: Azure, AWS Cloud Practitioner, ITIL Foundation, and Docker Certified Associate.

Working towards: AZ-120 Planning and Administering Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads, AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect, and Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA).

How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
I follow Azure experts on Twitter, train using Pluralsight, Cloudskills, and Whizlab courses, and Microsoft Learn. I have 3 of my own Azure subscriptions and I use these to practice and learn.

What would you recommend for someone who wants to become Azure certified?
If you don’t have an Azure subscription get one. Even if it is a trial. If you can’t do that or afford an Azure subscription spin up the Azure Stack Hub developer kit on your own server and practice on that. It is Azure! Combine labs with getting some books on Azure and taking some courses at places like Pluralsight and Cloudskills. Finally get on twitter and follow these people:  Mike Pfeiffer – @mike_pfeiffer, Thomas Maurer – @ThomasMaurer, and Tim Warner – @TechTrainerTim. That should help you go down the path for certification.

What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
Public speaking can be terrifying at first. I say start small and jump right in! Start by speaking at your local user group and grow from there. Over time you will feel more and more comfortable with it. You will always get nervous though before speaking. I still do right before I have to speak.

How did you become an MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional)?
I have been a Microsoft MVP for 9 years (currently in my 9th year). I got awarded the MVP by really giving back to the community, sharing my System Center expertise, and doing things outside of the box. Over time I was able to hit refresh moving into DevOps, Cloud, and in the world of containers! This led to me moving to being awarded as an Azure MVP for the past 2 years. It has been a fun ride so far and looking forward to more years as an MVP. Fingers crossed!

I noticed that you’re a book author. What books have you written? And how can our viewers download a copy?
I have authored 6 technical books and have been a tech reviewer on 6 books. I started writing books on System Center products. Some of my most recent books are Introducing Azure Kubernetes Service: A Practical Guide to Container Orchestration, and Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Unleashed with Azure Stack and Azure. You can visit my author page on Amazon here: Steve Buchanan Amazon

It must be a lot of hard work when it comes to writing a book! How much effort and time is involved with writing a book? When do you get the time!
My first book on Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2010 took me 10 months to write. I was a solo author on this book. It was a lot of work. Books typically require a commitment of evenings and weekends for a while. Authoring books are a lot of work but the benefits out weight the work.

What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
I am very excited about Azure Arc especially Azure Arc enabled Kubernetes. I am working with Azure Arc more and more and have some stuff planned around this.

Do you have any final words of wisdom?

Be Humble, Stay Hungry.

The most important question of all
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure?
(10 being the highest)

I have to leave 1 as room for other technology!

End of Interview

Name: Steve Buchanan
Amazon Author Page: Steve Buchanan Amazon
Pluralsight Author Page: Steve Buchanan PluralSight

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