Ep#64 The Ultimate AWS Recipe for Success with Mike Zazon & John Culkin

May 12, 2022

Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to Click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!

EP64 Mike John AWS Cookbook 1280

About the Guest

Mike:

I am an author and senior cloud architect at AWS, former software engineer, team leader, operations leader, trainer, entrepreneur, and solutions architect focused on enterprise adoption of cloud technologies with 20 years of tech industry experience. For the last 10 years I have working with the most widely adopted public cloud providers (AWS, Azure, and GCP).

John

Experienced and curious problem solver with a demonstrated history of working in enterprise information technology. Skilled in Enterprise IT Strategy, Cloud, Enterprise IT Infrastructure, and Databases. An undergraduate BA and MBA focused in Management Information Systems (MIS).

Episode Summary

Mike Zazon and John Culkin discuss what it takes to create the ultimate AWS recipe but instead of using someone else's cookbook. They decided to create their own AWS Cookbook of best practices and recipes for success on AWS.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

Host: Jon

It's time to create the ultimate recipe for success within your AWS console and bake a fully functionable web server. How about we pull out our AWS cookbook and see what type of ingredients we need. Hmm, Hmm. Yeah, let's do this. I think it's time we get this recipe started. Let's start off what our VPC let's add a subnet. I want my web server to access the internet. So let's set up that internet gateway. Okay. Time to deploy our web server. Let's move on over to the C two console and deploy our instance. Grab our C two instance, which includes our OS our CPU and Ram let's select our EBS storage. How about some tags, maybe a security group so we can access it. What else am I missing? A key ingredient? Uh, maybe a key. Do I want to access this instance? Let's grab our key. All right, let's stir this up. Mm. This is smelling good. Let's throw it in the oven and see what it comes out. Bam. Now I have the ultimate web server. Thanks to the AWS cookbook. Joining me today are the authors of the AWS cookbook, Mike ZZA and John Caulkin. Before I bring them onto the show. How about you hit that like subscribe and notify. Okay. Time to welcome Mike ZZA and John Calkin to the show. Mike, John, thanks so much for joining me.

Guest: John

Awesome. Thanks so much for having us.

Guest: Mike

Yeah. Thanks for having us

Host: Jon

Guys. This is super exciting for me to join. Have you guys join the show? Why? Because I wanna talk about the book that you guys wrote. The AWS cookbook recipes for success on AWS, by the way, I think this is a long time coming and I'm surprised that nobody else has done it before you, so thanks for taking the initiative on it. Let's jump right into it. I wanna give a little backstory to the audience. John, I'm gonna start with you. Why? Because I heard you're from my neck of the woods.

Guest: John

Absolutely. Well, I like to think that you're from my neck of the woods, John, but no, we, we are lucky enough to live close to each other physically about 45 minutes away. And you know, at the time we were working at AWS and we, we met each other and it was great to just collaborate with you, cause I'm a, I'm a longtime listener of your podcast. So I'm really thrilled to be here in person today. Speaking.

Host: Jon

Thanks, John. Appreciate, I definitely appreciate the support. Uh, those who say they're a long time listener. I now have five of them. Thank you. You are number five. So I appreciate it. Mike, how about yourself?

Guest: Mike

Um, so I'm actually from Ohio and, um, you know, I spent a number of years at Ohio state university and, um, ended up working with John at a company called cloud reach. After I left the university, uh, we had a great time together and, um, you know, our friendship and, uh, professional relationship blossomed at the, at cloud reach there.

Host: Jon

So cloud reach actually used to be one of my partners when I was at AWS. Wow. The small tech world.

Guest: Mike

I love it.

Guest: John

Absolutely.

Host: Jon

That's pretty good. All right, guys, let's jump into it. I wanna know. And I'm sure audience wanna know, you know, John, why, how did you come up with creating this book? What was the whole backstory in the process and how long did it take you to get this done?

Guest: John

No, it's a great question. You know, as Mike mentioned, during our time together at cloud reach, we were, you know, leading teams, part of teams that were helping customers, you know, navigate their cloud journeys, be it a migration and optimization. And we were lucky enough to have those experiences and be on a lot of projects, you know, boots on the ground. And we learned a couple of things, um, that we kept explaining to customers and explaining to ourselves. I feel like we've learned a lot writing the book. So I was grateful for that. And we really just wanted take a chance, um, take a breath and write down those learnings and hope that it helps somebody else along their way, because absolutely when we had a problem, we would search the internet, um, search the forums and find somebody else who had done it before. So we really just wanna try to help in that way.

Host: Jon

How about yourself, Mike? Why, how, I mean, what, who came up with this idea to write this book? Were you guys sitting down scratching some things on the napkins? Uh, did it happen and start before the pandemic hit? Did you guys get together

Guest: Mike

Well, I'll credit the job for the initial idea. Um, I know we talked a lot about the concept of something like this, as we were working together, you know, we would go out for dinner after working with our customers and being like, boy, we always are, you know, explaining the same kind of thing or, um, you know, pointing people to documentation, patient everything, um, or, or as, as simply as you could put it. And so our verbal explanation kind of right next to somebody was always something that, uh, we thought was really valuable. And we thought, what if we could write it down and create these little, just these nice little snippets of things. And then we, we also have this concept in the book of these fast fixes, like pointing people to like little one liners to solve a little quick problem. So, um, you know, it all kind of came together in a, in a really neat way.

Host: Jon

Mike, who was your initial customer when you guys thought about this book? Was it an AWS, an internal AWS person? Was it your actual, one of your own customers that you were thinking about it? Or maybe somebody that's just trying to get into AWS and understand a little bit more about it

Guest: Mike

Working with a, uh, pretty big enterprise company at the time. And we were working on application migrations and John and I were kind of, um, part of a couple different migrations. So we would work with application developers or, you know, cloud engineers. And, um, we really saw just a commonality amongst the questions they were asking us,

Host: Jon

John real quick question. First of all, I got, I like how in the beginning of this book, you guys talk, I am roles and policies and security right away. Uh, as I was going through the book, I'm like, okay, this is something that you normally see halfway through it or at the end, but you jump right into it for the customer to understand the full potential and the security around the environment. John, what was the idea behind that?

Guest: John

I'm glad you, uh, noticed that because security being the first chapter was not a coincidence. And as you mentioned, such an important topic and really need to be understood well, as you're going about recipes later in the book, like when you're approaching serverless or databases, you really wanna have a grasp of what's available and how to configure security roles so that your intended access is what is actually, um, comes, is what actually happens. Um, we loved the tools that were available, uh, by a AWS. And that was a chapter that I really learned a little bit and I was happy to get my hands dirty with, for example, the, uh, the role analyzer to actually, you know, policy analyzer, excuse me, to really find a way to test your, your policies in what access they grant before you put them in use. So I thought that was a really powerful pattern and we were, would have to write that recipe.

Host: Jon

Now, was this a joint, uh, that you guys worked on together for the security or does one person have more passion about it? How about it, Mike?

Guest: Mike

I think we both share a similar passion for it. It's, um, it it's something that needs to be at the core of what we do day to day. Um, you know, it there's, uh, there's, there's so many interesting ways to craft a great security posture in AWS. And when you're just starting out, if you learn some of these foundational basics, um, you, you know, it, it just sets you up for success long term. Um, like the, the policy analyzer is great, you know, generating a policy. We go through maybe analyzing some access patterns and then being able to automatically make a policy. That's a good starting point. Um, and, and also just for the purposes of the book, we, uh, walk readers through setting up a, a role based access just for themselves so they can get away immediately from using a root account, sorry, root user, which, um, some folks get in the habit of early. Um, just create a quick one and, uh, have something to just go through all the recipes in the book with. So, um, you know, I think those nice little steps in the direction of a great security posture are really important for readers to understand early. And then, uh, you can jump into any chapter in the book after you've got everything set up.

Host: Jon

I agree with you now. I think AWS has done an excellent job of changes in security throughout the whole tire of implementation and how long it exists. They've done a much better job of making it easier to implement security and making it like, you know, step one, ground, zero for it. Everybody. I wanna let you know that we're talking with John Caulkin and Mike Zon about their book, their AWS cookbook recipes for success on AWS. John, how long did it take you guys to write this book?

Guest: John

It was a process. And especially as first time authors, it was probably more work for us. And as you can realize things that AWS world changed rapidly, that also made it more challenging. So I would say, start to finish about a year and a half. And we tried to tell ourselves to use the pandemic almost as a, as a way just to zone out. There's nothing else to do. So really just sit down. Kind of one of our motto was write with fire, edit with ice. So you really had to, you know, don't worry if you're in a writing mode writing phase, just get some contact down, get some ideas down, come back when you're in a different mindset and really analyze those and do some editing. But it did take a while. And one of the biggest changes, um, during the process of writing the book was the release of the CDK 2.0.

Guest: John

So we did use the CDK an awesome tool to develop some scenarios. So as you talked about these recipes, our recipes for success on AWS was our tag line. And we wanted to create scenarios that you might encounter at our customer site on a work site that you started, uh, as a new employee. So, um, one example would be, um, a recipe that required a VPC subnets. Well, we wanted to give you code with the CDK that created those subnets, that then you could use in future steps to create the recipe we're working on. So when the CDK updated, we kinda had to go back and re rewrite a bunch of recipes. So it was, it was painful, but we loved having the new version of CDK.

Host: Jon

Mike, how's it feel with AWS constantly updating and enhancing their features. And then all of a sudden you have this book 90 some percent now I'm just speculating completely like, oh man, we gotta make this right. We, we gotta go back and do it because it it's for the customer. They gotta see and they gotta interact and really feel the exact thing that we're going through.

Guest: Mike

You know, that's, it's a really good question there. And I think I, I do think that we have somewhat taken this, so we understand that, right. And the, the new features that come out, that's one of the reasons people love the cloud. AWS listens to customers and implements things and fixes things, or improves things very quickly that, that, that nice feedback loop there really customer driven. But one of the things that we've tried to do is kind of Futureproof things in a sense our, uh, our GitHub repositories, uh, they're, they're living repositories. So we encourage readers to go check code out, maybe even contribute some code if they'd like, it's all open sourced and our MIT license. Um, and then for us too, if anything's been updated, syntax has tweaked at all. We can make the updates and, uh, ensure that people have a smooth experience running through the book and the concepts that we go through. We, you know, as things change and evolve, we do call that out in the book, for sure. Like, you know, if you pick up this book five years from now, we do hope that you'll still pick up these great foundational concepts that you'll need. And that's what we were trying to, to package up there. And so with that, plus our kind of living code repository, we do feel like this is a, a resource that is going be, uh, relevant for a long time.

Host: Jon

Now we will be talking about some of the free stuff that Mike and John are providing stay tuned. Plus I will provide the links in the description below. I, I think having it as a GitHub and a living breathing document that you guys have full control to update. Imagine trying to update a book here, let's do the new release. Here's a new version that comes out and it's a constant cycle where you guys have full control with the GitHub. Now we're not gonna spoil it yet for everybody, but I will provide it. And I want you guys to talk about some of the free stuff you provide, John question for you. And actually Mike, I'll ask you in a second, the same one. How many of your peers knew you were writing this book?

Guest: John

Um, a few, because I would, you know, maybe ask for some tips about some common scenarios, but it was something we did after work hours. So, um, definitely something we toiled with by candlelight, um, overnight, so that, you know, a few of them were definitely were surprised when it kind of came on, was published over social media channel and they recognized the amount of work, uh, the mountain of work that it took and we're happy to see it. So that was a good feeling.

Host: Jon

Mike, how about you?

Guest: Mike

Yeah. You know, um, pretty similar kind of, um, uh, you know, definitely after work stuff and, um, you know, what, one of the things that John and I did do was, um, go to a couple of our peers that we've been working with for a while. And we've, you know, um, we asked them for some help. Um, the technical review process of the book was, was really, really important to make sure that we got things, um, you know, kind of dialed in very, very accurate. Um, and so we, we pulled some, some, some great folks from, from our Rolodexes of, um, people that we've worked with and people we trust to, to, to run through. Um, we, we think everybody that contributed it was, it was really fun collaborating with them and learning along the way from them about how to, how to talk about something in a, in a different way, maybe a more broader context, you know, just little tips that we've got from, from folks that we worked with was, was just really, really awesome.

Host: Jon

Mike, what is your manager or skip say about you guys writing his book? Did they know going into it or be like, oh my God, you guys wrote this. I'm, I'm assuming your manager knew for some of the things, but be like, wow, awesome job guys.

Guest: Mike

It it's it's, it was definitely, um, great to get the support of, um, our managers. I think John and I both, um, you know, there is a, a process that we have to go through to make sure that we're, um, um, you know, doing this in a, in a, in a proper way since we are employees of AWS. Um, so, you know, after work hours work on the book and, um, really understanding, um, what it means to, to be an employee and you know, that our opinions are, are our own, but we're gonna put everything out there accurately, but we're also unbiased when we present the book as well. We, we want to have, have a nice, nice, nice doing things, but point to the best practices that AWS has already called out. And we, we, we got great support from, from, um, our, uh, leads and, uh, uh, peers with, within the company. For sure.

Host: Jon

Mm-hmm <affirmative> John, how about you now? Wait, wait, real quick question. Are you guys on the same team and I have the same manager on separate teams. Okay. So this question does apply to you as well.

Guest: John

No, but, um, absolutely on different teams, but similar support. And it was great to have that support and of course we're customer focused. So anytime we get a chance to kind of scale our knowledge and learn more in the process, not interfering with our nine to five responsibilities, it was just a great experience.

Host: Jon

Nope. I agree. In fact, that's why we're doing this bright and early in the morning, not to interfere with any of your time and dedication to support to your customers. Question on the book. I got a forward by Jeff Barr. How did that come about?

Guest: John

I got to meet Jeff Barr a few years ago, actually as, uh, through the AWS subreddit. So I happened to be a moderator and I still am a little bit now he was actually asking for some employees to get the AWS employee flare so that they could more appropriately interact with users on the subed, which was awesome. And our relationship just kind of progressed from there, started working at AWS in October of 2019, had the idea for the book and what, what better person, uh, who better to help us with the process and, and pan it forward. So we were really lucky to have Jeff's input and, uh, just overlooking articles cuz obviously as you know, you know him, well, he does such a great job of distilling complex complex topics in blogs, you know, in words, in videos, in his video recap, so great asset to have for the process. And we really can't think of enough.

Host: Jon

Exactly. I agree with you, Mike, what did you feel about that? And you know, how awesome is it to work with Jeff?

Guest: Mike

What, what a, what a humbling experience to, to be able to, um, just, just, you know, get a little bit of Jeff's knowledge and um, his process, you know, one of the things he told us about kind of early on in our process, which, which did, you know, it took us a little bit to figure out, but it resonated kind of right in the middle of the process was right. Trying to write in final form. Right? You're trying to minimize the amount of time you have to go through your, your own content and, you know, keep, keep chipping away at it. Right. And so we figured out how to adjust our process to, to fit that. And um, the way we present a recipe that really came together and John did a great job of really trying to, um, codify and temp, tify our process. Um, and, and Jeff's input was really instrumental in helping build that out.

Host: Jon

Uh, you mentioned humbling. Jeff is very humbling, very knowledgeable, but he's so personal, great guy, uh, to interact with. So I I'm glad that you got it forward when I said forward by him. And I saw that I was like, you know what, more than a perfect guy to, you know, kind of give it on, on this book. I have another question. I have, you know, this book you guys just released, what was it? Uh, has it been six months by now?

Guest: John

Not even, uh, late December of 2021 was

Host: Jon

Really okay. Yeah, right around there. I saw that it was posted almost six months. Come on. We're almost into may, by the time this comes out, this recording comes out. It will be may. Now AWS has been around what's it been 16 years. Right. Um, you figure this book was like, would've been maybe in the first five years, but I think you guys did an experience, uh, Warner Al's thing for there's no compression algorithm for experience. You guys have taken all that time to kind of gather all the information, be like, listen, nobody else has done it. Nobody else has put it out. And now we have 15 plus years of experience to put it into this book. I think this is perfect timing. I mean, there's no better time to get into it. And you guys have just provided, you know, the first step for people

Guest: John

You're right. I think the best time to get into it was when it started, but the second best time is right now. So, you know, there's not a, not an excuse to just break, open the book. And I, speaking of Jeff and how he wrote the forward, I really like how he describes it as a cookbook. He of course recommends the first chapter security to get a first understanding of that and get your posture set up. But then it's gonna be something you're gonna go back to. So as you mentioned, you know, you might need a database recipe one day. You might need to serve this recipe another day. So you're gonna kind of have it around and hopefully it's the resources that you can use for years to come.

Host: Jon

I agree. My quick question for you after you guys posted, right? How many of your peers reached out to you? Social media internal and be like, oh my God, I didn't know. You guys wrote this. This is awesome. I'm sending this out. I mean, what, how many people reached out to you? What was the feeling?

Guest: Mike

It was really cool. Um, you know, to, to hear from folks that we've worked with in the past and that, that might know John and I are just me or, or, you know, just John and, um, you know, a couple of John's old friends reached out and said, Hey, you know, nice job on that. Just getting those little pings here and there, it was really encouraging. And um, and then furthermore, the people that have read the book that we don't even know who reach out through social media and they're just like, Hey, love the book. This is so awesome. Just wanted to connect with you. I really like how you guys did things. You know, I learned a lot, those, those that really pumps us up and for us to even impact one person with what we worked on that's that was that's really our goal. Um, it was just really, really awesome to hear from everybody.

Host: Jon

Yeah. How about you John?

Guest: John

Same. Uh, it was really great cuz anytime you create something, you kind of get a little nervous as you put it out there. You like your baby into the world. Um, as much as you need to have an internal locus of evaluation, you know, to let yourself, you can't get too flattered, you can't get too down when you see a one star review, but it really was nice to feel the support from people just to say, Hey, we love that you put something out there. What can we do to help? Uh, here's a, here's a LinkedIn share. Here's a, here's a tweet like, um, thanks so much. And one of the things we I liked is that other authors or prospective officers, you know, contacted us and said, Hey, how do we go through that process? How was your process? What do you recommend? And really allowed us to, to interact and keep the ball rolling there to give that.

Host: Jon

I actually did that, uh, a couple months ago when I saw an AWS folk that I knew wrote a book and released in O'Reilly. I was like, wait a second. I wanna do that. Now. I, I wish I had some more of the initiative to sit down and write a full on book. I have some ideas that I want to do, but there's always so much going on, but I, I can completely understand those reaching out to you with regard to it being like, oh, this is awesome. This is, you know, good job. In fact, when you guys posted it, I purchased my first copy. I was at an event. I gave it to somebody and you guys were so generous. They were so intrigued by the book. And I was like, you know what, here you go. I'll, I'll get another one. And you guys were so generous to send me my very own copy.

Host: Jon

In fact, I think we're planning to get together. I'd like to get this sign when we get together. And I know we're gonna try to get something in June or sometime this summer, you know, Mike you're in Ohio, John you're in Pennsylvania with me. So I think this is very doable. We'll meet halfway. Uh, we'll put together an event or maybe Mike's coming out this way. You know, since two of us are over here and we'll put together an event and AWS and we'll do a book signing, we'll talk about the topics in this. What do you guys think?

Guest: Mike

Sounds

Guest: John

Amazing. Awesome.

Host: Jon

All right. We'll we'll have to plan this. Okay. Let's talk about some of the free stuff. John, you gave me some links on GitHub, some of the free stuff from free chapters and you provided a lot. I mean, you almost gave this book away for free with all this stuff. Now I know you can only give so much away. Do you wanna talk about some of the things that you're providing to people from the start?

Guest: John

Absolutely. And you know, we're happy to give back and hopefully we can continue to pour more free content. But what we do have is, um, a bunch of GitHub repos under a GitHub organization for each chapter, but we also have a getting started repo, which has the full, complete preface. So I think that's a great way you could read and figure out who the book's for, what the book will give you what the book includes, how to get prepared to use the book before you even consider a purchase. And maybe you, you don't wanna make a purchase. Maybe you just wanna look at the free recipes. We also list free recipes, which are the complete recipe from the book. So it's gonna include a problem statement. And then we talk about the solution, which is a few state, a few sentences about what is going to include.

Guest: John

We always list a, uh, diagram of the solution to get a visual representation of what's gonna happen. We go through the steps, which we'll have some tips or hints in there as well or things to watch out for a few paragraph discussion. And then we end each recipe with a challenge. So if you really like that recipe, but maybe you want to take it farther or had some questions about what to do next. The challenge really gives you that, um, impetus to figure out what to do to extend it. So really great format. We liked it.

Host: Jon

Mike, what was the whole idea behind giving? Uh, I, I can't even put a percentage to it. I, I feel like it's like 50%. I mean, it's a good chunk of free stuff. What was the whole idea behind it? And by the way, I love it that you guys are given away like so much of this free stuff, because it's not about money to you. It's about providing the value and the education to the customers and the enjoyable process that you went through. And I'm sure it was painful at sometimes, but at the end it was well worth. It. What's the whole idea behind this.

Guest: Mike

Yeah. So, you know, putting out the content on GitHub, it's Gid hub.com/aws cookbook, um, you'll see the getting started, uh, repo there. And then each chapter, um, is, is named underneath that, that central landing spot. Um, the, you know, interacting with folks and, uh, you know, encouraging people to, to go in and suggest a new recipe. For example, like we want to hear from people maybe like, Hey, there's this new database service out and I wanna figure out how to use it. Great. You know, propose that as an issue in one of our, uh, um, repos there and we'll, we'll get on it. It's just, it's fun for us. Um, all of the preparation code for the entire book is actually there, um, with the free recipes that we give out, you get that additional context and the discussion that John mentioned, um, but, uh, you know, all the, all the code there is, um, is CDK 2.0. So if you wanted to learn a little bit of CDK, you can GOs Splunking through our code base as well. Uh, jump in, uh, and, uh, and get going.

Host: Jon

Awesome. So guys, before we wrap this, uh, Mike, is there anything you wanna leave with the audience now? It could be specifically to AWS. It could be writing a book, some passion stuff. You're about some content, whatever it is. I leave it as an open forum.

Guest: Mike

Well, I, I'll probably just, um, kind of tee on to what I was just talking about. Uh, it, it's really kind of connecting with the community that's out there if, um, if there's ideas for new recipes, if John and I see enough of these ideas that come out, um, we get inspired to write, you know, like some, some follow on chapters or something, whatever it might be connect with us on GitHub, LinkedIn, wherever you feel comfortable. Um, we, we love chatting with people and hear how they're using it, hear how they're learning. Um, so just, you know, get involved.

Host: Jon

You knew you were talking about, uh, maybe a book two where I'm throwing it out there, AWS cookbook, you know, dessert on AWS, whatever it is. Yeah. <laugh> just an idea. I claim that by the way, John, how about you? Anything you wanna leave with the audience?

Guest: John

I I'd really have to echo that. Just let's get involved. We'd love this to turn into a community platform. So maybe there was, it's a recipe or a topic that you wanna see create an issue. We'll upload it. Um, if there's something you think might be done wrong, create a bug fix. Um, if there's another chapter or a challenge you wanna see coded, we'll make that, um, we had some community members already come together and say they might publish some Terraform code for all the recipes. Awesome. So we just can't wait to see where it goes. If you wanna buy a copy. Great. But I, I think we really wanna encourage people to interact on that. The GI APO,

Host: Jon

Now he said, do you wanna buy a copy? That'd be great. If not, you can go to the GitHub repo. They do have their book on Amazon, right? Correct. Correct. Cuz that's where I bought mine. Yes. Throwing a little plug in there. We are talking with Mike Zon and John Caulkin on their book. AWS cookbook recipes for success on AWS now real quick guys, last question I have for you and I'm not sure you're allowed to share. Do you know how many copies you sold? Is that public out on the Amazon thing or in general?

Guest: John

That's uh, so it's been a couple months, Less than a million, more than a thousand.

Host: Jon

<laugh> that's a good round number. All right. We'll leave a generic. Yeah, I know. That's a, that's a big thing. That's okay. We're gonna talk about this again.

Guest: John

I hope so. Yeah. That sounds great. Thanks for having us.

Host: Jon

Yeah. Awesome. Everybody. My name's John Meyer. I've been your host on a John Meyer podcast. Joining me today was Mike ZZA and John Carlton talking about their book. AWS cookbook. Don't forget to hit that, like subscribe and notify guys. Thank you so much for joining me.

Guest: John

Cheers. Have a great one, John. Thanks, John.

Host: Jon

All right. Guess what? We're outta here.

 

Comments are closed.