Culture / Kubernetes

Kubernetes Gets a Children’s Book

26 Jun 2016 5:58pm, by

Matt Butcher's Children's Illustrated Guide to Kubernetes

Once upon a time there was a PHP application called Phippy. Phippy lived on a hosting provider, along with a lot of other apps, scary apps that she didn’t care to be associated with. Horrors! Whatever shall poor Phippy do? She longed for her own safe place, a home for just her and a web server to do her bidding.

Thus begins the first, and probably the only, children’s book about the Kubernetes container orchestration manager. “The Children’s Illustrated Guide to Kubernetes” was written by Deis platform architect Matt Butcher, who describes himself as a “lover of wisdom, coffee, and finely crafted code.”

“The other day my daughter sidled into my office and asked me. ‘Dearest father, whose knowledge is incomparable, what is Kubernetes?'” he jokes in the first page of the book. “All right, that’s a little bit of a paraphrase. But you get the idea…”

In a blog post, Butcher describes the book as a way to bridge the gap between geeks and non-geeks. “What better way to talk to your parents, friends, and co-workers about this Kubernetes thing you keep going on about, than a little story time.” The story features a nice set of appropriately colorful illustrations by Bailey Beoughey. The application is represented with a cute little yellow giraffe.

There’s a few print editions which are apparently being distributed at trade conferences and in Twitter giveaways (along with a “squishy little Phippy toy of your own!”). But Butcher is also sharing the story as a blog post, and as a special YouTube video that was created as a guest post for the Kubernetes community blog.

In the post, Deis’s CEO, Beau Vrolyk, calls the story an example of “fun in the Deis offices,” joking that “we like to add some character to our architecture diagrams and pull requests. This time, literally…”

So what happens with Phippy? Well, first she is visited by “a kindly whale” who swims by and suggests to Phippy that an application such as herself might be happier living in a container. Phippy discovers that the container was nice, “but it was a little bit like having a fancy living room floating in the middle of the ocean,” Butcher writes.

“The whale shrugged its shoulders. ‘Sorry, kid’, he said, and disappeared beneath the surface…”

A whale shrugs in the Children's Illustrated Guide to Kubernetes

Apparently, Phippy was in need of a good cluster manager. But luckily, just then she’s spotted by a wise old owl named Captain Kube — sailing a ship made from dozens of smaller rafts, all lashed together. The first thing he does is slap a name tag on her, then offers her a pod on his ship, “which felt like home.”

The metaphor may seem a little forced at times. (“What if I want to clone myself on-demand, any number of times?” the giraffe asks the friendly owl…) But it gives Butcher a reason to introduce Phippy to the wonder of replication controllers. Services are described as a tunnel to other applications, and Phippy is eventually granted her own volume to store “presents” from the other applications, as well access to an appropriate namespace.

“Together with her new friends, Phippy sailed the seas on Captain Kubes great boat. She had many grand adventures, but most importantly: Phippy had found her home,” Butcher wrote, before concluding that (Spoiler Alert!) “Phippy lived happily ever after. The end.”

It’s been fun to watch the reactions from other geeks online. The story drew 42 upvotes in Reddit’s “Programming” forum —  along with at least one rave review. (“This is adorable and beautiful. I don’t even do infrastructure work but I want to now.”) And it also drew 401 upvotes on Hacker News —  though a few commenters had some fun suggesting alternate interpretations.

“Looks like the owl took the giraffe prisoner to conduct unethical experiments like cloning.”

“I kept waiting for Captain Kube to kill Phippy.”

“Yeah,” joked another user, “the real story would probably be better told as a horror story … Captain Kube captures Phippy and locks him in a dark container on his ship and forces him to perform repetitive work around the clock without any breaks — To make matters worse, Captain Kube begins carrying out highly hazardous experiments on Phippy which involves cloning him, messing with the clones and then mercilessly slaughtering them one by one in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and suffering.”

After all, cluster managers were made for cattle and not for pets.

One of the most interesting discussions began when a user posted “I would pay good money to have complex topics like this presented in the illustrated child fable format.” This prompted several other commenters to point out that there’ve been other attempts to tackle complex technical topics in a friendlier illustrated format. One user suggested the SELinux coloring book, while others shared pointers to No Starch’s manga guides for databases, as well as electricity and linear algebra.

But again, most of the reactions for “The Children’s Illustrated Guide to Kubernetes” were unreservedly enthusiastic.

“i have never read something so entertaining and enlightening!! Thank you for that.”

“Technical writing at its best.”

“Thanks for this, I try to tell my fiance what I do at my job but she hasn’t understood until now!”

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