Interview With Tim Hohman, CEO and Co-Founder of BoxBoat


Rancher Labs, creators of the most widely used Kubernetes management platform, has expanded its Platinum Partner Program in EMEA. We sat down with Tim Hohman – CEO and Co-Founder of BoxBoat, one of Rancher’s Platinum partners, to deep dive into the value this program brings to the ecosystem.

Here is a rush transcript of our interview with Hohman.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I love your logo. I do know there is some history and a story there. Tell us a bit about the company.
Tim Hohman: Well, BoxBoat was founded in 2016. The big brand at that point was Docker. Everybody was hot on Docker and as the open source technology in the company. And so BoxBoat was founded primarily around enabling companies with containers and so we built our logo around that. So it’s a container ship and actually the slang BoxBoat, is the slang name from the dock workers for a container ship.

Swapnil Bhartiya: BoxBoat predates a lot of technologies that we are going to talk about today So tell us a bit about how you see the evolution of Kubernetes, one of the largest open source technologies in this space. At the same time, how it has created new opportunities for companies like BoxBoat?

Tim Hohman: It was a crazy time early on, because Rancher had cattle. Docker had Swarm and Kubernetes was just coming along and enterprises really didn’t know where to go with that. There was a lot of confusion and all those technologies had merit, but then the industry kind of coalesced around Kubernetes, and since then that’s really been great for enterprises because now there’s a target. Now everybody can get the advantages of Kubernetes, which are incredible. So, as a company, we see a lot of opportunities enabling enterprises with DevSecOps and Kubernetes, because of all that it’s doing.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I want to understand a bit about your services, your solutions, your product, and what kind of offerings do you have?
Tim Hohman: We are primarily a consultancy. So we help people with implementation, engineering services. We are helping them build pipelines, install Kubernetes clusters; Rancher specifically. And then we also do a lot of training and then a lot of strategy work. If you are an enterprise, a lot of times it’s driven by a development organization that says, “Hey, we built this application with containers, and we want to deploy it on Kubernetes.” And the operations team kind of gets stuck. That’s when they bring in BoxBoat. We do a maturity model assessment and say, “Okay, where are you today in terms of being able to support container-based applications and Kubernetes, and what do you need to do to move to industry best practices around that?” We build them a roadmap, and then we come in and enable them to do that.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What are some of the major challenges or problems that you see, that the clients that you consult and help with, face when they embrace these cloud native technologies?
Tim Hohman: A lot of the challenges come around just people in processes, right? I mean, sometimes putting the technology and getting that to work isn’t so hard, but there are new processes for how development communicates with QA and how QA communicates with operations. And so really just uplifting those organizations to learn how to do that and able to then leverage the scale and the speed that these technologies can give you, is sometimes a big part of our implementations.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Where does Rancher come into the picture?

Tim Hohman: Rancher has got a great solution for managing multiple Kubernetes clusters and also helping the development team essentially pick the container images they want, the applications they want, use the development on it and then push those things to deployment. And so they make that really simple. And so the operations team, once they start using Rancher, it’s very easy for them to manage and maintain their Kubernetes clusters. But where most organizations struggle, is kind of the things around that, right? Which is the communication with development, getting the applications into microservices, so that they can be deployed in this new Kubernetes architecture.

Swapnil Bhartiya: There are a lot of players now if you look at the Kubernetes or Cloud Native space. It’s a crowded space, though there’s a lot of consolidation happening in this space. Why did you choose Rancher as a technology partner? What value you saw in them or what benefit do they bring to you or your clients?

Tim Hohman: So there are lots of good answers to that. I mean, the first one is, is when that coalescence to Kubernetes occurred, Rancher was the fastest to pivot and then they did a great job of building a solution that is just one by one knocking down what enterprises need to best manage multiple Kubernetes clusters and the end to end container workflow. They’ve done a great job with that. Secondly, lots of times when you partner with a company it comes down to people and we’ve just been very impressed with their people, from the executives to the salespeople, to the field engineers, to the guys in engineering that we’ve met. With that, people work together and we’ve been able to then create great opportunities for BoxBoat and Rancher.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What unique value does this Platinum Program bring to partners like BoxBoat? Is there anything unique, specific or additional that you get from them?
Tim Hohman: Certainly. Number one, I think we have better visibility within Rancher because of that. Their salespeople know that we are experts in implementing the Rancher technology and the things around it. Number two, we’re engaged with our marketing department around their Rancher Rodeos and their masterclasses that they do. So we get opportunities to be involved in those events and that provides BoxBoat, a smaller company, exposure to lots of markets, which is very helpful for a company like us.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And since you mentioned exposure to a lot of markets Rancher has expanded its program to the EMEA region also. What does that mean for you?

Tim Hohman: That won’t have much impact on BoxBoat. We’re primarily focused on North America and really kind of East of the Mississippi. But I think for them, they’ve done a lot of business in EMEA the last few years. And so I think by moving that program over there, they’re going to be able to reach out to great partners over there and then further their reach into the enterprises there.

Swapnil Bhartiya: 2020 has been a very crazy year so far, because of so many different reasons. I mean, out of this unfortunate situation, there is something in the positive that is happening, which is also that suddenly moving to Cloud has become an urgency. Companies who are already on their Cloud journey further, they are the ones who is able to compete, survive, and help their users. As we’re all stuck in our houses, we still have to do a lot of things. So those are the companies who are helping us. What does it mean for the whole Cloud Native ecosystem? Earlier we were trying to tell people to move, now people do understand. So from not in general, but also post-crisis world, what do you think 2020 will look like when you look at your engagement with a company like Rancher, who are one of the front runners in this Cloud Native space?

Tim Hohman:I think this crazy time we’re in has done a few things, right? So one, you have a lot more people working remotely, right? Two, you have a lot of people hitting applications, whether it’s eCommerce sites or Zoom, that is expecting kind of web-scale performance, right? So these sites need to now run like Amazon, Google, Facebook, right? And so the technologies that drive that, the run of the mill companies, can now act like those big companies is Kubernetes and Rancher has a piece of that, right?

So you can rearchitect your sites to be able to work at web scale. And that’s now becoming something that every company needs to do, because no American wants to hit a website and have slow performance or have it breakdown on him, right? So companies like BoxBoat, we can help those companies get their sites, get their applications to where they want it by leveraging these open source technologies like Rancher.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And if you look at the Platinum Partner Program that Rancher has. Can you tell our viewers a bit more about how somebody can join the program? What are the core benefits, why they should join it and what are the resources available here?
Tim Hohman: Well, sure. The Platinum Program is great, because what Rancher has done is kind of package it all up so that a solution provider like BoxBoat can easily ramp up on the Rancher technology, engage with the Rancher team. They released a new portal that has all of their latest collateral and tech data sheets and that helps us go to our customers. So that when our customers are looking for the latest information, we know we can go to that portal to get it. This seems like an easy thing, but with lots of different companies you work with, that doesn’t happen. It’s really hard to get the materials you need in order to get the right thing in front of the customer.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Tim, thank you for taking time out of your schedule and talking a bit about this Platinum Partner Program and I look forward to seeing you at some point to learn more about what you’re doing there. Thank you.
Tim Hohman: Thank you so much, it’s been a great event. Thank you.