Book Review: Practical Virtualization Solutions

Quick Review

My review for the impatient reader:

Why I picked it up: I have some basic knowledge of and experience
with VMware, but wanted learn more about Xen and Hyper-V.

Why I finished it: It reads quickly and provides a good grounding
in virtualization terms and technologies.

I’d give it to: Anyone looking into upgrading their infrastructure
using modern virtualization tools.

Review

Practical Virtualization Solutions by Kenneth Hess and Amy Newman
covers a lot of ground. From basic introduction to the technology
itself, to advice about which of the big players to use now (and
which
to keep an eye on for the future), the authors walk you through all
of
the issues and potential gotchas of virtualization. Existing
virtualization users may find the early parts of the book a little
slow moving, but the advice in part 3 (“Hardware’s Role in
Virtualization”) looks at issues like I/O virtualization that most of
us haven’t seen before.

The most useful part of the book for me was chapter 2, which compared
the offerings from major virtualization vendors. The strengths and
weaknesses of the approach taken by each tool were explained, and the
authors give their advice, based on years of experience, about how to
decide which platform best fits your needs.

As part of the Negus Software Solutions Series, the book delivers
the promised hands-on experience in the remaining chapters of part 1,
where they give detailed procedures for setting up a virtual machine
and installing a guest operating system, using each tool in turn.
They go beyond the basic GUI instructions, too, as they dig into
implementation details like what the files in a virtual machine
definition contain. Each chapter ends with a real-world use case
showing how the tool helped an actual end-user.

Part 2 covers applications of virtualization for servers, desktops,
and network and storage resources. It is a good introduction to these
subjects, but not especially deep.

The third part of the book talks about hardware issues related to
virtualization. The authors emphasize the need to be realistic about
buying hardware to host your virtual servers, and include advice about
how to optimize your setup based on the hardware and software
compatibility between vendors.

They also discuss the tricky nature of network and I/O virtualization,
pointing out that adding more software to a part of the stack that is
already a bottleneck is unlikely to improve performance. They describe
the ways Vendors and OEMs are relying on hybrid solutions, with
special hardware and custom drivers, to obtain the best results.

Once you are convinced that virtualization is the right choice for
your setup, and you have done the work to select the appropriate tool,
you are ready for the planning advice in part 4. Beginning with tips
for justifying the move to a CTO or CFO, and then covering tools for
making the transition easier such as auto-discovery of services and
deployment automation, these final chapters reinforce and summarize
many of the tips from earlier chapters in the context of creating an
implementation plan.

Conclusions

I recommend this book for anyone considering getting into
virtualization who needs a comprehensive introduction. You’ll need
more detailed reference material once you select a tool, but
Practical Virtualization Solutions will give you the advice you need
to make that choice.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the
publisher as part of my participation in the CHUGALUG Book Club.