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.


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.


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.