Title: Automating vSphere with VMware vCentre Orchestrator
Authors: Cody Bunch
Publisher: VMware Press
Published: March 2012
Edition: 1st Edition
Reviewer: Arani Mukherjee
Virtualisation has completely revolutionised the entire IT industry in terms of deployment and maintenance of the IT infrastructure. Driven by the pressure of delivering robust, redundant and reliable IT infrastructure, and by the ability to manage them more efficiently and effectively in terms of cost, administrators have consistently migrated to more and more virtualised environments. This has enabled them to consolidate infrastructures and their corresponding workloads, and dramatically reduced cost for IT operations.
Needless to say, VMware has taken a major lead into the world of virtualisation. I would attribute VMware as not only the trend setters in the world of virtualisation but also an extremely deterministic element in the IT industry. More and more core IT service providers are moving towards a virtualisation environment prescribed by VMware and using their tools and services to do so as well. VMware has become a ‘must have’ for many successful data centres. What has benefitted users is not only VMware’s plethora of tools available, but their range of printed materials that users can utilise to effectively manage their VMware infrastructure.
Before talking about this book, a word of caution for the non – initiated. This is not a beginner’s text, neither it is something that will help you if you have no prior exposure to the world of virtualisation, let alone any VMware product. I would however strongly recommend going through VMware’s other materials which deal with concepts and tools used, which will build a good foundation before you start with this one. But I must add this. It’s in your best interest to reach this title itself, and now let me tell you exactly why.
To begin with, I was impressed with the informal style of the writer’s delivery. Sometimes this makes or breaks a book’s popularity. Virtualisation is no mean subject, and it can become confusing at times. But the writer’s style has ensured that the content is presented in a very lucid way without compromising the reader’s ability to grasp the matter. Core technical books can become a chore to read through, thanks to a writer’s inability to explain things in a simple way. This cannot be said for this book, which is a welcome change.
Equally impressive was the structure of the content, and how it was divided into distinct parts and chapters. Essentially there are three major parts:
Part I: Introduction, installation, and Configuration
Part II: Working with vCentre Orchestrator
Part III: Real World Use Cases (I loved the name of the company – Amazing Smoothies)
Now let’s dig a bit deeper into those individual part themselves.
Part I: Introduction, Installation & Configuration
In Part I, we are introduced into the vCentre Orchestrator itself (I’ll address it as vCO henceforth). This section deals with the ‘What, Why, Who, When’ and most importantly, the ‘How To’ of vCO. Every ‘What, Why…’ has been fully explained, which makes your decision making regarding vCO implementation, extremely easy. I personally liked the ‘Note’ section which helped in making the core understanding process easier. The chapters dealing with installation showed the pros and cons at every step depending on how you want your installation to be. The various installation flavours were introduced and there is a nice walkthrough of an entire installation process. In the Configuration section, the book does a good job of bringing a vCO install into operational status. The writer has done a good job at this, as in the hands of an amateur, this could have turned really messy.
Part II: Working With vCentre Orchestrator
In Part II, we are shown the ‘moving parts’ inside the vCO architecture. As mentioned before as a word of caution, it is important the reader has prior knowledge of VMware products and virtualisation itself. This is where your knowledge will have a role to play. It is crucial for the reader’s benefit that they understand how the vCO interacts with other components of the entire VMware based infrastructure on which vCO itself is being deployed. As explained throughout this section, there are namely 6 parts, which are Actions, Packages, Web Views, Resources, Plug-in and Workflows. Out of these 6, only Plug-in and Workflows have dedicated chapters which has a more detailed explanation. After going through these chapters, I felt perhaps the book could have consisted of dedicated chapters to the rest of the ‘moving parts’ and not just the 2 out of 6. Also worthy of mention is that knowing Java scripting and the concepts of API is beneficial. Concepts like reusability of functions and methods come handy over here.
Part III: Real World Use Cases
Part III is my favourite part, not only because of the name of the company, but because, and I quote the author, “…I’ve found it easier to show folks technical concepts within a real world framework”. Again, for the non – initiated, note of caution, as this part makes the assumption about your familiarity with vSphere and concepts of snapshots. Knowledge of Java scripting comes to play a significant role. The chapters are laid out in neat, coherent, and consistent order. It is a good example of how vCO is used from ground up to optimise the IT infrastructure in VMware. The processes of implementation, deployment, maintenance and decommissioning have been simplified. Particularly useful was the chapter where future expansion of clusters of hosts and shared storage was explained.
The Appendix does a good job of explaining features like Onyx which compensates where the knowledge of Java Scripting is lacking. There is a good troubleshooting and debugging section. Also worth mentioning is the quickfire explanation of the vCO vApp and the VIX plug-in which was used in Part III.
Overall, it’s an easy read, and I would recommend this to anyone who’s currently working with VMware and wants to optimise their VMware implementation.