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Book review: Virtualizing SQL Server with VMware: Doing IT right

August 10th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

I just finished reading the book and I am very positively impressed by it. The target audience is described as follows.

Our goal was to create in one book—a comprehensive resource that a solution architect, system administrator, storage administrator, or database administrator could use to guide them through the necessary steps to successfully virtualize a database. Many of the lessons learned in this book apply to any business-critical application being virtualized from SAP, E-Business Suite, Microsoft Exchange, or Oracle, with the specific focus of this book on Microsoft SQL Server. Although you don’t have to be a database administrator to understand the contents of this book, it does help if you are technical and have a basic understanding of vSphere.

This goal has definitely been met. I did like the writing style which remembers me very much of the same approach Chris Wahl is taking in Networking for VMware Administrators. It is not the dreadful reference textbook style that gets you bored after reading the 5th line on the first book page. Yet the technical content is very detailed but still easy enough to grasp as it is presented with lots of illustrations, screenshots and examples.

The authors take a structured approach of introducing virtualization concepts in a very rough overview so that the reader who has only worked in the physical world so far can still get the content but no pages are wasted for the actual book content as well.

The next couple of chapters then build a business case on why to virtualize a tier 1 application like SQL server, the benefits and differences to an approach used in the physical world, some general design concepts and common pitfalls.

The nitty gritty stuff happens in chapters 5 to 9, taking each of the major performance food groups and showing best practices and design decisions to keep in mind when virtualizing SQL server. Each reason for every decision is explained in detail enabling the reader to actually make his or her own decisions on the specific use case themselves.

One fear I had before reading the book was that one of the authors works for a major vendor and that references to that specific vendor and the hardware would be all over the place. This is the case in one chapter only and serves as an example on a very specific theme being covered, it is only a couple of pages long and even if you don’t like vendors being called out in technical books you won’t mind this part at all, as it is really short, can easily be skipped in the worst case but should still be read as it contains valuable information. This is definitely not a marketing brochure but a technical resource.

The last 2 chapters then concentrate on why one should baseline tier 1 applications and go through the whole set up of how to do so in the very last chapter. Really good material that I do not see to be done very often when dealing with performance issues. The description usually is “it is slow” rather than “we baselined this and now it is performing x amount slower than it used to be”.

What I really liked was that the authors not only concentrated on the virtualization admin part of the book but also on the db admin part, pointing out changes to mantras that are not true anymore in a virtual world until they really sunk in when finishing the book.

I really would like to see one improvement if there is a second edition of this book and that would be to have all the hints, notes and tiny text boxes with advanced settings in a single place in the appendix, so that you don’t need to search for a hint you remembered that was written out but could look it up in one single place.

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