Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator – Review

I’ll be honest.  Orchestration, to me, is something a conductor does with the Philharmonic.  I keep hearing the word thrown around in virtualization and cloud discussions but I’m never quite sure what it means.  I know it has something to do with automating processes and such but beyond that I can’t give a detailed description of what is involved from a technical perspective.  Luckily, thanks to VMware Press and Cody Bunch (@cody_bunch) I don’t have to be uneducated any longer:

One of the first books from VMware Press, Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator (I’m going to abbreviate to Automating vSphere) is a fine example of the type of reference material that is needed to help sort through some of the more esoteric concepts surrounding virtualization and cloud computing today.  As I started reading through the introduction, I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy this book immensely due to the humor and light tone.  It’s very easy to write a virtualization encyclopedia.  It’s another thing to make it readable.  Thankfully, Cody Bunch has turned what could have otherwise been a very dry read into a great reference book filled with Star Trek references and Monty Python humor.

Coming in at just over 200 pages with some additional appendices, this book once again qualifies as “pound cake reading”, in that you need to take your time and understand that length isn’t the important part, as the content is very filling.  The author starts off by assuming I know nothing about orchestration and filling me in on the basics behind why vCenter Orchestrator (vCO) is so useful to overworked server/virtualization admins.  The opening chapter makes a very good case for the use of orchestration even in smaller environments due to the consistency of application and scalability potential should the virtualization needs of a company begin to increase rapidly.  I’ve seen this myself many times in smaller customers.  Once the restriction of one server to one operating system is removed, virtualized servers soon begin to multiply very quickly.  With vCO, managing and automating the creation and curation of these servers is effortless.  Provided you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty.  The rest of Part I of the book covers the installation and configuration of vCO, including scenarios where you want to split the components apart to increase performance and scalability.

Part II delves into the nuts and bolts of how vCO works.  Lots of discussions about workflows that have containers that perform operations.  When presented like this, vCO doesn’t look quite as daunting to an orchestration rookie.  It’s important to help the new people understand that there really isn’t a lot of magic in the individual parts of vCO.  The key, just like a real orchestra, is bringing them together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.  The real jewel of the book to me was Part III, as case study with a fictional retail company.  Case studies are always a good way to ground readers in the reality and application of nebulous concepts.  Thankfully, the Amazing Smoothie company is doing many of the things I would find myself doing for my customers on a regular basis. I enjoyed watching the workflows and Javascript come together to automate menial tasks like consolidating snapshots or retiring virtual machines.  I’m pretty sure that I’m going to find myself dog-earing many of the pages in this section in the future as I learn to apply all the nuggets contained within to real life scenarios for my own environment as well as that of my customers.

If you’d like to grab this book, you can pick it up at the VMware Press site or on Amazon.

Tom’s Take

I’m very impressed with the caliber of writing I’m seeing out of VMware Press in this initial offering.  I’m not one for reading dry documentation or recitation of facts and figures.  By engaging writers like Cody Bunch, VMware Press has made it enjoyable to learn about new concepts while at the same time giving me insight into products I never new I needed.  If you are a virtualization admin that manages more than two or three servers, I highly recommend you take a peak at this book.  The software it discusses doesn’t cost you anything to try, but the sheer complexity of trying to configure it yourself could cause you to give up on vCO without a real appraisal of its capabilities.  Thanks to VMware Press and Cody Bunch, the amount of time and effort you save from buying this book will easily be offset by gains in productivity down the road.

Book Review Disclaimer

A review copy of Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator was provided to me by VMware Press.  VMware Press did not ask me to review this book as a condition of providing the copy.  VMware Press did not ask for nor were they promised any consideration in the writing of this review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

2 thoughts on “Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator – Review

  1. Pingback: Open Tabs – 4/7/12

  2. Pingback: Automating vSphere with Cody Bunch – book review |

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