Sunday, January 07, 2007

Review: Saving Money and Time With Virtual Server (O'Reilly Shortcuts)

If you haven't heard of O'Reilly's Shortcuts series, they are a fairly large collection of downloadable PDF articles, usually between 25-100 pages long, and priced between 6-10 dollars.  Or if you have a Safari account, they're all included with your subscription.  Well, that's enough of sounding like a commercial for O'Reilly.  But they did send me a free copy to review (thanks Marsee!) so I thought I'd at least plug them a little.  And considering that I'm about to give a lukewarm review of the article itself...

This is the first Shortcut I've read, and I hope it's not indicative of the series as a whole.  While the quality of the article was quite good and the information useful, it was definitely a commercial for Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005. Granted, the article is clearly targetted as an introduction to Virtual Server, but any discussion of virtualization that does not also mention VMWare is clearly suspect. 

The author, Chris Sanders, is not a paid shill for Microsoft, so it's a shame that his article comes across as just another piece of evangelism.  Do check out his blog, though, he has quite a bit of useful tips and info for an IT admin, but that's just not my bag.  I'm the guy always making the IT guys nervous.  :)

In spite of my complaints, the article is a good introduction to Virtual Server to someone who has never used it before, and is even new to the idea of virtualization.  It has a quick introduction to the concept of virtualization, and then a basic how-to on setting up your first virtual machine.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and I had my little sample machine up and running with little trouble.  So good job there.

Not being an IT guy, I spent more time paying attention to how I could use it to run multiple development platforms, and didn't pay very close attention to the sections about security or consolidation (running multiple VM's on one beefy server).  But if you are an IT guy, I imagine you'll want to pay attention to those sections. 

I'm still not up to speed enough on the ins and outs of either Virtual Server or VMWare, but they are very soon going to end my adventures with Norton Ghost or dual booting.  Virtualization is one of the New Cool Things getting a lot of attention, and we're moving aggressively on it at my work.  If you're a newbie in this area like I am, you should put your ear to the ground.

But would I shell out $7.99 for this article?  Probably not.  Mostly because I'm a Cheap Bastard, but also because if I'm going to pay for someone's knowledge, I want an unbiased opinion.  This article isn't trying to be a reference source for Virtual Server.  So if I'm just being introduced to a product, I'd be really interested in hearing its relative merits to its obvious competitor.  And there is literally not one single mention of VMWare in the whole article.

If this were an article posted out on some IT forum, I would certainly point people to it and recommend they read it.  It's got good stuff.  But then I would recommend they google the comparisons.  If you've already got a Safari account, or if you're spending someone else's money, do download the article.  Amazon and O'Reilly do get lots of my money for technical books, but if I had just spent 8 bucks for this, I'd feel a little cheated.