Book Review: vSphere High Performance Cookbook


Book Cover: vSphere High Peformance CookbookI was graciously given the opportunity to read and review vSphere High Performance Cookbook, written by Prasenjit Sarkar (@stretchcloud) and published by Packt Publishing, whose subtitle states it has Over 60 recipes to help you improve vSphere performance and solve problems before they arise. Gulping down its chapters was easy after seeing that Prasenjit’s recipes included fixes for such common, and some not so common, misconfigurations or lack thereof.

The book states its audience includes technical professionals with vSphere administration experience that want to use advanced options and configurations to optimize their environments. The vSphere platform used in the book is 5.1. As I was reading, I kept wanting to give the book to the VMware admins I’ve come across to help them improve their deployments because I know how much they could use the recipes inside. In my varied VMware experiences, I’ve come across many of the topics presented in the book. I know first-hand how useful they can be and how often they go unnoticed or are left unconfigured.

The chapter list includes the following topics:

  • CPU Performance Design
  • Memory Performance Design
  • Networking Performance Design
  • DRS, SDRS, and Resource Control Design
  • vSphere Cluster Design
  • Storage Performance Design
  • Designing vCenter and vCenter Database for Best Performance
  • Virtual Machine and Application Performance Design

These topics are foundational in building out a vSphere environment for the best performance. I’m reminded of a live-blog post by Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe) during VMworld 2010 timeframe, if I remember right, where then-VMware CEO Paul Maritz stated there were about 800,000 VMware Administrators and about 60,000 of them were VCPs. I know these numbers have changed since then, but what this says to me is that the large majority of IT folks with their hands in a vSphere infrastructure have not taken the formal VCP training which happens to cover a lot of the topics in this book. In my experience, most VMware administrators are not virtualization folks; they’re traditional Microsoft server folks that have been forced to work in a virtualized environment because that’s how the technology train has rolled. They’re not dumb, of course, but they sure could use some pointers in how to better manage and optimize a vSphere infrastructure. This book focuses on optimization and does a fine job.

Common topics such as understanding %RDY, memory reclamation, swapping, vSwitch load balancing, multi-NIC vMotion, resource pool guidelines, affinity/anti-affinity rules, scale up vs. scale out, considerations for iSCSI and FC storage, which platforms to choose for a vCenter Server, SSO, and NUMA considerations are just a few of those covered in this cookbook. There are also more advanced topics covered I wasn’t even aware of, such as modifying CPU scheduler options for processor topology and cache awareness.

As we study and gain experience with vSphere, we hear about these topics in different capacities, but this book brings the topics together to focus on how to improve performance. Each topic includes an introduction to the concept followed by a section on what you need in a test lab to follow the recipe in the cookbook style. Through screenshots, graphs and tables, you’re then shown how to perform the task. And finally, how the concept works is explained, perhaps with additional material to round out the topic.

In addition, attention grabbing performance-enhancing topics include

  • Spotting CPU over commitment
  • What is most important to monitor in CPU performance
  • Key memory performance metrics to monitor
  • Identifying when memory is the problem
  • Memory performance best practices
  • Improving network performance using network I/O control
  • Using resource pool guidelines
  • Designing a highly available and high-performance iSCSI SAN
  • Designing a highly available and high-performance FC SAN

If you’re like me, you know a VMware admin or two that could benefit from reading this book. Thanks again to Packt Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. A free, digital copy was provided to me for doing so.

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