I always wondered why there is no book that specifically focusses on VMware networking, given its importance when it comes to deployment and maintenance of a stable virtual platform.  No need for me to think that any more as “Networking for VMware Administrators” by Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) and Steve Pantol (@StevePantol) is available for purchase now.

Networking for VMware Administrators

Given that the breakdown of parts and chapters of this book are available everywhere, I won’t bore you with that detail.  Instead, I’ll just give you my thoughts on the different parts and why I think this is one of the must have books (if you’re into these sort of books, of course!)

First part consists of 6 chapters and goes through the basics of Physical Networking.  If you are new to networking, this is a good place to start as it covers all the prerequisite knowledge that one must have to understand the rest of the book. It also serves as a refresher for people who are experienced in networking but for whom, it’s not their day-to-day job. The conversation starts with light-hearted layman level discussion of how networks came into existence, then slowly builds up to explain the different layers and finishes with a discussion on “Converged Infrastructure”.  I think, this is required knowledge to appreciate the subtle differences between physical and virtual networking.  Armed with that knowledge, one is ready to delve into the VMware side of things.

Second part consists of 7 chapters and discusses virtual networking in a vSphere environment.  The first few chapters discuss the two main types of networking switches (“Standard” and “Distributed”), where they match or differ as compared to physical switches and the configuration options available for both.  Throughout those chapters, there is also a brief discussion on the various configuration options and where certain options might be applicable (or not).  Things are explained with the help of a “Lab Scenario”, which uses a Cisco UCS environment as an example.  The last two chapters, discuss designing a network environment around a Standard or Distributed switch.  It’s nice to see a book still discussing designing around a Standard switch as not everyone has Enterprise Plus licensing or might have a mixture within their environment.

Third part consists of four chapters and focusses on the two types of IP Storage supported by vSphere environments: iSCSI and NFS.  There are two chapters for each type, discussing use cases and then going on to design considerations and configuration. For iSCSI, there is quite a bit of detail in terms of the components that make up iSCSI, Authentication, Initiators/Targets, Adapters, Jumbo Frames etc. That is followed by a chapter on a design using iSCSI storage.  NFS discussion carries on with the same theme but it being NFS, it’s more about exports, daemons and mount points etc.  In the same way as iSCSI, this chapter is followed by another, discussing a design based on NFS storage. In both cases, the chapters cover the configuration steps as well so one can see practically how those steps are carried out, to achieve that particular configuration.

Finally, there is part four, consisting of just two chapters. The first one covers some vSwitch Design Scenarios.  This chapter covers pretty much all the different configurations, big or small, that one would probably encounter in the real world. If by chance a use case is missed, I am sure one can tackle that easily, having absorbed all this information. The second chapter discusses “Multi-NIC vMotion Architecture” and design considerations. It also quite helpfully discusses how a combination of NIOC (Network I/O Control) and egress traffic shaping can protect such an environment from drowning out a particular destination host. Finally, it goes into how to properly configure such a setup.

The whole book is written in a light-hearted conversational manner and doesn’t feel like heavy reading at all – unlike typical networking books.  Like I mentioned before, all topics are accompanied with a healthy dose of discussion on why certain options are suitable or not and with plenty of screenshots too! I also discovered the word “schlep” (something I doubt I’ll find in any other technical book) and that “warm and fuzzies” are pretty important when it comes to VMware networking.

For people starting with VMware products, this is a must have as it will give them a solid foundation of networking concepts and how to configure vSphere networking properly.  It also does a great job of bridging the gap that exists for people coming from traditional physical networking backgrounds.

Highly recommended!

Networking for VMware Administrators