Category Archives: Book review

BSM with Oracle Enterprise Manager 11g

My colleagues Ashwin Karkala and Govinda Sambamurthy have written a book about modeling and managing business services using the current version of Enterprise Manager Grid Control (11g R1). Nobody would have been better qualified for this task since they built a lot of the features they describe. I acted as a technical reviewer for this book and very much enjoyed reading it in the process.

Whether you are a current EM user who wants to make sure you know and use the BSM features or someone just considering EM for that task, this is the book you want.

The full title is Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control 11g R1: Business Service Management.

As a bonus feature, and for a limited time only, if you purchase this book over the next 48 hours you get to follow the authors, @ashwinkarkala and @govindars on Twitter at no extra cost! A $2,000 value (at least).

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Filed under Application Mgmt, Book review, BSM, Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, Modeling, Oracle, People

Book on Middleware Management with Oracle Enterprise Manager

My colleagues (and Enterprise Manager experts) Debu Panda and Arvind Maheshwari have a very handy book out, titled Middleware Management with Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control 10gR5 (that’s the latest release of Enterprise Manager). The publisher sent me a copy of the book. It illustrates well that Enterprise Manager does a lot more than just database management; it also provides coverage of most of the Oracle middleware stack (and some non-Oracle middleware components).

I am happy to provide an outline of the book, because it shows both how complete the book is and how wide the coverage of Enterprise Manager is for the Oracle middleware stack.

  • Chapter 1 provides an overview of the base Enterprise Manager product and its various packs.
  • Chapter 2 describes the installation process.
  • Chapter 3 describes the key concepts of the different subsystems of Enterprise Manager.
  • Chapter 4 covers management of WebLogic server, the centerpiece of Oracle Fusion Middleware.
  • Chapter 5 covers management of the core of the pre-BEA Oracle Application Server (OC4J, OHS and WebCache).
  • Chapter 6 is about managing Oracle Forms and Reports (used by EBS and many client-server applications).
  • Chapter 7 is about managing the BPEL server, a major component of the SOA Suite.
  • Chapter 8 (available as a free download) covers management of another part of the SOA Suite, namely Oracle Service Bus (previously AquaLogic Service Bus).
  • Chapter 9 addresses management of Oracle Identity Manager.
  • Chapter 10 covers management of Coherence (a distributed in-memory cache) clusters.
  • Chapter 11 describes the capability to manage non-Oracle middleware for these youthful errors you committed before seeing the (red) light.
  • Chapter 12 introduces some of the cool new application management features: Composite Application Modeler and Monitor (CAMM) to manage a distributed application across all its components, and Application Diagnostic for Java (AD4J) to drill down into a specific JVM.
  • Chapter 13 invites you to roll-up your sleeves and write your own plug-in so that Enterprise Manager can manage new types of targets.
  • Chapter 14 ends the book by sharing some best practices from customer experience.

All in all, this is the most user-friendly and accessible way to learn and become familiar with the scope of what Enterprise Manager has to offer for middleware management. The gory details (e.g. the complete list of target types, metrics and their definitions) are not in the book but available from the on-line documentation.

To end on a ludic note, you can use this table of content to test your knowledge of some Oracle acquisitions. Can you associate the following acquired companies with the corresponding chapter? Auptyma, Oblix, BEA, ClearApp, Collaxa, Tangosol.

The ROT-13-encoded answer is: ORN: 4&8 – Pbyynkn: 7 – Boyvk: 9 – Gnatbfby:10 – Nhcglzn: 12 – PyrneNcc: 12

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Filed under Application Mgmt, Book review, BPEL, Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, Middleware, Oracle

Book review: Xen Virtualization

Someone from Packt Publishing asked me if I was interested in reviewing the Xen Virtualization book by Prabhakar Chaganti that they recently published. I said yes and it was in my mailbox a few days letter.

The sub-title is “a fast and practical guide to supporting multiple operating systems with the Xen hypervisor” and it turns out that the operating word is “fast”. It’s a short book (approx 130 pages, many filled with screen captures and console output listings). It is best used as an introduction to Xen for people who understand computer administration (especially Linux) but are new to virtualization.

The book contains a brief overview of virtualization, followed by a description of the most common tasks:

  • the Xen install process (from binary and source) on Fedora core 6
  • creating virtual machines (using NetBSD plus three different flavors of Linux)
  • basic management of Xen using the xm command line or the XenMan and virt-manager tools
  • setting up simple networking
  • setting up simple storage
  • encrypting partitions used by virtual machines
  • simple migration of virtual machines (stopped and live)

For all of these tasks, what we get is a step by step process that corresponds to the simple case and does not cover any troubleshooting. It is likely that anyone who embarks on the task described will need options that are not covered in the book. That’s why I write that it is an introduction that shows the kind of thing you need to do, rather than a reference that will give you the information you need in your deployment. You’ll probably need to read additional documentation, but the book will give you an idea of what stage you are in the process and what comes next.

Even with this limited scope, it is pretty light on explanations. It’s mostly a set of commands followed by a display of the result. Since it’s closer to my background I’ll take the “managing Xen” chapter as an example. There is nothing more basic to management than understanding the state of a resource. The book shows how to retrieve it (“xm list”) and very briefly describes the different states (“running”, “blocked”, “paused”, “shutdown”, “crashed”) but you would expect a bit more precision and details. For example, “blocked” is supposed to correspond to “waiting for an external event” but what does “external” mean? Sure the machine could be waiting on I/O, but it could also be on a timer (e.g. “sleep(1000)”) or simply have run out of things to do. I don’t think of a cron job as an “external event”. Also, when running “xm list” you should expect to always see dom0 in the “running” state (since dom0 is busy running your xm command) and on a one-core single-CPU machine (as is the case in the book) that means that none of the other domains can be in that state. That’s the kind of clarification (obvious in retrospect) that goes one step beyond the basic command description and saves some head scratching but the book doesn’t really go there. As another example, We are told in the “encryption” section that LUKS helps prevent “low entropy-attacks” but if you’re the kind of person who already knows what that means you probably don’t have much to learn from the “encryption” chapter of the book. In case you care, it is a class of attacks that take advantage of poor sources of random numbers and you can read all the details of how entropy is defined in this classic 1948 paper (it doesn’t have much to do with how the term is defined in physics).

Among the many more advanced topics that are not covered I can think of: advanced networking, clustering, advanced storage, Windows guests (even though it’s not Xen’s strong point), migration between physical and virtual, relationship to other IT management tasks (e.g. server and OS management), performance aspects, partitioning I/O so domains play well together, security considerations (beyond simply encrypting the file system), new challenges introduced by virtualization…

Xen documentation on the web is pretty poor at this point and the book provides more than most simple “how-to” guides on installing/configuring Xen that you can Google for. And it brings a consistent sequence of such “how-to” guides together in one package. If that’s worth it to you then get the book. But don’t expect this to cover all your documentation needs for anything beyond the simplest (and luckiest) deployment. I would be pleased to see the book on the desk of an IT manager in a shop that is considering using virtualization, I would be scared to see it on the desk of an IT administrator in a shop that is actually using Xen.

[UPDATED on 2008/02/01: Dan Magenheimer, a Xen expert who works on the Oracle VM, highly recommends another Xen book that just came out: Professional Xen Virtualization by William von Hagen. I haven’t seen that book but I trust Dan on this topic.]

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Filed under Book review, Everything, Virtualization, Xen