Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Book Review: Middleware and Cloud Computing: Oracle on Amazon Web Services and Rackspace Cloud

With the explosion of Internet content, especially that for the IT industry, it leaves an interesting question hanging over the worth (if any) of IT textbooks. When you can find an answer on just about anything online, what’s the point of shelling out money, especially for IT texts that have been overpriced for sometime?

Frank Munz’s Middleware and Cloud Computing: Oracle on Amazon Web Services and Rackspace Cloud book is a good reminder of one key fact about text books in context of an internet society, they can save you a lot of research and time on the internet looking for the nitty-gritty details.

The book is clearly aimed at system administrators & architects who are looking for details about moving Oracle Fusion Middleware (FMW) products to the cloud. A healthy dose of system admin knowledge is required of readers, with discussions on operating system (particularly Linux), us of command lines, and a knowledge of networking concepts would greatly assist too. FMW knowledge isn’t assumed, with an introductory chapter included, but knowledge in Oracle’s WebLogic Server (WLS) would be highly beneficial to readers, and a familiarity of Java EE technologies too.

Munz’s book is broken into logical halves. The first is a general introduction into “as a Service” cloud computing concepts. For readers who have heard the terminology but haven’t kept up with all the in’s and out’s of what a cloud service is, this provides an opportunity to learn the lingo and also learn how to critique the cloud offerings, which is (let’s just say) over hyped by IT marketing.

The first part of the book also takes care to look in depth at Amazon Web Services (AWS), including images, instances, storage and even pricing. In this area the book departs from a typical theoretical text encouraging readers to create their own AWS accounts and gives details on how to configure and run your own instance. The text however doesn’t just focus on AWS, and also looks at Rackspace’s equivalent cloud services.

The second half is where Munz’s book shines. Moving on from cloud basics, readers are led through considerations on designing and architecture within the cloud, management, availability and scalability, all in context of FMW and specifically of WLS and its supported JEE technologies. In each area the reader is brought back to specific considerations and limitations of Amazon’s & Rackspace’s platforms. On completing the book it becomes obvious this is a well thought out inclusion, as like enterprise home-baked operating systems and network infrastructure, cloud vendors’ platform are not born equal or include every feature required. The implication being certain FMW features and designs simply won’t work on specific cloud platforms.

The book isn’t without fault. Munz does take a narrative approach that may not be everybody’s cup of tea. In turn there’s a section that takes an unfortunate cop out on not tackling Oracle’s (let’s just say) less than favourable licensing. Yet overall the outcome for FMW professionals, in particular administrators and architects, is a positive one, and a recommended read. In turn it’s the careful research into actually testing what FMW features will really work on each cloud vendor’s platform, all collated into 1 book rather than sprayed across the internet, which will save readers significant time: prewarned is prearmed.

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