Get Plugged In
I started my journey with virtualization in late 2002, when I began using VMware Workstation.
I started my journey with virtualization in late 2002, when I began using VMware Workstation. I quickly switched to GSX Server the following year, and jumped ship again to ESX Server shortly thereafter. I must confess that at the time, I didn't foresee that my tour through virtualization would bring me to where I am today: My first book-"Mastering VMware vSphere 4," (Sybex, 2009)-is now available, another book is in the works, my blog consistently ranks in the top 10 virtualization blogs, and I'm writing a regular column for Virtualization Review magazine. Wow! It's been quite an adventure.
As I pondered what I should discuss in this, my first Virtualization Review column, I thought that others who are just starting their virtualization journeys might find it helpful to know what resources I've used along the way. Keep in mind that this is one of those "your mileage may vary" situations. I've made good use of these techniques, resources and tools, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be equally effective for everyone. Also keep in mind that my journey was-and is-with VMware, so the tools and resources I describe will quite naturally lean in that direction.
Build a Mini-lab
First and foremost, you need hands-on product experience. I can't stress this enough: While books, blogs, courses, wikis and handwritten notes will help, hands-on experience is critical.
The problem here is that these products don't exactly lend themselves to non-enterprise deployments. Fortunately, the VMware virtualization community has already done most of the heavy lifting for you. A Google search for "ESX whitebox" should return enough results to get you rolling on building a server on which you can run and play around with VMware vSphere. Similarly, you can find numerous guides on how to configure Openfiler, the HP LeftHand virtual SAN appliance (VSA) or the EMC Celerra VSA for use as shared storage. This wealth of information should be more than enough to get you started with a mini-lab for hands-on experience.
For those who can't build a mini-lab, recent versions of VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion allow you to run VMware ESX inside a virtual machine, so you could potentially get by with a powerful laptop or desktop system.
Make It a Community Effort
As a blogger and relatively active member of the community myself, I'm a bit biased when I say that the community is a huge help to everyone involved in VMware virtualization. Consider the VMware Communities, for example: Many extremely knowledgeable, talented people participate in these forums and blogs, helping others get their questions answered and problems resolved every day. And that's just one site operated by VMware! When you add in the knowledge shared by top virtualization bloggers worldwide, the collective amount of information available is staggering. I won't even begin to start naming names here, because I'm sure to omit someone. But Eric Siebert-who is himself a valuable contributor to the community-maintains a list that will at least get you started.
If you're inclined to participate in social media, you'll also find an active virtualization community on Twitter. It can be difficult to find other Twitter users focusing on virtualization, but try the following. The WeFollow directory can help you find Twitterers who have added themselves as virtualization users. You might also find it useful to see who other people are following. Looking at my list of followers-I'm scott_lowe on Twitter-will provide some ideas on who to follow yourself.
While you're out gathering information on virtualization from the community, you should probably plug yourself into the storage and networking communities as well-virtualization can't exist in a vacuum. Storage and networking are two areas that always affect virtualization, so being more proficient in those areas will help you be better with virtualization itself. The intersection of virtualization, networking and storage is a topic that will definitely see coverage here-this is a passion of mine.
In my next column, I'll discuss the non-technological challenges of virtualization. I'd love to hear what sort of information you'd like to see covered in this space.
Scott Lowe is a virtualization architect for ePlus Technology in Herndon, Va., and author of "Mastering VMware vSphere 4" (Sybex, 2009).