Virtualization Technology News and Information
Interview with Bernard Golden, Author of "Virtualization for Dummies"

Virtualization is hot in 2007.  And if you need more proof that the technology has finally gone mainstream, look no futher than the fact that the For Dummies group has finally released a long awaited "Virtualization for Dummies" book.  Author Bernard Golden has put a lot of thought, planning and effort into the book to try and explain a series of complicated subjects into something we can all grasp and relate to.  I was also fortunate to act as the Technical Editor of the book, a role for which I was extremely excited about performing.

The book starts with a detailed overview of exactly what virtualization is and exactly how it works, and then takes you on a tour of the benefits of a virtualized environment, such as added space in overcrowded data centers, lower operations costs through more efficient infrastructure administration, and reduced energy costs through server consolidation.  After that, you’ll get step-by-step guidance on how to:

  • Perform a server virtualization cost versus benefit analysis
  • Weigh server virtualization options
  • Choose hardware for your server virtualization project
  • Create a virtualized software environment
  • Migrate to—and manage—your new virtualized environment

And now that the book has hit the store shelves, I wanted to follow up with Bernard to ask him a few questions about the book and his experience throughout the process. Bernard, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.  To start off, can you give the readers a quick synopsis about yourself and your background?

Bernard Golden: I’ve worked in a wide variety of technology settings – large IT organizations, enterprise software companies, and global consultancies. Because of this, I have a very broad view of how software is made and sold by vendors, implemented by end users, and integrated by service providers. The majority of my career has been spent working in the enterprise software space. For the past five or six years, I’ve focused on open source software doing management consulting to vendors and end users regarding how they can take advantage of this seismic shift in software.

VMBlog: If you don't mind me asking, what inspired you to write this book?

BG: One of the most interesting things about software is how rapidly it evolves and how each stage in the evolution radically changes the available value for end users. If we look at the PC, it’s clear that the software capability offered by a personal computing platform has transformed the way we do our everyday work. Open source has changed the available value for IT organizations. It was clear to me that as I explored virtualization that it would have the same magnitude of impact, and so I felt it was important to describe and illustrate its importance for a broad audience.

VMBlog: Many people are calling 2007 the year of virtualization.  You and I have been involved with virtualization for many years, so why then do you think it has taken this long for virtualization to gain the respect that it deserves?

BG: This generation of virtualization is really focused on the commodity x86 platform. It’s only been in the last decade that this platform came to be dominant, which has led to a new type of problem: server sprawl and under-utilization. Until you realize you’re drowning in underutilized machinery, virtualization isn’t that attractive a solution. Once you recognize the problem, virtualization makes perfect sense. So, I believe the reason virtualization has come to the fore it that it solves a problem that has only recently become a major issue for IT shops.

VMBlog: I am a huge fan of the “For Dummies” series of books.  And to me, this book follows the usual pattern of trying to explain a complex topic into words and ideas that people can easily grasp and follow.  When you were writing this book, what type of audience were you writing for?

BG: I was familiar with Dummies books as a reader, but had never really thought about how they are put together or the overall audience. Working with Dummies Press, I learned that they have a very structured approach to their books. The audience is an intelligent and busy readership that needs to learn the basics of a topic very quickly – by no means dumb, but wanting the information presented in a very approachable way, hopefully with a bit of humor. So I took as my ideal reader someone with a background in technology but no exposure to virtualization, and wrote to provide a good foundation about the subject.

VMBlog: Your book covers multiple technologies and vendors within its pages, giving readers a good taste of what’s out there and when and why to use it.  In your opinion, where do you see this technology heading within the next year or two?

BG: I think that we have just begun to see the effects of virtualization. I truly believe it will transform the operations of data centers. I expect that in the near future all software will be delivered in virtual machine images that are just dropped onto a hypervisor. We’ll look back on installing and configuring individual components of an application the way people looked back on hand-cranking a car once starters were installed.

The trend to pre-installing hypervisors on servers is very interesting. It’s always a race as to who has the dominant value in the customer’s eyes; by pre-installing the hypervisor on the hardware the virtualization and hardware vendors hope to displace the OS vendors as the focus of customer attention. This should be a very interesting battle.

In terms of the virtualization vendors themselves, I expect to see much more heated competition, with VMware’s undisputed place at the top of the heap being confronted by Microsoft’s push to put virtualization squarely back in their court, and the various Xen flavors representing the open source response to commercial virtualization.

VMBlog: You are a busy man enjoying a fine career while still finding time to write magazine articles, speak at conferences, etc.  How do you find the time to write a book?  How long of a process was it?  And were there any bumps along the way that you can share with us?

BG: The book took about nine months and it was a struggle finding the time to work on it. Fortunately I enjoy writing and don’t have trouble with writer’s block. There weren’t any particular bumps, but writing any book requires, as the saying goes, applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

VMBlog: What was the hardest part about writing the book?

BG: The hardest part about writing the book was the amount of ground to cover. Virtualization is a big tent, so to speak, with lots of different performers. Between the different flavors of server virtualization, storage virtualization, and hardware virtualization initiatives, it was hard to figure out how to get it all in. Particularly because I wanted to discuss the business case and project management process that accompany a technical virtualization project. These things are usually ignored, but they can be even more important than the technology.

The other thing that was challenging was that I wanted to include some hands-on chapters to help get people started on working with virtualization. This meant that I had to learn a bunch of new technology well enough to describe how to use it to someone just coming to virtualization. That can be a pretty big challenge.

VMBlog: Did you learn anything about virtualization while writing the book that you didn't know before you started?  And if so, what was it?

BG: I gained a lot of respect for how rapidly the technology and business of virtualization is evolving. Virtualization has come a long way in just the past year. What really hit home for me is how far-reaching virtualization is; server consolidation is just the first step, with many more opportunities for additional benefit from virtualization, particularly in the area of dynamic virtual machine placement and storage virtualization.

VMBlog: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about the book?

BG: Well, there isn’t much in the book about Microsoft Hyper-V, because it was just a discussion topic and not a product during the writing of the book. I think if I were to do the book again, I would try and address Microsoft’s product as well, and probably include a hands-on chapter for it.

I would also love to do a chapter on how to set up storage virtualization with a low-cost NAS to store VM data. That would be really fun and useful for readers.

Maybe if there’s a second edition!

VMBlog: Any final thoughts that you’d like to leave the readers with?

BG: Virtualization is one of the most important technology trends today. Roll up your sleeves and get going. This is a technology that will change the economics of IT. You’ve got to get on top of it because your competition is.

VMBlog:  Are there any Websites or any other places that you suggest people go to find out more information about the book?

BG: Two good sites are the publisher’s website: and Amazon.

Published Wednesday, December 19, 2007 7:05 PM by David Marshall
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