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Keywords: Server farms, network infrastructure, system architecture

Title: Data Center Fundamentals

Authors: Mauricio Arregoces and Maurizio Portolani

Publisher: Cisco Press

ISBN: 1587050234

Media: Book

Verdict: A useful resource

Aimed principally at those interested in the networking infrastructure of server farms and other data centres, this is a big book in every sense. Firstly there's the sheer volume of material: 5 parts, 22 chapters, 6 appendices, 1064 pages. Then there's the range of material, from an over-view of data centres and server farms, to security, load balancing, application servers, network protocols, DNS, HTML and more.

The book is organised in four parts. The first part provides an introduction to server farms, starting with chapters on an overview of the data centre and then moving on to chapters that look at server architecture, application architectures (including middleware), data centre topologies, an overview of security and finally a chapter on a server load-balancing overview. This focus on this section of the book is to provide high-level views of a wide range of topics. The aim is to give a strong basic introduction to material that can be tackled in more detail in later sections of the book. These six chapters work very well and could well have made a book on their own.

In part two of the book the networking focus is more predominant. This section of the book looks at server farm protocols - from IP, TCP and UDP through to HTTP, SSL, TLS, DNS and more. The emphasis is a lot more technical, but like the rest of the book the material is well handled. The text is consistently clear, well-presented and illustrated with plenty of diagrams, screen shots and schematics. The book is very well designed, which is a real bonus.

Part three of the book consists of a couple of chapters on Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, and concludes with an excellent chapter describing the IBM Mainframe architecture, including SNA over TCP/IP, Sysplex and Parallel Sysplex and the different attachment options.

In part four the focus moves to server security and load balancing. In addition to chapters on protocols and technologies (such as PKI, SSL and IPSec) and load balancing modes, there are also chapters on server monitoring, session tracking and a final chapter on persistence mechanisms for load balancing. The material on load balancing progresses logically from chapter to chapter, making plain the issues involved and how they are addressed from the point of view of ensuring continuity in the event of high-load or device failure.

The final part of the book looks at building the data centre infrastructure, again with a strong emphasis on the network hardware required to put together a well-designed, resilient and secure server farm.

Despite the wide ranging scope of the book it was a bit of a disappointment to find that there is little coverage of the data storage element of the data centre. A chapter on storage area networks and network attached storage would have been more than welcome. Perhaps this is something we can hope to see in a future edition.

In conclusion this is an extremely valuable resource, technically detailed and yet quite accessible.

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