Tag Archive for Book Review

7 Reasons Why You Should Read The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project

I began reading The Phoenix Project with no preconceptions, other than having been told that it is a great book, and hearing it mentioned many times on Eric Wright‘s GC On Demand podcast.

Written by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Stafford, it is told as a first-person narrative from the perspective of Bill, a middleware team manager who is promoted into a senior IT management role for a business in jeopardy. Through his experiences and a guiding hand from another key character, together we work through the problems facing the business, the IT department and the individuals within.

The story is told in an easy to read, informal style, and I made quick work of it over the course of just a few days. I really enjoyed it on numerous levels:

  1. I recognised every single character in the book as somebody I have worked with (or indeed currently work with!). I guarantee you will feel the same!
  2. The book was pretty well written, and the story arc itself was compelling. I was really rooting for Bill to succeed in his endeavours! (But did he? You will have to read the book to find out!)
  3. The authors obviously have a great sense of humour! Quotes such as “Show me a dev who isn’t crashing production systems, and I’ll show you one who can’t fog a mirror. Or more likely, is on vacation.” had me laughing out loud on the train in front of other passengers!
  4. The book is approachable and not elitist. You could pick it up as a cable monkey or an IT director (or maybe even a Sales person!!!), and relate to the concepts and methods described.
  5. I learned a huge amount about different methods for handling and improving processes around WIP (Work in Progress), such as the Theory of Constraints or the use of Kanban boards (I am currently testing this with my pre-sales customer workloads using Trello, but I’m told Kanbanize is also very good). Resilience Engineering (think Netflix Simian Army) and numerous other techniques are also covered, along with the overarching “Three Ways” (very Zen!).
  6. I actually picked up a few key tips which could be applied directly to my pre-sales design and requirements gathering workshops with my customer stakeholders.
  7. Finally, it didn’t feel “preachy”, which is always a risk when trying to sell an idea / concept as your main theme and I was initially concerned that the book would be ramming DevOps culture down my neck throughout. This could not be farther from the truth, and the full DevOps concepts do not come into play until the story is almost complete. There are many lessons to be learned throughout the story, which could be applied to any organisation!

The Phoenix Project Cover

Here are another few choice quotes from The Phoenix Project, both humorous and insightful:

“The only thing more dangerous than a developer is a developer conspiring with Security. The two working together gives us means, motive, and opportunity.”

“How can we manage production if we don’t know what the demand, priorities, status of work in process, and resource availability are?”

“You just described ‘technical debt’ that is not being paid down. It comes from taking shortcuts, which may make sense in the short-term. But like financial debt, the compounding interest costs grow over time. If an organization doesn’t pay down its technical debt, every calorie in the organization can be spent just paying interest, in the form of unplanned work.”

“On the other hand, if a resource is ninety percent busy, the wait time is ‘ninety percent divided by ten percent’, or nine hours. In other words, our task would wait in queue nine times longer than if the resource were fifty percent idle.”

In case you hadn’t felt like I was positive enough about The Phoenix Project yet, I would say that this book should be provided as mandatory training to every person working in every IT department today, from the guys plugging in cables to the CIO!

If you do read and enjoy the book, I highly recommend also reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. I was a little surprised, to say the least, that this appears to be a very similar story, following a similar arc and some almost identical characters to The Phoenix Project. That said, I am half way through it at the moment and still thoroughly enjoying it, though I am not too worried about missing the movie version!

The Goal by Eli Goldratt CoverThe Goal delves even deeper into the Theory of Constraints and explains some of the tools we can use to mitigate, bypass or remove constraints in a system. All of these tools and methods can be applied as easily to IT as they can to production lines, which (without stating the bleeding obvious) is exactly the point of The Phoenix Project!

Anyway, if you want to do yourself a favour both in terms of your career development, but also a really compelling story and a thoroughly decent book, you could do a lot worse than spending £5 on the Kindle Edition of The Phoenix Project!

Where To Get Them

For anything technical, I like to buy ebooks these days for both portability and the fact that I wont be chopping down trees needlessly. Both of the above titles are available very inexpensively on Kindle:

And Finally…

Sincerest apologies for one of the most click bait-y blog titles I’ve ever posted! Even worse than this one. Honestly, I feel ashamed!

I’ll get my coat…

Congratulations to the VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide Winners!

The VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide (with DVD) by Paul McSharry

Firstly, congratulations to the winners of the signed VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide competition!

Thanks very much to everyone who entered, and particularly to Paul @pmcsharry, who kindly provided his book and at draw time added a second copy for another lucky winner, as well as the London VMUG @LonVMUG for providing the VMware View book!

For those of you who haven’t seen the book before, I recently did a review, which is posted here: VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – Book Review

The prize list is as follows:

Prizes will be posted this week; good luck with your exams and let us know how you all get on!

VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide Competition

The VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide (with DVD) by Paul McSharry

Well here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… a chance to win a signed copy of Paul McSharry’s VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide!

If you haven’t already heard of it, I recently did a review of it here.

To summarise, I can whole heartedly recommend the book, not only as a key component in your VCAP5-DCD study, but as an excellent reference resource for designing vSphere infrastructures out “in the wild”.

To enter the competition, simply retweet the following:

 

One runner up will also receive a copy of VMware View 5: Building a Successful Virtual Desktop by Paul O’Doherty.

That’s it!

Thanks to Paul McSharry (@pmcsharry) for providing the VCAP5 book, and London VMUG (@LonVMUG) for the VMware View book!

The obligatory Competition Terms:

1. You don’t have to follow me on twitter and this will make no difference on whether you are in the draw or not, but feel free to follow me if you like! 🙂
2. Winners twitter handles will be drawn from a hat by my 3 year old daughter on Sunday 23rd February 2014 and will be notified by twitter within 48 hours
3. Winners to provide postal details for sending of the prize after the competition (I will get this out within the week if you send me your details quite quickly, but please allow up to 30 days for delivery, especially if you are not in the EU!)
4. This is only for a bit of fun, so I obviously wont use your details for anything other than sending you the book. I will not spam you, etc.
5. Although I will be paying the postage of the book out of my own pocket, I am happy to open it up world wide, so don’t worry about your location before entering (though if you’re in an Antarctic research post, I am happy to deliver the book by hand if you can fund my travel!)
6. One entry per person only please (no fake twitter accounts!)
7. No cash alternative is available, remember this is just a private competition for a bit of fun, I am not a multinational corporation with loadsa money! 🙂
8. If for some reason a winner chooses not to accept either the primary or runner up prize, a replacement name will be drawn at random via the child+hat methodology as before

 

VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – Book Review

The VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide (with DVD) by Paul McSharry

Written by Consultant, VMware Certified Trainer and vExpert Paul McSharry, the VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide is an excellent resource for solidifying and testing your knowledge in advance of sitting the actual exam, as well as a useful reminder guide for your day to day role in design.

As I mentioned in my VCAP5-DCD Exam Prep Resources article, I saw my study as being split into two distinct areas, Holistic Design and Technical Design. For me, this book falls very much into the former category, mainly covering the process and methodology for producing a design.

The main chapters are:

  1. Introduction to Technical Design
  2. Creating a Design
  3. Thoughts on Good Choices for Virtualization and Design
  4. Developing a Design on Paper and Delivering It Physically
  5. Virtual Machine Design
  6. Project Execution
  7. Tips for Passing the Exam

I was fortunate enough to attend the official VMware Design workshop (for v4) run by Paul a couple of years ago and his personality and teaching style really come through in the book. For me the strongest positives in the book are:

  • Great use of real life examples and case studies throughout the book
  • Plenty of great practice questions at the start and end of each chapter as well as the included practice exams. For me this was one of the most valuable features of the book as it helped me build confidence in my knowledge and highlighted areas for improvement.
  • Many tips / suggestions of processes and activities to use in your real design engagements, my favourite or which is to spin up an internal wordpress site or similar and use that to disseminate project information to stakeholders and users.

The only minor tweak I would like to have seen would be in the practice questions, where there are some questions which require multiple answers. In the real exam, VMware generally specify the number of answers to select [e.g. Select three of five answers]. This would have been good in Paul’s test questions too.

The print version of the book also comes with a DVD that includes test exams, another great resource, especially when genuine (not brain dump!) tests are not common and can be quite expensive. I did not have time to go through these tests prior to my exam, so cannot reasonably comment on their quality, but based on the sample questions in the book I would suggest they should be of a good standard.

The book is available from all the usual outlets including in both hardback (with DVD) and Kindle formats.

To summarise, I can whole heartedly recommend this book, not only as a key component in your VCAP5-DCD study, but as an excellent reference resource for designing vSphere infrastructures out “in the wild”.

Finally, keep an eye on my blog later HERE I will be providing an opportunity for one lucky person to win a signed copy of this book!

Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of the book by Paul, however there was no expectation or requirement to review or publicise the book.

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