2010-01-18

"Glassfish Administration" by Xuekun Kou

"Glassfish Administration" by Xuekun Kou is accurate, concise and useful.

Computer manuals comprise an odd segment of the publishing industry.  I suppose that this is because the books published in this segment generally have both a narrowly defined audience and scope and a short window of usefulness driven by the speed of evolution of the products they seek to address. This, sadly, seems to result in books of this kind falling into two general categories: Sparse works that cover little more than what the end user could have found in the product's install documentation or its included "readme" files and at the other extreme heavy tomes of dense material that make it difficult for the product end user to zero in on the essential information they require to address their immediate administration needs.

So, when I had been invited to review "GlassFish Administration" from Packt I was predisposed to believe that Mr. Kou's book would suffer from the same flaws as so many other system administration books: too short to be of use to anyone but those who are brand new to the product or of use to someone interested in becoming an expert in all nuances of the product. "Glassfish Administration" deviates from this pattern. I was pleased to find that Mr. Kou had written a well balanced handbook for Glassfish that addressed much of what is essential for making good use of what I consider to be an excellent product.

The book may also serve as a "bridge" manual for Glassfish development and production teams. This is to say that the book could be a useful tool to quickly get both your development teams and production teams to understand the platform and its capabilities from the same perspective with a minimum of fuss, regardless of where you project is in its development cycle. Many of us that use Glassfish are first exposed to the product as it is bundled with an IDE, typically Netbeans. What we find in Glassfish is a platform that, along with its associated development tools, is an excellent development platform that is pre-configured for a workstation environment in order to meet the needs of the developer. This is certainly a plus for the developer trying to get their code running but less than optimal for the administrator who will be responsible for the day to day "care and feeding" of the application as its deployed in the server stack.

For example, Kou's discussion of the alternate releases (pure open source release vs. the commercially supported release ) of the application server along with illustrations their different abilities and behaviors in a production environment along with chapters like "Configuring Clusters and High Availability" are useful for both the developer and administrator alike. If you are a project lead for a Glassfish application this material should be considered a prerequisite for all team members as your project enters its systems planning and pre-production phases. Misunderstandings and mis-communications at these stages can have the potential to drive expensive re-design changes back to developer which can be expensive. Use of Mr. Kou's book  as "team support materials" or "bridge materials" at these stages may help mitigate this kind of risk.

"Glassfish Administration" also presents a pleasant physical product. The book is well formatted, topics flow logically and its use of fonts and screen shots is clear and consistent. Formatting that is "easy on the eyes" is, for someone who spends many hours looking and computer screens and reading programming and systems manuals, something that is appreciated in a book of this kind. Packt has done a nice job on this aspect of the product.

If you are looking for well written and balanced handbook in support of your Glassfish installation or application development project Xuekun Kou's "Glassfish Administration" needs to be on your short list of titles to consider.

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