Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review - "GlassFish Administration"

Book Review of "GlassFish Administration", Packt Publishing

Available here.

This book is meant to be a resource for users of the GlassFish application server. It covers many aspects of GlassFish usage, including installation, configuration, application deployment, clustering, performance monitoring, and more. I would believe this book is appropriate for Enterprise Java administrators of all experience levels.

The book is generously illustrated, often times making use of screen shots to help users navigate the excellent GlassFish administrative UI. Better yet, the book also provides the Command Line equivalents wherever the UI is shown. These handy tips will allow experienced administrators to script installations, significantly cutting down both time and errors.

The CLI tips are just one example of the author's mastery of advanced server control issues. The author, Xuekun Koum, clearly understands the needs of enterprise server administrators and clearly spells out many best practices. For this reason, I would recommend this book for anyone planning to use GlassFish in a production environment. The chapters on performance tuning, monitoring, and security alone will make this book worthwhile for that audience.

In addition to that audience, I would also recommend this book to Enterprise Java developers who wish to keep abreast of best coding practices for the Java EE platform. Have you ever seen a coding demo given by Sun engineers? Using Netbeans and GlassFish, they are usually able to quickly generate flawless Java EE applications using mostly plain intuitive Java. (No hand-configuration of deployment descriptors!) This book, paired with a recent release of Netbeans and "Java EE 5 Development using GlassFish Application Server" (another Packt title) will allow you to knowledgeably generate Enterprise Java applications as easily as the Sun folks do. I'll be honest-- I'm usually not a NetBeans/GlassFish user, but this combination makes it drop-dead simple to generate entire applications in no time. Best of all, the generated source and configuration files are so clean that it's a snap to understand what each component does so you can brush up on how the whole things works. GlassFish does it's part by nicely bundling all the required resources (databases, application server instances, JMS providers, etc.), making them all very easy to administer. I've long thought Microsoft developers had a leg up on productivity given their excellent IDE and matching runtime environment, but after working with this toolset for a while I now believe the gap is closing.

I own some other titles on application server administration as well as this one. Frankly, I find this the most readable of these books. The instructions it provides are straightforward and very easy to follow. The author provides expert insights that probably came from many hours of working with GlassFish in different production settings. (Some of these ideas extend beyond current use of GlassFish, as well. In this regard, the book provides some best practices that should give the reader some wisdom without having to pay for it the hard way.) This book also touches on topics that really aren't specific to GlassFish, but rather are of interest to anyone working with an application server. Of particular interest in this area are sections on application monitoring and load balancing.

As for complaints, I have few. The primary thrust of the book is GlassFish 2, which is the current production mainstay. There is a chapter on GlassFish 3, but I wish the book were weighted a little more heavily towards version 3 so the book would maintain relevance longer. (In fairness to the author, I guess it's not possible to offer real-world experienced opinions on products that haven't been in use for much time. So I guess the version 2 / version 3 ratio is about right, realistically.) I wish this title contained a little of the content from some of Packt's other developer-centric titles (i.e. Netbeans tips). Other than those, I can't think of any other wants.

All things considered, this is a solid addition to any Java architect/developer's library. I'd urge you to check it out!


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