RTFM Education – Virtualization, VMware, Citrix

Aug 16 2011   9:06AM GMT

Welcome to the Hotel California…

Michelle Laverick Michelle Laverick Profile: Michelle Laverick

Well, I’ve been busy again. Not content with finishing up my book on SRM 5.0 – and also when that is done working on SRM I will be co-authoring a VMware View 5.0 book. Last week I started a 3rd book!

I had some downtime between submitting the 1st manuscript of SRM 5.0 to the publishers and waiting for the review/feedback. Also, when that stuff comes back its relatively simple matter to implement the corrections and recommendations – compared to writing something from scratch… So in the week or two I had free I started on my new book called simply “Hotel California”.

What’s is Hotel California?

The working title of this new book is “Hotel California”. And no, it’s not got anything to do with Cisco UCS (aka Project California). Although by the time I get fully into working on it  it may well do. This “Hotel California” book is ENTIRELY different from ANYTHING I’ve ever written before. So I want to explain what is and where the inspiration came from. You see, I’m not really sure how long its going to take me to finish it – because truth be told is partly a vanity project.

So here’s the concept. I’m writing what I call a “Technical Novel”. In that the book is part fact (about vSphere5, and the other VMware Technologies) but it is also part fiction. The story is about my central character called “Luke Maverick” (that’s a little bit of spoonerism fun for ya – for fun Maverick even has a blog!) and its done in the style of kind of crime thriller – the kind of sardonic side-of-the-mouth detective fiction for which writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are famous. These writers went on to inspire whole category of film we call “Film Noir“. The idea is to blend fictional story of Luke Maverick with a technical narrative at the same time.

Two weeks ago I wrote the introductory chapter, and last week I wrote a chapter about Maverick’s experiences with doing a scripted install of vCenter5, and using the new auto-deployment feature (aka PXE booting ESX). I’m nearly done with the second chapter, but it still needs some spit and polish. I’m thinking chapter 3 will return to the fictional story, and chapter 4 will be about vCenter Heartbeat Service.

My plan is when the book is completed – is to release it on LULU as paper-book, and also in a digital formats suitable for the iPAD, Kindle and so on. I won’t be approaching a conventional publisher because – well, quite frankly they would laugh at me. There’s precious little market for technical books as there is, but one that is at the same time a  novel at the same time, is somewhat of a radical concept for the publishing industry! Not sure whether I will be giving it away for free, or for a nominal charge. I’m tempted at the moment to do it for charity on a $10 download, or $10 mark-up to the cost price.

What inspired “Hotel California”

The inspiration behind “Hotel California” is many and varied. Firstly, after writing about Vi2/Vi3/vSphere4 (that’s 3 generations of VMware’s “core platform”), I felt yet another book covering the same familiar ground would be boring – mainly for me. I know that what your supposed to do as an author is endlessly rehash previous books quickly to drive the biggest monetary return on your investment of time. But I didn’t want to do that. It would be too tedious, and think I would quickly become disengaged.

Secondly, I thought it was time to move on from the “core platform” of covering ESX/vCenter to Nth degree. Isn’t that old news now? Isn’t that kind of knowledge almost ubiquitous amongst the VMware Community? What I’ve identified is knowledge gap. Many people “know” ESX/vCenter but are largely ignorant of the other technologies in the Cloud Infrastructure Suite. True I’ve dabbled in SRM and View, but I find myself only having passing knowledge of the other products on a kind of WebEX level. The vast majority of them (apart from vCloud Director & vCenter Heartbeat Service) I’ve never even installed. So I want to write a book that is “stack” oriented – that is a survey of the vast array of technologies from VMware, and learn how they integrate (or don’t as the case maybe).

Thirdly, I’ve been looking for away of delivering technical information, in away that both educates AND entertains. There reality is very few people actually read technical books end-to-end unless they are “newbies” seeking to self-educate themselves on a brand new technology. People who have read my books often comment on how they like my down to earth style, practical edge, and humour. In fact, the thing that inspires most emails are the analogies and jokes that occasionally appear in my written work. It seems limiting to me to have to work within the conventions of “technical writing”, and its sometimes a bit stultifying to be stuck in the register/linguistics/dialect of “technical speak”. Somewhere inside me there is a bit of frustrated writer, so in some respects “Hotel California” is opportunity to let my more “creative” side out. The idea being is if I can engage the reader with a fictional narrative whilst at the same time educating them about VMware Technologies, then perhaps they would read my book on the beach. Not least you can pretend to be relaxing, whilst actually your learning more about virtualization and the cloud!

So why “Hotel California”

Hotel California is one of the main tropes in the technical novel. And I was inspired by the CEO of VMware’s reference to the Eagles Song. As you might know there’s line in the song about “You can checkout any time you like,But you can never leave!”. Paul Martiz uses this as analogy to describe the dangers of being locked-in to vendor specific, non open-source cloud computing platform – whether or not VMware represents this is moot. So I thought it would be funny to create a fictional hotel chain called “Hotel California” where my character, Maverick is forced to stay. He works as a contractor for a fictional company called “Corp, Inc”, and is forced to stay in the chain because the company has a corporate account with them. The Hotel California Company has based its reputation for friendliness and customer-services, and the fact that where ever you stay, every hotel is absolutely identical. The idea is create that sense of familiarity that makes you feel right at home. It’s a bit like the McDonald’s concept applied to hotels. Anyone who has been road-warrior like I was, can smile wryly – because you should know what I’m getting at…

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