You’ve hooked up a Sun data centre solution. It’s ready to talk to the rest of your network and the world. How do you make this happen smoothly?

Sun engineers Deepak Kakadia and Francesco DiMambro poured their expertise into the pages of Networking Concepts and Technology: A Designer’s Resource.

Published by Sun Microsystems Press, this reference collects the tips and tricks network designers want to optimize their data centres.

In today’s network paradigm, a consolidated data centre deals with requests from various clients with different speeds, security levels and so forth. VPN, business-to-consumer, business-to-business, it all has to work in this era of Web-based applications that are often built on legacy architecture meant to deal with network traffic patterns of yesteryear. The authors tackle the issue using plenty of diagrams, code samples, scenarios and sample solutions.

Chapter 3 (“”Tuning TCP: Transport Layer””), for example, goes into some depth to explain (among other things) how to tweak tunable parameters for variables such as optical networks and slow links while recognizing that current technology has its limits.

The authors even have their favourite SLB algorithm and support their preference with mathematical proof in Appendix A (“”Lyapunov Analysis””). Proofs come into play for several other concepts in the book as well.

They list advantages and disadvantages of some strategies, as well as the trade-offs of choosing one strategy over another. Fault detection and recovery play an important part in Chapter 6, where the authors compare Layer 2 and 3 strategies in various contexts to dispel any one-size-fits-all notions.

Kakadia and DiMambro then put forth several tested scenarios in the last chapter (“”Reference Design Implementations””), tying together key themes from the rest of the book.

As you might have guessed, Networking Concepts and Technology deals chiefly with Sun technology, but other manufacturers (like Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks) sneak onto the pages. Kakadia and DiMambro wrote this book at a very high level. Any effort to reach out to Sun newcomers would have made their sizable book a lot longer, so the trade-off is forgivable.

On the other hand, it’s hard to understand the poor-quality index, glossary, and table of contents that mar the book’s value. Navigational aids are just as important in books as they are on Web sites. Using Sun.com as an example, I find a clear set of links on the home page, well-organized site maps and a search function. These tools let me find what I want quickly on this content-rich site.

I can’t say the same about this book. Network designers who want to find specific answers quickly will be disappointed with the skimpy 2 1/2 page index (followed by three pages of publisher’s ads) near the end of this 400-page tome. The glossary defines some terms well, others poorly, and still others not at all. The ten-page table of contents must have come from a beginner’s word processing template. For example, few guideposts helped me wade through four pages of headings for the 140-page Chapter Five (“”Server Network Interface Cards: Datalink and Physical Layer””). Large, content-rich web sites are hard to use without good navigational aids, and the same goes for reference books like this.

In spite of its sub-par navigational aids, Sun customers looking to boost the performance of their data centres will appreciate the content of this book. In an era of ever-increasing Web deployments, companies want to wring every last ounce of value from their technology investment, and this book should help Sun’s customers do that.

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