Storage Books: An Indian Perspective

One question I regularly get asked by my students after I do my Storage 101 sessions is regarding the books they should be reading up to get more details about Storage Technologies. I thought it will be a good idea to write about the Storage books that are currently available in India and my impressions on them. This will help in two ways. People can get a detailed list of books available and they also get to know what each of these books could be helpful for them.

I would divide the people who attend my sessions in these categories: a) Engineers who will be involved in developmental or maintenance activities b) Engineers who will be involved in testing activities c) Storage / Systems / Network Administrators d) Those involved in system integration. Since each book caters to all these categories in some way or the other, I will try and make clear, which book is better suited for whom. The listing of the books is in no particular order.

Let’s start with the central premise on which learning is based. You can learn only if you know that you do not know!!! Hence the first book we will take up is:

1. “Storage Area Network for Dummies” by Chirstopher Poelker and Alex Nikitin. Publisher: Wiley India.

As the name indicates this book is about Storage Area Networks (SAN). I would recommend this book to all those who are just out of college and want to know what SAN is all about. This book has lot of implementation details, which is very useful for the Storage Administrators and the System Integrators. Lot of hardware stuff including types of Fibre cables, FC Switches, Arrays, HBAs etc are covered. There are nice chapters on how to setup a SAN including concepts like arbitrated loop, zoning, LUN masking etc. You can clearly see that the authors are people who have actually implemented SANs and they give tips about trouble shooting SAN and how to manage a SAN. Concepts like Dedupe, Replication are also explained. The language is simple and there are lot of diagrams to explain the concepts. In short they know you are a dummy and model the teaching accordingly!!
Availability: You should be able to get this book in almost any technical book shop
Cost: Rs. 399/-

2. Information Storage and Management. Edited by: G.Somasundaram and Alok Srivastava, EMC Education Services. Published by Wiley India

The scope of the book is vast. It covers various aspects of Storage Technologies. As you can expect, this being a book by EMC Education Services, the examples given to highlight any technology are based on EMC products. This is a good thing since it gives people a glimpse of how a particular technology has been implemented and has been productized. The book starts with the very basic unit of disk drives, proceeds to RAID, then to Arrays and on to DAS, NAS, SAN and CAS. It then introduces the concepts of Storage Virtualization, Data Protection, Disaster Recovery, Security etc. Most of the chapters are divided into two parts. In the first part, the technology is introduced and various components of the technology are discussed. The second part gives an idea of EMC product(s) that use the technology being discussed. Given the scope, I think the concepts are covered to a decent depth. This is a book for everyone in terms of understanding the complete Storage landscape. I would probably say this book is slightly tilted towards the development and testing engineers.

Availability: Available in most of the technical book stores

Cost: Rs. 599/-

(I heard that this book is used as the text book in colleges which have a tie-up with EMC. This book also helps students pass one of the basic EMC certifications it seems.)

3. Storage Area Network Essentials by Richard Barker and Paul Massiglia . Publisher: Originally Veritas, Wiley India in India

If the first book I mentioned was written with a ‘Nuts and Bolts’ approach and showing how to set a SAN, this book is aimed at Development, Maintenance and Testing engineers. Both the authors are from Veritas (now Symantec) but there is no Veritas specific stuff in the book. Lot of stuff is discussed which is needed for any development engineer / designer and architects. Things like Lock Managers, Fault tolerance, IO Balancing, Performance are dealt in detail. The book divides itself into three parts: Understanding Storage Networking, What’s in a SAN and SAN Implementations Strategies. If you are an engineer getting into Storage development or testing, grab this book. It will also help those who are already working on storage since the authors bring lot of experience to the table.

Availability: Available in all technical book shops

Cost: Rs. 449/-

4. Storage Networks Explained by Ulf Troppens, Rainer Erkens and Wolfang Muller (All from IBM Germany), Published by Wiley India

This is a translation from German. This is definitely written keeping the engineers in mind. Everything is explained at the conceptual level. If you are looking for ‘Nuts and Bolts’ descriptions, you will not find it here. The good thing about this book is that it explains the various protocols involved in Storage networks. The one limitation is that this book was published in 2004. Given that 5 years is like a lifetime in Storage world, some of the concepts have not caught up in the Storage world as expected. (Example: Infiniband and VIA. ) Having said that, if you are an engineers who wants to get a good grip on the various protocols and also understand some internal details, this book will be very helpful. There are also chapters dealing with SNIA Shared Model and SMI-S. It will be great if an update version of this book is published soon.

Availability: Available in most technical book shops

Cost: Rs.299/-

5. Backup & Recovery by W. Curtis Preston Publisher: O’Reilly

You can’t get a better person writing about Backup & Recovery than Curtis. Known in the industry as ‘Mr. Backup’, Curtis brings his considerable experience to the book. As the title indicates this book is about Backup and Recovery and if you are involved in this area, buy this book. In the book, Curtis first talks about the Open Source Backup Utilities that are available and explains how backup and restores are done using these utilities.  Infact that seems to be the main aim of the book as the sub title of the book is “Inexpensive Backup Solutions for Open Systems”. In the next segment he talks about the features expected / our requirements vis-a-vis the commercial backup utilities that are available. He discussed features like Snapshots, Dedupe, CDP etc in this section. Backup hardware is discussed in another chapter. The next section of the book is devoted to Bare Metal Recovery which covers Solaris, Linux, Windows, AIX and MacOS.  Backing up Databases form the next section and the final section is called Potpourri, which as the name suggests, discusses various miscellaneous stuff. Curtis Preston has a web site: www.backupcentral.com You can go to his blog from this site. Curtis is someone who doesn’t mince words and speaks out his mind clearly. You will find his blogs interesting, even if you are not into backup. Given the challenges and new techniques that are cropping up for VMware backup, I am hoping that a revised edition of this book will appear in the future covering this topic in detail as well.

Availability: You need to look out for this in the technical book stores. Sometimes they push this book into the Database shelf.

Cost: Rs.600/-

6. Storage Networks by  Robert Spalding Publisher: Tata McGraw Hill

Earlier this used to be the only book on Storage Networks that was available. Nowadays I don’t see as much in the book shelves as I see the ‘Dummies’ and Paul Massiglia’s book. This is a 2003 edition and hence lot of newer developments are not present in the book (like Deduplication for example.) This does give a good internal view of many components (like HBA etc) which will be useful for engineers to understand the basic building blocks involved in creating the SAN. It has nice diagrams and the explanations are good. So if you are an engineer, you can definitely check out this book. It will be quite useful for you.

Availability: Used to be widely available. Still available in many technical book shops

Cost: Rs. 500/-

7. Storage Networking Protocol Fundamentals by James Long Publisher: Cisco Press (Pearson Education in India)

This book has details about various protocols including FC, iSCSI, Parallel SCSI. The approach taken is a layered one, in the sense every networking layer as per OSI model is taken up and the Storage protocols applicable to that layer are discussed. For example, SCSI Parallel Interface, Ethernet and FC are the protocols discussed at the physical layer. Similarly Network, Transport, Session, Presentation and Application layers are dealt with. Appropriate mapping of the respective protocols to these layers is done and some details of the protocol are given. If you are working on protocols this will definitely be a good first book to read before you actually go and read up the standard. (A prospect not many relish, I would say!!!). Though published by Cisco Press, this is not a Cisco specific book.

Availability: Seeing lesser copies of this now. Check in the Cisco section of any technical book shop

Cost: Rs.435/-

There was a book titled “Building SANs with Brocade”, which was a Brocade Switch Specific book. I don’t think this is available nowadays. I haven’t seen it any bookshops. Also given that products keep evolving fast, how applicable this book would be for the latest Brocade product needs to be verified.  Some IBM Redbooks may be available and these are useful if you are working on IBM products. I have seen books on IBM SVC and IBM Data Protection Strategies. Ofcourse you can always check out IBM Redbooks on the IBM Redbooks Site.

The books I am going to list are not available in India but may be worth procuring for your company library if you are working in that particular area.

1. Fibre Channel Switched Fabric by Robert Kembel

2. Shared Data Clusters by Dilip M Ranade

3. Highly Available Storage for Windows Servers by Paul Massiglia

4. Storage Security by John Chirrilo

If you have read any other book which is a good reference for any Storage technology, please do leave a comment with the book name. That will benefit everyone.

One final tip before I sign off. While I have given the cost of the book, you should be able to get atleast 10% discount on the book cost in most of the stores. So don’t go buy in some big name book shop which does not give a discount. I buy mostly from Book Paradise or Sapna Book house in Jayanagar, Bangalore and I get discounts ranging from 10% all the way to 22%. So if you save some money based on this tip and want to share a part of that savings,  let me know and I will mail you my address :)