It’s hard to write technical books nowadays. First off, technology changes so fast that there’s nearly a 100% chance that by the time a book is published, its subject has undergone some sort of update. Secondly, there is so much technical content available online that it makes books themselves feel downright stodgy and out-dated. So to succeed, it seems that a technical book must do one of two things: bring forth and entirely different perspective, or address a topic in a format that is easier to digest than what one would find online. This book, the Microsoft Windows Server AppFabric Cookbook by Packt Publishing, does the latter.
I’ve worked with Windows Server AppFabric (or “Dublin” and “Velocity” as its components were once called) for a while, but I still eagerly accepted a review copy of this book to read. The authors, Rick Garibay and Hammad Rajjoub, are well-respected technologists, and more importantly, I was going on vacation and needed a good book to read on the flights! I’ll get into some details below, but in a nutshell, this is a well-written, easy to read book that covered new ground on a little-understood part of Microsoft’s application platform.
AppFabric Caching is not something I’ve spent much hands-on time with, and it received strong treatment in this book. You’ll find good details on how and when to use it, and then a broad series of “recipes” for how to do things like install it, configure it, invoke it, secure it, manage it, and much more. I learned a number of things about using cache tags, regions, expiration and notifications, as well as how to use AppFabric cache with ASP.NET apps.
The AppFabric Hosting chapters go into great depth on using AppFabric for WCF and WF services. I learned a bit more about using AppFabric for hosting REST services, and got a better understanding of some of those management knobs and switches that I used but never truly investigated myself. You’ll find good content on using it with WF services including recipes for persisting workflows, querying workflows, building custom tracking profiles and more. Where this book really excelled was in its discussion of management and scale-out. I got the sense that both authors have used this product in production scenarios and were revealing tidbits about lessons learned from years of experience. There were lots of recipes and tips about (automatically) deploying applications, building multi-node environments, using PowerShell for scripting activities, and securing all aspects of the product.
I read this book on my Amazon Kindle, and minus a few inconsequential typos and formatting snafus, it was a pleasant experience. Despite having two authors, at no point did I detect a difference in style, voice or authority between the chapters. The authors made generous use of screenshots and code snippets and I can easily say that I learned a lot of new things about this product. Windows Server AppFabric SHOULD BE a no-brainer technology for any organization using WCF and WF. It’s a free and easy way to add better management and functionality to WCF/WF services. Even though its product roadmap is a bit unclear, there’s not a whole lot of lock-in that it involves (minus the caching) , so the risk of adoption is low. If you are using Windows Server AppFabric today, or even evaluating it, I’d strong suggest that you pick up a copy of this book so that you can better understand the use cases and capabilities of this underrated product.