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The Many Uses of VMware's Hand On Lab Infrastructure

It'd be nice to see the company use it for VCP self-paced training next.

Every year at VMworld, VMware's hands-on lab racks up mind-blowing usage statistics. New records are set every year. According to, here are some interesting stats for VMworld 2012 labs:

  • 36 labs available
  • 27,500 seat hours
  • One VM built and destroyed every .45 seconds with roughly 8,000 VMs created and destroyed every hour
  • Roughly 18,000 labs completed

With these types of numbers, it's clear that VMware has built an amazing virtual infrastructure that can be quantified and can perform.

At VMworld, VMware demo'ed a new front-end learning environment for a virtual lab infrastructure that is really slick (that word describes it best) called “Project Nee” (some of the creators were interviewed here). Project Nee is a HTML5 interface where you have a list of virtual machines on the left, a VM console in the middle, and a list of tasks to complete on the right of the screen (see Fig. 1). The left and right windows fold in and out, allowing you to maximize the screen real estate to work on virtual machines when you are performing a task.

A look at VMware's Hands-On Lab environment.

Figure 1. A look at VMware's Hands-On Lab environment. (Image courtesy of VMware; click image to view larger version.)

VMware then released a beta called VMware Hands on Labs Online Beta on November 13, 2012 with the Project Nee interface on top. I should point out that the beta hands on lab infrastructure and what is used at VMworld are not the same but VMware learned many things from the VMworld experience.

VMware's HoL is a 100-percent live virtualized, virtual infrastructure that you gain access to through your Web browser. You don't have to install a VMware View client (or any other thin-client device software). The performance is good and the quantity and topical breadth of lab topics are growing in popularity.

The hands-on labs in this form were used for the hands-on labs at VMware Partner Exchange in February this year. They have also been used at numerous VMware user groups to the point that I have heard VMUGs are requesting access to them.

So what is the future of this Hands On Lab solution, which is still in beta? Besides things like ESX, vMotion, and DRS it's my opinion that the hands-on lab solution is one of the best solutions that VMware has ever come up with. Why? It's because the HoL solution offers so many possibilities. Here are my top 5 use cases for it:

  1. Online VMware and third-party product demo -- VMware partners and end users need to be able to get a feel for and demonstrate the functionality and value of VMware's growing and complex product portfolio quickly and easily. VMware solutions like vCloud Director previously took a lot of hardware, fairly advanced technical knowledge, and about a week to setup, simply to provide a valuable demo what vCD does in your own environment. Today that can be done in a few minutes.
  2. Training -- While I know that VMware Education still has their own solution for online training, using HoL for training on VMware solutions in lab environments (like VMworld labs) or even ad hoc training environments is an awesome solution.
  3. VMUGs -- VMware user groups need to be able to demo VMware solutions and help those new to VMware to get hands-on experience. Previously they would ask local VARs to bring in a rack of servers and some clients but, no more --HoL can provide most of what is needed.
  4. Beta Programs -- Recently VMware announced that most beta programs that cover enterprise level solutions (and thus are more complex, not products like Workstation or Fusion) would be available in what VMware calls a “hosted beta." See more info here in a post by Duncan Epping.
  5. Certification -- And now, potentially, certification? Yes it isn't official but based on a screen I saw when I used the HoL recently at a conference, it would appear that VMware is planning to offer a self-paced HoL training course that would fulfill the VCP classroom requirement. (See my post on the TrainSignal blog to find out more.)

Additionally, I believe that the HTML5 interface is so strong, it could be a good model for the interface of VMware's upcoming public cloud offering.

Recently, VMware has continued to launch new labs, including those covering the new Project Horizon and more (see the list of labs that were available at VMware PEX, here).

To sum it up, the VMware HoL solution is awesome! Keep up the great work, Mr. Pablo Roesch (@heyitspablo) and Mr. Andrew Hald (@vmwarehol)!

About the Author

David Davis is a well-known virtualization and cloud computing expert, author, speaker, and analyst. David’s library of popular video training courses can be found at To contact David about his speaking schedule and his latest project, go to


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