To celebrate our 10th annual VMworld, each week we'll be looking at a different facet of our event, from the evolution in VMware technology to our place as one of the world's largest IT conferences. For updates on VMworld 2013, please follow @VMworld on Twitter.
Since 2004, Hands-On Labs (HOLs) at VMworld have been a key part of VMworld’s experiential learning.
HOLs give attendees access to the latest VMware technologies. “It’s a benefit for users; they can try all VMware products without assembling software. Users don’t have to change licenses or buy equipment—and trying to do that yourself could take days,” says Pablo Roesch, Group Manager of Technical Marketing.
What happens during HOLs is all in the name: get your hands on a VMware-provided keyboard or your own device, and experiment with a product in the lab for approximately 60 minutes. Product experts are also on deck to provide immediate guidance. After a successful run of the lab, the environment is reset to a fresh state for the next participant.
Instructor-Led Labs kicked off in 2004 with resounding success.
Building the HOLs environment has been a labor of love years in the making. Labs were held in a room as its own encapsulated environment (datacenter, isolated network, user access points) equipped with Lab Captains to lead a guided tour to 40 to 120 users. Its popularity left attendees wanting a greater Labs presence and experience.
We introduced Self-Paced Labs in 2005.
To combat concerns in reserving seats, Self-Paced Labs (SPLs) were introduced in 2005 providing users with the convenience of accessing HOLs without pre-registration. While this resolved the issue by giving attendees the option to take a lab at their own time, Self-Paced Labs could not provide a complete user experience given the inherent limitations on a laptop.
Between VMworld 2008 and 2009, lab teams experimented with the concept of nesting ESX within itself. Running ESX on top of ESX within a virtual machine enabled HOLs to be built once and deployed in a clean state over and over again. By VMworld 2009, the lab teams combined nested ESX, Lab Manager and a custom portal in a private cloud supported by on-site datacenters. This created an enhanced self-paced experience, one that parallels the instructor-led one.
The success of the on-demand SPLs in VMworld 2009 proved to be a pivotal turning point in the creation of a HOL infrastructure.
All labs at the 2010 VMworld US were 100% self-paced.
Each workstation had a VMware View virtualized desktop running Lab Manager software, powered by VMware hybrid cloud technology. The vSphere virtualized infrastructure integrated onsite and offsite datacenters (in San Francisco, Ashburn, and Miami) to enable 4,000 virtual machines to be deployed and un-deployed every hour.
In 2011, all HOLs ran on vSphere 5.0 and vCloud Director 1.5 in a geo-distributed public cloud powered by three data centers (Amsterdam, Miami and Las Vegas). In this year, there was significant focus on the delivery of lab content. Instead of showcasing features of a product, sessions were more scenario-based to give the user a practical perspective on how a VMware product can improve business IT operations.
In 2012, VMworld introduced the BYOD model, making HOLs even easier to experience.
Support for BYOD (bring your own device), the introduction of Lightning Labs (quick 15 or 30 minute modules) and the reduction of lab time to less than 60 minutes are just three ways HOLs have grown to be as scalable as possible.
To top that this year, VMworld 2013 will have hot spots around the conference so HOLs can be accessed outside the lab. This further reinforces Pablo Roesch’s stance on HOLs: “Our goal is to make our labs as accessible as possible to everyone on the planet. People should be able to do labs on the fly, on airplanes, anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Please leave any feedback on HOLs in the comments below, so VMworld can continue to grow and defy convention.