Do VMware’s Hands-on Labs Spell the End of Home Labs?

Last week, VMware expert Edward Grigson produced a blog entitled, Online virtualisation labs come of age that poses the question: Will VMware’s Hands-on Labs spell the end of home labs? In his piece he discusses the fact that, until recently, there were no public cloud services that allowed users to experiment with the hypervisor layer.

From his article:

“If you don’t want to wait for the VMware labs to become available there are alternatives. During VMworld 2012 Skytap announced that ESXi is now offered via their cloud and they were a finalist in the Best of VMworld 2012 awards in the hybrid cloud category so must be doing something right! Skytap’s focus is on automating test and development in the cloud so adding virtual hypervisors to the range of products you can test against is a natural progression. When I spoke to Nate Odell, Marketing Director at Skytap, he told me that customer demand has been the driver behind this latest addition – customers want to test third party products against ESXi or prove an upgrade to vSphere5 for example, as well as the obvious training potential. Like a VM template you can create a whole test environment consisting of multiple virtual ESXi instances and save it as a ‘gold image’ which can then be spun up quickly when required – ideal for quickly replicating a complex lab environment. There are already around 125 templates on offer from Skytap, including a Cloud Foundry stack, and this is likely to grow significantly in the near future. Today ESXi is the only hypervisor on offer as Skytap haven’t seen customer demand for any others but in a rapidly changing marketplace never say never.

Skytap offer a flexible service comprising elements of IaaS/SaaS/PaaS – you spin up as many VMs as you want for whatever purpose you need (training, product development, upgrade testing etc) in contrast to the more prescriptive nature of the guided labs likely to be offered by VMware. Which of these approaches you prefer will depend on what you need – for focused VMware product training I imagine the VMware labs will be ideal but if you want a broader choice Skytap’s the way to go. If you’re interested in seeing what Skytap can do there’s a 14 day trial which you can sign up for here (although it’s not instant access) and a white paper authored by David Davis which walks you through deploying virtual ESXi instances along with vCenter. You can also import a VM from your local network directly into their cloud which looks like a very useful feature and Nate confirmed that the restriction on running nested 64bit VMs (mentioned in the white paper) has been removed after recent upgrades.”

Our ESXi multi-machine templates enable users to spin up a virtual machine in Skytap Cloud that runs the VMware vSphere ESXi hypervisor and vSphere client in fewer than 60 seconds. Using pre-built and pre-configured multi-machine templates for ESX 4.1 or ESXi 5.0, customers can use ESX configurations to develop and test applications that run on ESX; train users in ESX and related applications; and test VM and application readiness for ESX 5.0 before upgrading on-premise platforms.

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