VMware puts VMworld labs in the cloud

VMware set many new records by leveraging a hybrid cloud solution to power its self-service lab sessions during VMworld 2010

VMworld's tag line this year was "Virtual Roads. Actual Clouds," so it was no wonder that the world's largest virtualization trade show was morphing into a cloud-centric exposition. Cloud computing was the story, from the keynote addresses to the breakout sessions to the showcase solution show floor. Yes, cloud was the story around the VMworld labs this year as well.

Last year, just prior to VMworld 2009, Cisco and VMware were talking about the wonders of Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) and the Nexus 1000V virtual switch. These two technologies would come together to become part of VMworld's virtual lab buildout story that year. The onsite data center powered 16 UCS systems running 512 blades and 776 ESX servers, all in the space of about 1,700 square feet at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. More than 37,000 virtual machines were packed into the environment, and it only consumed 540 kilowatts of power. VMworld expected to supply more than 4,000 online classes and serve more than 14,000 people over the four-day period that year.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Xsigo launched an adapter-free Ethernet-based virtual I/O while at VMworld 2010. | Make sure to keep up with all the latest virtualization news with InfoWorld's virtualization newsletter. ]

However, the great VMworld lab experiment of 2009 was not a complete success. During a boot camp on Sunday, attendees reported continuous technological glitches, and these problems spilled over into Monday's hands-on lab sessions. The problems were eventually fixed, but not before there was a bit of egg on certain vendor faces and a lot of frustration on the part of the affected attendees.

While VMworld breakout sessions are extremely popular and usually very crowded, hands-on labs have been a major draw for attendees. People look forward to the lab environments in order to get some hands-on experience with the products rather than simply rely on lecture and PowerPoint alone. And the proof is in the fact that lab sessions are usually the first thing to fill up during session scheduling.

This year at VMworld 2010, VMware attempted to address these challenges. Labs, like the breakout sessions, were offered on a first-come, first served basis. And unlike previous years, this time labs were going to be presented via a self-service model powered by a VMware cloud portal. Doing so would not only show off the power of a VMware cloud, but it would also allow attendees to schedule which lab topics they wanted to take at a time that was convenient for them rather than be forced into scheduling and participating in a rigid traditional instructor-led lab session. VMware would also have more than 100 VMware Subject Matter Experts on hand to answer any questions and to provide one-on-one attention when requested.

To surpass last year's experiences, VMware created a hybrid cloud to operate the self-service labs. The VMware team once again set up a data center at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, but this time connected it to a public cloud being provided by Terremark in Miami, and Verizon in Ashburn, Va. Eating its own dog food, VMware called this its "Lab Cloud." The cloud infrastructure was powered by VMware vSphere Hypervisor (formerly known as ESXi), a storage environment made up of mostly 10GbE, and labs that were created a few levels deep by nesting ESX inside ESX with virtual machines running inside so that they could be provisioned.

By leveraging a multitenant cloud environment, VMware was able to get its lab numbers up from the previous year. This was important, because VMworld 2010 increased the number of attendees from 12,500 in 2009 to more than 17,000 in 2010. Folks were hungry to try out new products within the lab environment.

According to VMware, VMworld 2010 hands-on labs set several new show records. In 2009, VMworld offered 21 different lab topics to choose from. In 2010, that number increased to 30 virtualization and cloud-related topics. Attendees accessed more than 480 VMworld 2010 lab seats resulting in over 21,000 total lab hours delivered over the four-day period. Each hour, Lab Cloud created (provisioned) and destroyed (de-provisioned) approximately 4,000 virtual machines. In all, Lab Cloud delivered more than 15,300 labs compared to 4,500 in 2009, and it provisioned more than 145,000 virtual machines over the course of the show.

The top 10 labs presented at VMworld 2010 included:

  1. VMware View 4.5 Install and Config
  2. VMware vSphere Performance & Tuning
  3. VMware ESX 4.1 new features
  4. VMware vCloud Director Install & Config
  5. Basic VMware vSphere Install & Config
  6. VMware View 4.5 Advanced
  7. VMware vSphere Troubleshooting
  8. VMware vCenter SRM Install & Config
  9. VMware vDS & Cisco Nexus 1000V
  10. VMware vShield

So, what's up next for VMware's Cloud Lab? VMworld Europe 2010. While the numbers won't be nearly quite as high, you can bet that attendees will be making good use of the self-service Cloud Lab and walking away happy and educated. And that's exactly what a lab session should be providing at one of these types of conferences.

But more important than that, VMware created a platform where it could show off the power of a hybrid cloud in front of an audience of more than 17,000 people, all without the need for yet another PowerPoint presentation discussing the glory that is the cloud.

This article, "VMware puts VMworld labs in the cloud," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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