One of the most interesting and unusual components of the annual VMworld conference is the Hands-On Labs area, which acts as a classroom and professional development center for attendees.
The Hands-On Labs fill a large room at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, tucked in a quiet space away from the noise of the show floor. Rows of Dell Thin Clients, 600 in total, line the room on long tables, and leader boards rotate across the large flat-screen displays scattered throughout the space. The leader boards rank the most popular labs—VMware Cloud™ on AWS, not surprisingly, sits in the top three this year; VMware NSXⓇ still holds the top spot, with VMware vSAN™ coming in second—and track metrics such as “NSX networks provisioned” and “Virtual Machines created.” Stay connected with the VMworld leader board.
“This is a comprehensive showcase of what VMware offers its customers and really shows off the power of VMware software,” said Avon Puri, VMware’s vice president for IT and business IT, who gave a tour of the Hands-On Labs to a group of Australian and Indian journalists and analysts. “It’s an amazing resource for attendees, and it’s completely free.”
Doing Is Learning
During the show, attendees are welcome to stop in and work at their own pace on labs of their choice, as many as they want. Each lab is a stand-alone module focused on a specific VMware product or IT task. The most popular modules include introductions and updates on VMware’s key products, such as VMware vSAN, VMware NSX, and VMware vSphereⓇ.
The Hands-On Labs demonstrate the value of VMware solutions in real time. VMworld attendees gain special access to the latest VMware technologies without needing to purchase equipment, software, or licenses. Attendees can explore a wide range of today’s hottest IT topics with a VMware-provided machine or their own device, all with product experts on hand to provide one-on-one guidance.
Workstations are available from 15 minutes up to two hours, and attendees may either make reservations or stop in when they have free time in their schedules.
Place to Connect
The Hands-On Labs also serve as a natural point of connection where attendees can interact and collaborate with each other. The labs are available online year-round, and attendees often seek out people they’ve interacted with online but have not met in person. A volunteer staff of more than 200 VMware experts, typically from tech field teams, are present throughout the labs and available to provide expertise, answer questions, and help attendees work through modules. A fully-staffed help desk is also available as a dedicated resource at all times during the Hands-On Labs.
Additionally, attendees gain access to expert-led workshops that are modeled on traditional teacher-classroom approaches. These workshops have become increasingly popular over the years.
“Our goal is to give our customers what they want, and the workshops have proved to be our most popular format,” said Puri. “Customers tell us they love connecting with experts and other customers during the workshops.”
Drink Your Own Champagne
In the tradition of “drinking your own champagne,” a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product, the Hands-On Labs run with VMware software on 144 Dell servers. And, most impressively, VMware cloud solutions power all of the labs content: VMware private cloud for internal operations, 37 IBM Cloud for VMware to expand capacity, VMware Cloud Foundation to deploy and run all of the content, and all of these in addition to 40 VMware Cloud on AWS for load balancing. Great care is taken to create an environment that replicates real-world experience.
Puri expects that attendees will create and destroy more than 100,000 virtual machines during the course of the five-day show. More than 10 million virtual machines have been created since the Hands-On Labs began in 2013.
“It’s amazing to see people excited, learning, and experimenting with our technologies,” said Puri. “We enjoy providing this to attendees. The feedback is very good.”
VMware and Dell Technologies CIO Bask Iyer, who also led media and analyst tours of the Hands-On Labs this year, proclaims, “This is the best place to come see everything VMware does.”
Learn more about year-round availability of VMware’s Hands-On Labs.