VMware Hands On Labs–BETA–Live!


For a number of years, VMware has provided some amazing lab contents during the VMworld conferences. From year to year, the labs progressed from onsite delivered, to cloud bursting, to majority cloud, and, finally, to completely cloud provided. It was inevitable that one day… some day… the labs would be opened up to the general populace. So, it turns out that Tuesday, November 13th was that fateful day. At the Portland VMUG Conference, Mr. Pablo Roesch (@heyitspablo) and Mr. Andrew Hald (@vmwarehol) released the Hands On Labs (BETA) onto the world!

Pablo and Andrew were kind enough to help me get access just before the announcement. And, I must say, I have been so impressed with what VMware has produced.

It is important to remember that this is a BETA offering (not quite like a Google BETA (ex: Gmail)), so experiencing some bugs and bumps in the road should be expected. However, with that being said, the quality of the content, delivery mechanisms, and the UI are top notch.

UI Tour

Lets take a quick look at what the environment looks like:



Upon logging into the HOL environment, you are greeted with a couple notable components:

  • Enrollments and Lab Navigation
    • This section, on the left, allows you to view the labs you have enrolled for, filter the lab types (currently Cloud Infrastructure, Cloud Operations, and End-User Computing), and viewing your transcript.
  • Standalone labs
    • The actual entry to the lab content. Enroll, begin, continue, etc… from here. This is where the magic happens.
  • Announcements
    • Includes important updates as to new lab content, product YouTube videos, Twitter stream, etc…

    All in all, the home page is very streamlined and efficient.

    Using a Lab

    Upon enrolling and beginning a lab, you are presented with:


In the background, vCloud Director is deploying your lab environment. Looks like VMware is truly eating its own dog food with this product. No more Lab Manager for this type of offering anymore.

The interface features some very well thought out design decisions that helps present the lab content, and VMs, in a very logical and convenient way. The HOL team heavily leveraged HTML5 to accomplish the magic:

Default View Lab Manual Consoles
image image image

The simple placement of tabs on the left and right sides allows for the console of the VM to consume the majority of the screen while minimizing the amount of times the user needs to switch between applications for information. All of the info is there. Plus, as the user scrolls down the screen, the tabs remain visible, always ready to be used.

Use the lab manual content to navigate through the labs at your leisure. Note, though, there is a time limit. This is shared infrastructure. So, if you are idle for too long, HOL Online will time you out and close up shop so others can use the same infrastructure. Don’t worry, though, the content will resume when you return later.

Bugs I Have Found

Yes… as mentioned above, this is a BETA. Did I mention this is a BETA, because it is a BETA. So, running into some bugs is expected. Don’t worry, though, I’ll participate in the forum to report them.

Thus far, I have found a couple funky bugs:

  • The mouse can disappear when a console is open
  • The mouse can disappear when multiple browsers are open and the HOL window is not active
  • Some lab manuals are not available
  • Occasionally, the HOL interface will hang at Checking Status. Force a cache refresh in your browser.

Getting Involved

If you want to get involved in testing the functionality and getting a taste of what the HOL Online is all about:

– Acknowledge that this is a BETA at this time. Don’t expect complete perfection right now.
– Sign up for the BETA at http://hol.vmware.com
– Notice that the signup site is a forum. You can check out the bugs and commentary from other beta testers to get a feel for what you’re going to experience
– Commit to participating in the beta community. Pablo and Andrew are not going to come to your house and take your vSphere licenses away for not participating. But, this is a unique opportunity to contribute to the success of a public product like this. Take advantage of it. Help the VMware community by contributing to it!

Well done, HOL team. I look forward to seeing what this turns into in the future!


VMUG Re-Organization – Additional Thoughts and Experiences

So… as one of my original posts to the Virutal Bill blog during VMworld 2010 (SFO), I commented on what I took away from the VMUG lunch. Please feel free to read that entry at your leisure.

However, I have recently been called to assist in setting up the PDXVMUG November all day conference (save the date – November 2nd, 2010). During a call today, I found out that the Master VMUG entity is playing banker for this event. For example: there is a need for us to have Golf Shirts, Pens, and Notebooks to hand out. No surprise there. However, each need listed needed to be run by the treasurer for the VMUG entity before we could actually purchase the goods.

Additionally, we have a bunch of sponsors that are considered to be “multi-event” sponsors. So, they have signed up to sponsor multiple VMUG events around the country, not just Portland.

The meeting today really showed me two things:

– Positive: By the Master VMUG entity managing the events from their post, we have access to higher level sponsors that visit multiple VMUG events!

– Negative: We need to get approval to get pens and notebooks for the attendees. Hmmm…

I am still not sold on the idea yet, but I am definitely keeping an open mind about it and I am hoping for the best. This will be the first event in PDX that is influenced by the entity. So, lets hope for good things.

If you have any comments or thoughts from your side regarding the VMUG entity, please let me know (I have a comments section on this here blog for a reason). 🙂

Your local VMUG

While it is fresh on my mind, I would like to take a moment and some space in your mind to promote your local VMware User Group (Alias: VMUG).

It turns out that being a member of your local VMUG is more than a free lunch and some time away from the office. There are excellent benefits for signing up and joining.

  • Unlike the Military, you are not committed for 3 years… but, VMware does offer training bootcamps.
  • Networking with local users. These guys may have environments 1000x larger than you do, but they also experience the same problems you do (just x1000). Pull up a chair and start talking. It is amazing how much you can learn and teach someone in a couple minutes.
  • Product information. VMware regularly sends representatives to VMUG meetings to discuss new releases, answer questions, etc… Vendors also send representatives to meetings for presentations. Note: the typical vendor presentation is not SUPPOSED to be sales based… but, you cannot get away from that sometimes.
  • Training. Very recently, <toot own horn> the Portland VMUG (of which I am on the core planning team) led a massively useful Performance Lab. Ravi and Balaji, from VMware Performance and API teams, respectively, flew into town and blew the socks off of everyone in attendance. </toot own horn>
  • Cool VMworld button, shirt, and lunch. VMworld loves to acknowledge participation in your local VMUG. So, what a better way than to give you a button for your lanyard, a nifty “LOOK AT ME, I AM IN A VMUG” t-shirt, and a special VIP VMUG lunch.
    • Snarkyness aside, the recognition is very nice!

Check out the VMUG site at: http://communities.vmware.com/community/vmug

If you are already a VMUG member, good job to you. I’ll see you in the VIP lunch. If you are not, please take a minute to signup (or signup at VMworld) and join… and let me know if you do!