Have you attended an Expert-led Workshop at VMworld or a VMUG and thought it would be great if you could host one at your next event? The Hands-on Labs team is excited to announce Hands-on Labs in a Box. In a sense, we are delivering Labs as a Service, but with guidance on best how to use it. This will allow you to utilize the Hands-on Labs Online infrastructure along with our knowledge and best practices for hosting your own event. We will supply the documentation and labs for you to facilitate the event; all you need to supply are devices to take the labs, the network bandwidth to support it and of course users! Best of all, this service is offered at no charge and is available to VMware Employees, as well as our Partners and Customers. Depending on the type of event you want to host, you can chose any or all of the labs that are listed in our online catalog. For the most current listing of labs, you can visit the HOL Online portal at labs.hol.vmware.com. Since building out your own Hands-on Labs infrastructure would be complex in nature, the labs you choose will run out of our datacenters and there is no back-end infrastructure you need to provide.
If you are new to the Hands-on Labs scene, an Expert-led Workshop is a session we run at VMworld, Partner Exchange, vForums/VMUGs and other VMware Conferences and Events. A topic and lab are selected for an Expert in that particular field to deliver. In the session, the Expert will walk through a portion of the lab and guide the attendees through that section. This also gives the Expert the ability to bring in knowledge on how they have seen the specific solution deployed and offer their best-practices. Since the audience is small in size, typically 10-20 attendees, they have an opportunity to ask the Expert questions on how it may fit in their environment.
Hopefully you can start to see what a valuable tool this can be. We have seen VMware Field Sales teams use this method for educating a Customer on a solution or Partners educating their Customers in much the same way. Partners have used it to enable their own internal Pre-Sales Engineers or Service Delivery teams. While anyone can read through a lab manual and perform the presented tasks, having someone with the expertise guide you through the solution and offer their valuable insight makes it a much more rewarding experience.
Hands-on Labs in a Box could also be used in much the same way as they are at VMworld with Self-paced Labs. A Self-paced Lab is simply letting an attendee pick a Lab from a catalog and walk through it themselves. While this is a very popular method of taking a lab, the downside is that you will not have that one on one interaction with the attendee as you would in an Expert-led Workshop. We often see this method being used for Enablement. For example, at our own internal Field Engineering Event, we use Hands-on Labs to offer our SE’s some additional stick-time with our products and solutions. Partners have used this method as well at their internal events. It’s also a great way to brush up on the technology and test different scenarios out prior to a services engagement.
With a little effort and some coordination, either one of these methods could be used to host an Online event. Should you run into an issue, it does make troubleshooting more of a challenge, but is very effective method for enabling a group that is geographically disperse. If you do decide to go the Online route, make sure you have someone to captivate the audience’s attention. In general, we have found that a speaker has the first few minutes to grab the audience’s attention.
While you could still host your own events today, the benefit of using the Hands-on Labs in a Box is that you will not only gain our knowledge and documentation for hosting an event, but by letting us know, we can properly prepare our environment for it and better ensure success. This is especially important if you plan on hosting an event with say 30 attendees and will be using a single lab. If we are not aware, it could mean that some of the attendees will be waiting for their lab to deploy. There is some back-end work we can do to make the labs are spun up and available for you prior to your event.
I do want to point out that this service is not designed to provide users with the binaries for each lab, the labs will still run out of the Hands-on Labs datacenter. We are providing what can best be described as a kit. The kit includes documented best-practices and troubleshooting assistance, templates to send to attendees and other helpful guides to ensure success at your event.
If you would like to host your own event, just fill out the following form at http://www.vmware.com/go/holinabox. At the end of the form, there is an option to meet with us to discuss the requirements. If this is your first event, I would recommend reviewing the requirements to ensure success at your event.
What else is coming up for Hands-on Labs in a Box? Between VMworld San Francisco and Partner Exchange, we will also start to build out our Experts Community. These will be individuals you can utilize (based on their availability) to lead the Expert-led Workshops in your area. We will have separate section on the Hands-on Labs Community page (hol.vmware.com) that will list the individual, what their specialty is, the best way to contact them and where they are geographically. While we cannot schedule these resources for you, we are more like match.com! We will help provide the connection.
We hope to see you at VMworld in the Labs and look forward to helping you host your own event!