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Using the Hands-On Labs to be A Force for Good

As many of you may already know, VMware just released the VMware Appliance for Folding @ Home Fling last week and you can check out this blog post A Force for Good: VMware Appliance for Folding @ Home by Amanda Blevins for all the details. As everyone is wrapped up in their own personal quarantine, we want to show you how we in the Hands-On Labs are pushing the limits of our hardware to help the Folding@Home program understand protein folding, the diseases that result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs in general.

The team running the Hands-On Labs have been experts in infrastructure automation for years, so we knew we could reserve a chunk of our capacity to help push this project easily! As we host various events such as vForums and VMworld: our team must have capacity at the ready to spin up all of the labs you know and love. After checking with our teams and forecasted capacity needs we were able to gather 3 different clusters totaling nearly 3500 logical cores which equated to nearly 36 THz worth of compute to deploy. That’s like having 18000 laptops crunching away!

As you’ll notice right now nothing is really being used. That’s compliments of the way VMware software allows companies to easily spin up capacity on demand. The Hands-On Labs run on a combination of VMware Cloud Foundation, vCloud Director and VMware Learning Platform to deliver the labs. This great combination of software gives end users simple controls when it comes to scaling workloads up and down. To show you how easy it is, I’ve documented the steps I took in a day to spin up one of our environments.

  1. Download the VMware Appliance for Folding @ Home from my browser.
  2. Upload the appliance to vCloud Director using the “Add vApp  From OVF” button.
  3. Customize the Appliance for Folding@Home template to my liking by setting the OVF Properties.
    Note I made sure the team was set to 52737 Team VMware!
  4. Add the template to my vCloud Director Folding catalog.
  5. Over on the VMware Learning Platform – I then Sync my vApp Templates with vCloud Director.
  6. Finally – Create a deployment pool in VMware Learning Platform.
  7. Last – but certainly not least: Watch your templates populate in VMware Learning Platform and vCloud Director!

Many of you may notice that we’re only running giant VMs for our contribution for Folding@Home. This is due to the fact that we are looking to maximize our ability to fold by minimizing context switching across VMs. It also allows us to contribute to the BigAdv type of workloads that get far fewer opportunities due to a lack of available CPU cores (16 or more!!!).

That’s it! The HOL now has reserved a massive amount of CPU capacity specifically for Folding@Home. When our next big event comes up, we can pare down the workload VMs that are sitting idle to give capacity for events, and then spin it right back up as soon as we no longer need the capacity.

Odyssey into Asia Pacific vForums – Week 2


vForum Seoul (Nov 19th, 2019)

Odyssey made its debut in Seoul on the 19th of November. Located at the very center of the venue, vForum attendees gathered around the area to watch the contestants compete. Round 1 was on vSphere, Round 2 on Horizon and the last round was centered on vSAN.

Here is a sneak-peak into the event.

Congratulations to the winners – Rockets! Team Rocket was from a VMware partner in Korea. We hope to see you again next year.

Watch the recap of the entire event in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecDnAoJmQgs


vForum Mumbai (Nov 19th – 20th, 2019)

Next stop on week two of the Asia pacific vForums was vForum Mumbai. Contestants could register on the event day to compete in the Odyssey tournament. A total of 5 tournaments were held using the entire scope of VMware products – vSAN, vSphere, NSX, vRealize Automation and Horizon.


vForum Beijing (Nov 21st – Nov 22nd, 2019)

Our final stop of vForum APAC (Asia Pacific) 2019 was Beijing. The event started on November 20th with a soft launch online for users to test their skills and take the vSphere Odyssey lab.



The in-person event was on November 22nd jammed packed with excitement and momentum. The Bejing local team organized two separate standalone tournaments focused on vSphere and vSAN content. Recruiting a total 56 customer and partners forming a total of 28 teams, 14 teams for each tournament. Making it the biggest number of team formations to date, compared to 24 at VMworld US and Barcelona.



The event kick-off in the morning with the vSphere tournament and in the afternoon the vSAN tournament began. The competition was fierce with multiple teams finishing seconds away and finally finishing with a record win!



Congratulation to team 野狼 (Wild Wolf) for winning the vSphere tournament and to the team (Timely Rain) for winning the vSAN tournament and setting a new record of 7:23, 0:44 faster than VMworld Barcelona.


Once again, thank you to Intel for sponsoring Odyssey for all of these fantastic events.


Also thank you to our readers. Happy new year!



Odyssey into Asia Pacific vForums – Week 1


Straight after VMworld Barcelona, the excitement of Odyssey continued at the vForums in APAC (Asia Pacific).

What are vForums?

VMware vForum’s are smaller sized replications of VMworld that are held in major cities around the world. At vForums, attendees can meet face to face with VMware product experts and learn more about navigating through digital transformation.

vForum Tokyo 2019 (November 11th – 13th)

The first stop on the journey was Tokyo where VMware Odyssey was center stage at the solutions exchange. The venue was filled with excitement and enthusiasm.  In total, there were 46 customers and partners, forming 16 teams of 2-3 people. The tournament format took place across two days between November 12th and 13th.

Day 1: Round 1 and Round 2  

Day 1 of the tournament began on November 12th with a total of 16 teams participating in Round 1 and Round 2. They were tested on vSAN and vSphere. Within the teams, there was a great amount of teamwork as participants worked together to complete the required tasks.

In addition to the tournament, attendees at the event could play as a single-player and take the vSphere Performance Odyssey lab. The top 3 people on the leader got a chance to win prizes. Congratulations to the winners!

Day 2: Semi-final and Final

On Day 2, the semi-final and final round tested all participants on their knowledge of Horizon and NSX-T. The players screen was mirrored on larger displays above each station. There was a lot of interaction with the audience as they cheered for their favorite teams and friends.

Congratulations to the vForum Tokyo 2019 Odyssey Champions: the Galaxies! With an impressive time of 10:46, betting the VMworld US record by 4 minutes and 16 seconds.

Want to learn more? Watch the interview video with the winning team



vForum Singapore 2019 (Nov 14th.)

Next stop on the journey was Singapore.

The excitement continued in Singapore with 16 teams competing to become champion. Starting in 2018, Singapore is the first country that hosted a Hands-on Labs tournament of which grew into Odyssey. For those who would like to trace back to the epoch of this journey please read this blog post. 

The Singapore team took their 2019 tournament to another level by adding a special round for female participants called ‘Voyagers of Venus’. In tandem with VMware’s diversity and inclusion initiative, during this round female participants in each team were given a chance to compete and gain an advantage that could help them advance to the next round.

And here are the proud winners of Odyssey at vForum Singapore. Team Flying Saucers of Singapore!



vForum Sydney 2019 (Nov 19th)

Last on the list is vForum Sydney – where VMware customers had a chance to play single player game mode of Odyssey. Participants could register on-site to take part in the race to the top of the event leaderboard. Here’s a customer that was the first to take part in the game:

Congratulations and thank you to all the participants!

Tune in again next week for a recap of Week 2 at APJ vForums: Seoul, Mumbai, Sydney and Beijing.

All the Odyssey lab content has been released online. Try the Odyssey labs now: https://www.vmware.com/try-vmware/try-vmware-odyssey-labs.html

The (VMware) Odyssey Continues – all the way to Barcelona, Spain

This past November, we successfully launched our second VMware Odyssey Tournament, sponsored by Intel. Similar to VMworld 2019 US, we offered this new program in three different modes:

  1. Game Mode: Individual VMworld attendees could drop by the stage and take one of three Odyssey labs during non-competition hours. For game mode, we partnered with the VMware Security team to create a series of Odyssey games that tested your knowledge of VMware Security through blocking a data breach.
  2. Tournament Mode: 24 teams compromised of our customers and partners came together and went head-to-head to compete for the grand prize Odyssey winning title. We expanded our product offerings at the Europe show to include Horizon, vRealize Automation, and more.
  3. Self-Paced Mode: VMworld attendees were also able to take our Odyssey labs in the Self-Paced Labs section of the HOL area. Anyone who was not able to sign up for the tournament could test their knowledge of the VMware portfolio with our Odyssey labs at their own pace.

VMworld 2019 EU Tournament Format: 

Before kicking off Round 1 of the World Cup Style VMware Odyssey 3-Day Tournament, we added a special round for our technical bloggers. Without any prior knowledge or practice, they were tested on vSphere! Here are some posts around the competition:

Next – The Tournament Begins: All 24 teams participated in Round 1 and Round 2. They were tested on vSAN and vSphere. Crowds formed as the participants focused on completing the given tasks as quickly as possible.  After both rounds were complete, we totaled their scores and selected the top 12 teams to continue into the semi-final rounds.


In between tournament rounds, the teams studied up on our products by taking our labs in the Hands-on Lab area. The semi-final and final round tested all participants on their knowledge of Horizon and vRealize Automation.

And finally, we had a winner! Congratulations to the VMworld 2019 EU Odyssey Champions: the Meteors! With a very impressive time of 10:36, they finished our (very challenging) vRealize Automation Odyssey lab first.

Thank You! We want to thank all the participants, our entire team, and our sponsor Intel. Without all of you, this would not be possible! The VMware Odyssey program at VMworld 2019 Europe was a HUGE success. We hope to see many of you again next year.

What’s Next: The Odyssey team has been working tirelessly to grow and scale the person in-person and online. We are expanding to have a presence at many different VMware in-person events in 2020 as well as online. J

Stay in the loop on all things Odyssey:

Ready to test your skills of the VMware Portfolio? Take our Odyssey labs now: https://www.vmware.com/try-vmware/try-vmware-odyssey-labs.html

VMworld 2019 Barcelona Hands-on Labs: VMware Odyssey, Lightning Labs, and More!

The Hands-on Labs team is continuing the momentum to make sure your experience this year at VMworld Barcelona is unforgettable! Here is a list of items you don’t want to miss during the event.

What’s New?

  • VMware Odyssey™ by Hands-on Labs: We are taking Hands-on Labs to the next level by adding gamification elements to the labs you know and love. Showcase your technical expertise and skills with VMware Odyssey, sponsored by Intel. Compete through rounds and go head-to-head with teams to be crowned the grand prize winner.The winning team is awarded the NEW MacBook Pro.  Register Now and become the Odyssey Champion!



The winning team is awarded the NEW MacBook Pro.  Register Now and become the Odyssey Champion!  Are you ready to be crowned VMworld Barcelona’s Odyssey Champion?

Limited availability, Register Today, claim your spot and jacket:

  • Lightning Labs: At VMworld Barcelona, we will have more lightning labs than ever! If you’re not familiar, Lightning Labs are short 30-minute, concentrated modules of our Hands-on Labs that are designed to maximize your time. Simply put, they are the fastest and easiest way to learn about core product features broken down to bite-sized actions. Here’s the list of all the Lightning Labs that you can choose from in Barcelona:

  • Partner Labs: Test drive our newest partner products and solutions with Hands-on Labs. At Barcelona, we will offer many new partner labs including Dell, AWS, and more.
  • Hands-on Labs Augmented Reality: Augmented Reality will be available within the VMworld App throughout the Hands-on Labs area. Discover the Expert-Led Workshops, Command Center Wall, Hands-on Labs Tours, and VMware Odyssey.

Labs That Fit Your Schedule

Take any lab, anywhere, anytime. VMware Hands-on Labs are flexible to fit your schedule. Here are a few options available at VMworld:

  • Self-Paced Labs: Explore VMware’s latest products by taking a Hands-on Lab on your own time and at your own pace.
    • At a traditional workstation:Come into the Hands-on Lab room and we will provide you with a seat, a screen and a keyboard.
    • Bring in your own device (BYOD):Find a spot in our open HOL Connect (info on VMworld website) to start a lab.
  • Expert-Led Workshops: Try Hands-on Labs in an engaging, instructional environment with lab creators and experts in the room with you! This year we increased the total number of workshops available AND added a number of workshops in French and German. 

  • Hands-on Labs Tour: Get a 30-minute behind-the-scenes peek at what it takes to run our Hands-on Labs. Meet lab creators and engineers running our multiple clouds. Make sure to book your tour at the HOL Tour Information Desk during VMworld!

What about Prizes?

 This year our prizes are better than ever! Here are a few ways you can qualify to win:

  • The CloudCred, Hands-on Labs Great Labs Game: Score your CloudCred points for EVERY lab and workshop. Follow the QR code at the end of your lab or session for CloudCred points to win BIG PRIZES!! 
  • VMware Odyssey™ by Hands-on Labs: Come to VMware Odyssey during VMworld and enter for a chance to win prizes and Odyssey swag. First place tournament winner gets the NEW MacBook Pro!

After Hours:

After working hard, it’s time to play! Here’s a few of our favorite things to do after hours while in Barcelona:

  • Attend a Football game at Camp Nou Stadium: Camp Nou is the home stadium of FC Barcelona and the largest stadium in all of Europe. Cheer on the competing teams and meet some locals!
  • Visit the famous Sagrada Familia: The large and unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona is one of the must sees while in the area.
  • Walk around el Mercado de La Boqueria: This is our favorite local market in Barcelona that sells some of the best meat, cheese, and sangria in the city.
  • Eat dinner at El Nacional: The first restaurant in Barcelona with different areas to try traditional recipes from all around the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Grab a drink at the Old Fashioned: This is one our favorite Gin tonic & Cocktail Bars in all of Barcelona.

We can’t wait to see you there!



We Have Lift Off: Version 2 of vSAN Beginner Odyssey Game

We just made updates to the HOL-2008-04-ODY – vSAN Beginner Odyssey Lab based on user feedback. Version 2 of the VMware vSAN Beginner Odyssey Lab is now live!

Congratulations to Anthony Laurente, Jonas Weber, and Danilo Coppola on ranking at the top of our global vSAN version 1 leaderboard! Keep an eye out for our VMware Odyssey swag to come in the mail.


Thank you everyone for playing our VMware vSAN Beginner Version 1 Odyssey Lab!  Now is your chance to go back and showcase your vSAN skills on our brand new leaderboard: https://www.vmware.com/go/try-vsan-odyssey 

How to use VMware Odyssey for your next Event

As VMware Odyssey grows, we are continually learning better ways to run the program. Here are our latest tips, tricks, and best practices to have a VMware Odyssey ‘Hackathon’ at your next team meeting or partner event:

Prep Work:

Step 1:

Take an Odyssey Lab. Learn the key differences between a Hands-on Labs and VMware Odyssey Game labs. Your understanding of the program is key in the success of running the event and friendly competition.

Step 2:

 Understand what the requirements are to run Odyssey smoothly and successfully at your event. We put together a list below:

*If you will not provide thin clients, ensure there are enough computers available to run the games on.

The requirements above are categorized as optional and required items. The required lines will ensure you have the minimum necessities to successfully run Odyssey at a small local event. For medium-larger events that may span over multiple days with more attendees, we created a foundational list of “optional” items that will help drive awareness, buzz, and excitement. For example, adding emcees can help gather a crowd and get more customers to take a lab.

Step 3:
Fill out the information and details around your event here: http://web.hol.vmware.com/HOL-in-a-box/

Be sure to put a Salesforce Tracking ID and select all the Odyssey game labs you would like to run at your game night event.  Once you fill this form out, we will provide you with a landing page specific for your event, a unique Odyssey game code, and the custom leaderboard link.

Step 4: A few days before your event

Before your game night event, we recommend to take the specific Odyssey lab(s) that will be featured in the event and familiarize yourself with how to complete each task. It is also important to test the networking in the event room itself. This will ensure a smooth event experience and allows time to troubleshoot any issues before the event begins.

On the day of the actual event, we encourage a proctor or product expert present onsite that is familiar with how to complete the tasks.

Getting Started:

Once the prep work is down, lets create teams and design the game format based on the amount of time you have allotted.

Team Formation (optional step):

Start with all individuals form teams and create their team names. Help them along the way and try to keep each team small (we recommend no more than 6 participants per team). Once the teams have been finalized, write the team names and members down on the whiteboard. We noticed this can take a while, but it’s on our roadmap to automate.

If you decide that you do not want teams, then you can have all attendees play individually on their own laptops or thin clients.

Game Format:

Most Odyssey games run for 30 minutes, so we’d recommend you set aside 1 hour per game. Here’s an estimated timeline of events:

  • First 15 minutes: introduce VMware Odyssey, create user accounts, walk the users through the VMware Odyssey game lab interface, and make sure all players are ready.
    • *If you have a special Game Code, make sure people use that instead of the one within the lab manual.*
  • Next 30 minutes: Game Time – Choose one Odyssey lab at a time, and let the games begin.
    • We’d recommend starting with a Beginner level Odyssey lab to warm the players up, and then move into more Advanced topics if time permits.
  • Last 15 minutes: Once participants begin completing all the Odyssey lab tasks, they should walk around and help other players that are falling behind. VMware Odyssey is all about having fun and working together!

Pro Tips:

#1: If you find most individuals are stuck on a certain task, be sure to encourage them to use other resources (i.e. Google) to help solve the answer.

#2: If you don’t want your last name on the leaderboard, you can edit it out on our VMware Learning Platform Profile (lab portal) and refresh your browser. See image below:  

Let us know what you think! If you have any additional questions, suggestions, or comments on how to (better) run Odyssey at your events, please email us at: odyssey-support@vmware.com

Introducing the Command Center Wall – VMworld US 2019


VMworld 2019 was another record-breaking year for the Hands-on Labs team. A total of 14,434 labs were delivered across 5 different clouds, which is an equivalent to 127,523 virtual machines, 17,535 NSX Networks and a staggering 9,455,776 GBs of storage!

Every year, we deliver labs at a massive scale and customers often wonder – How?

A pivotal factor is the tools that we use to efficiently manage, monitor and scale our intricate and complex environment. Exclusively at VMworld, we offer a sneak peek behind the scenes at our infrastructure through a rather extraordinary installation of 15 screens on a 10ft. wall.

The screens on the Hands-on Labs Command Center wall are the windows into our operations and provide live, realtime access to the statistics of our environment during the event. These are many of the same dashboards our engineers are using to monitor and manage the clouds.

Much of this information is only open to the public during large events like VMworld. It is one of the most highlighted stops during the Hands-on Labs tours and was often seen crowded with customers.


Here is a peek at the screens we shared during VMworld.

vRealize Operations (both on-premises and the new cloud-based service)

We use traditional vRealize Operations and and vRealize Operations Cloud to monitor the overall infrastructure resources: CPU, Disk, Memory and Network. The dashboards give us the ability to summarize 5 clouds and over 300 hosts into a single dashboard, but also allow us to dig deeper into individual hosts, datastores, or virtual machines. With this extensive and instant insight into our infrastructure, we have visibility into overall usage and utilization of individual resources. We use alerts, events and alarms to realize and mediate issues as soon as they occur, with thresholds set to alert us in advance of potential user-impacting problems.

Interested in learning about vRealize Operations? – You can take a hands-on lab!

Lab: vRealize Operations – Optimize the Performance of Your vSphere Environment  Click here!



We use Wavefront to store data about our labs. This tool provides the ability to analyze relationships between different aspects of this data. Using these relationships, we can better understand lab consumption, active labs during specific times of day, week, and month, product interest trends and geographical lab usage. We can locate most popular lab at different points in time and geographic location, helping us understand our impact around the globe.


VMware Learning Platform

VMware Learning Platform (VLP) is the system that the Hands-on Labs team uses on a daily basis to manage everything from lab presentation, management, deployment and cloud placement to user accounts, transcripts and permissions. Where vRealize Operations and Wavefront are tools we use to monitor and analyze our environment, VLP is a one-stop management tool for all things Hands-on Labs.

If you are interested in learning more about VLP, you can try this interactive simulation (iSIM) for a quick overview: VMware Learning Platform – Interactive Quick Demo or experience the product in the Hands-on Labs  [link to HOL-2085].



Watch an interview with Doug Baer, (Staff Technical Marketing Architect and Command Wall Guru) introducing the command center wall! Watch Video

Any additional questions on the command wall? Reach us at HOL Support hol-feedback@vmware.com


Written by:

Doug Baer, Staff Technical Marketing Architect

Kate Lee, Technical Marketing Manager



Our Very First Odyssey Hackathon – Congratulations to the EA Team!

Our NEW VMware Odyssey, gamification of Hands-on Labs, hosted its very first Hackathon at the Electronic Arts Summit on September 18th, 2019. We took an odyssey ALL the way to Vancouver, Canada at the EA Vancouver Studio to challenge the participants on our VMware portfolio.

Before kicking off the Hackathon, we had teams of three form on the spot. There were 12 players and four teams created. Our four teams were named Disaster Area, DevOps, Wirecutters, and the Wookies.

The teams were challenged with successfully completing each task within the Odyssey Lab in the least amount of time to rank on our leaderboard.

The competition kicked off with three rounds on the following topics:

  1. vSAN
  2. vSphere Performance
  3. vRealize Operations

The teams dove deep into each task, in hopes to rank #1 on the leaderboard.

After all three rounds were completed, we had our grand prize winner! Congratulations to the Disaster Area team (Patrick, Andrew, and Robert) on finishing all three Odyssey labs in less than 40 minutes. Enjoy the prizes, swag, and most importantly, the bragging rights!

We even had a custom Electronic Arts Summit – Odyssey Hackathon Leaderboard with all the players and their rankings!

Interested to see where you would rank on our global leaderboard? Take our Odyssey labs now and find out! https://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/catalog/1416

Thank you to all the players that made our very first VMware Odyssey Hackathon a success! A big shout out and thank you as well to Electronic Arts for giving us the opportunity to host our first Odyssey Hackathon at an AWESOME location and to our sponsor, Intel, who helped us make Odyssey happen!

VMware Odyssey @VMworld 2019 US – The Start Of A New Journey

What a week! VMware Odyssey, sponsored by Intel, was a HUGE success. Contestants and viewers gathered around the Odyssey stage to witness the first official launch of the program at VMworld 2019 US.

RECAP – What is VMware Odyssey?

VMware Odyssey, sponsored by Intel, is the gamification of Hands-on Labs, designed to engage, challenge, and showcase user’s expertise across the VMware portfolio. Last week at VMworld US, we offered two types of Odyssey labs:

  1. Game Mode – Individual VMworld attendees could take an Odyssey lab in game mode at one of our desktop stations to compete with other players around the world!  The global Odyssey leaderboard displayed the top players with the quickest times.
  2. Tournament Mode -Teams come together in a tournament setting to compete against each other in rounds. The winning teams continued to the finals to play for 1st and 2nd place.

VMware Odyssey – Game Mode

Outside official Odyssey tournament hours, our stage was open to anyone who wanted to try our brand-new Odyssey ‘Game Mode’ labs. Customers came to experience a taste of the Odyssey Game Lab’. Participants raced against the clock to complete the given lab tasks as fast as they could to rank on the global leaderboard. Some initial customer feedback is included below:

  • “Great experience. This would be a good way to expand on VCP certification and have a lab setup to test the skills of a certification.”
  • “Fun concept. Challenging enough to be fun but not impossible. Leading but not spoon fed. Really well done; enjoyed this. Thanks!”

The VMware Odyssey Tournament Begins

Ready, Set, Go!

On Tuesday, all the participants delved into Round 1 with great scrutiny, trying to figure out the correct configurations. The excitement was almost tangible as teams huddled together to help each other in figuring out the correct configurations for the tasks.

After the first two rounds finished, the top 12 teams progressed to the semifinals on Wednesday, August 29th. Each round covered a brand-new VMware product topic.  To kick off the final rounds, our CEO, Pat Gelsinger, cheered on the teams, and even gave them back rubs for good luck!

The top six teams from the semifinals advanced to the final round and competed for first and second place. After some breathtaking minutes we had a winning team, the Meteors!

Congratulations again to our Odyssey grand prize winners – the Meteors! Well done Dmitri,
Ben, and Nick! Check out Ben’s blog post on his experience with Odyssey: https://www.murben.net/2019/09/vmworld-2019-hol-odyssey-competition-we.html

Thank you again to everyone who participated in or cheered on VMware Odyssey at VMworld US last week. A special shout out and thank you as well to our sponsor, Intel, for making our first official VMworld Odyssey Tournament possible!



Check out our Facebook page for more photos: https://www.facebook.com/vmwarehol/ 

What’s Next?

Our next stop is VMworld 2019 Barcelona.  We can’t wait to see you there!  In the meantime, check out the VMware Odyssey website to learn more: http://odyssey.vmware.com/

About Kate Lee – 

Kate Lee is a Technical Marketing Manager (Support Engineer) of the Hands-on Labs Team and the only member residing in Asia. She loves supporting day-to-day customers and employees with their Hands-on Labs experience and is also engaged in supporting Odyssey.