John Troyer offered to take us on a tour of the VMworld Lab facilities on Sunday. It was great to get a preview of the Labs, but what was more interesting to me was the underlying technology that VMware has implemented to make this happen.
Fun Lab Facts:
- 480 Concurrent Sessions
- 150 Subject Matter Experts assisting with the lab
- 8-11 VMs in a Lab Pod (the environment you connect to and interface with)
- Pods consume up to 27GB of RAM each (so called Sandbox aka “Kitchen Sink” lab)
- 100′s of TB of EMC & NetApp storage at each site
- HP & Cisco blades for compute
- 12 Lab Manager instances running in parallel, controlled by “Lab Cloud” custom integration
All the labs are in Moscone West this year in one large room. Here’s a shot of the basic layout:
Figure 1: VMworld Labs
The setup includes a Wyse thin client with two displays. The idea here is that one display shows the lab manual and the other is the remote session used to access the labs.
You can see the GbE cable bundles at the end of the table. These are aggregated in central areas on stacks of Cisco 3750s.
Figure 2: GbE aggregation points
The GbE links are aggregated to 10G and connected to Cisco Nexus 5k Switches in the DC area, which we didn’t get to see.
Hybrid Lab Systems
Another interesting and cutting edge component of the labs is the use of multiple redundant remote datacenters to provide some of the capacity. There is a third of the physical capacity onsite, with another third in Ashburn, VA, and the final third in Miami, FL. There are two 45Mb pipes to these remote DCs.
This provides redundancy in case there are issues with any of these datacenters. It also reduces the overhead for setup for Copenhagen as the plan is to swing this capacity across transatlantic links to drive the labs there. This is a very clever design that gives the Labs great resiliency and redundancy.
Here’s a shot of the basic setup with the thin client and displays.
Figure 3: Thin Client setup
On arriving at the lab you will need a proctor to log you in. Once logged in you’ll see the following:
Figure 4: Lab Track selection
The screen on the right allows you to select the Lab Track you want to pursue. This is necessary as there are so many Lab Sessions there needs to be an extra interface at this level or things get cluttered. As it is, there are still plenty of choices for each track.
Figure 5: Technology & Architecture lab offerins
Here are the labs offered in the Technology and Architecture track. Once a session is selected it will either connect to a prepopulated lab environment or the environment will be loaded on demand. This is one of the tunables that the Lab staff will be working to balance over time. The more popular sessions will have prepop pools that are available. The rest will load on demand in 5-7 minutes, so be prepared for a delay for some of the labs.
Figure 6: VMworld 2010 Lab Manual interface
Here you see the lab session on the left and the manual screen on the right. There’s a countdown timer that shows how much time you have left to finish your session. If the labs are not full you can add time. This is another tunable that the staff will use to manage traffic. There’s also a Get Help button which will get the staffs’ attention so someone can come by and assist you.
This is an amazing piece of technology on display. Remember, the user with the most completed labs will win a pass for VMworld 2011. Please take advantage of this opportunity and stop by the labs early and often.