Just what does it take to create Hands on labs for EMC World?

Every year at EMC World we have a Hands On Labs Section where customers, partners and EMC Employees can get hands on experience with cutting edge EMC technologies, products & solutions. Every year there are an average of 30 individual labs that can be chosen from. This year we have 33 labs across all EMC products and solutions and its shaping up to be the best year ever. But what exactly goes into delivering 33 labs? Well aside from a lot of late nights and potential divorces (!!) the main thing is the huge amount of collaboration across all the EMC vLab teams and across the wider EMC community. Each business unit creates their own labs under our guidance so that all the coolest features and functions are given maximum exposure.

But before we ever get to that there is a growing vLab team that creates and maintains production and development environments to cater for general vLab users, and events of all sizes. On average vLab runs somewhere between 1,000 – 1,200 sessions daily. With a rough average of 8 VMs per session that’s somewhere between 8,000 & 10,000 running VMs per day. Not trivial! We have a platform team that architect, support and caress the backend vCD infrastructure that runs on countless Cisco blades & EMC storage to ensure maximum uptime and the best experience possible for our user base.

Our software team have developed a custom in house front end application layer to control the automation layer. So from the moment a user logs into vLab they are experiencing an environment customized for their needs..whether they are in the US, EMEA or APJ. This year we are standing up a massive new environment to support EMCW14 HOL. Once the show is over this environment will be added to our existing vLab infrastructure with the flick of a switch (or a few lines of code!)


So getting back to EMCW HOL! For obvious reasons we don’t develop new content in our production space. Instead we have a dedicated content development engine, which is where the team i work with comes in. We replicate as much as possible our production setup so we can craft content that plays well when migrated to production. We currently use vCloud Director (but are always looking forward to the future) to create customized templates of standard OS based VMs and customized EMC appliances. We run on the same Cisco blades as production and of cource EMC storage! This allows us to quickly and easily deploy vApp environments for EMC business units to add their application stacks and custom use cases that go into creating a HOL. We also provide documentation tools and standards to ensure lab guide consistency.

As each year passes discussions about the next years HOLs start earlier and earlier. I have a distant memory of having a call about EMCW14 in July last year with one business unit! And the knock on effect of this is that we are working on HOLs earlier and earlier every year. Ultimately this ends up with a better and more polished experience for attendees. It would not surprise me that in a few years we start working on actual lab content 12 months before the next show!

This year we are also introducing Guided vLabs. So, what’s a guided vLab I hear you ask?  Well, you could look at it as being somewhere between your standard self-paced Hands-On Lab and Instructor-Led Training.  Every attendee will get their own terminal with their very own vLab but rather than taking the lab in a self-service mode with a published lab guide, there will be an instructor in the room providing additional context, walking them through those same Hands-On Lab exercises and answering any questions. This is a great opportunity for our customers and partners to get some quality time with the subject matter experts across our various products and solutions. EMC World attendees will be able to use the EMC World Agenda Builder on the EMC World website to include Guided vLabs as part of their personal agenda.  Attendees are also urged to pre-register for a class at our booth in the Village, as space will be limited.

Anyway, as we work tirelessly away behind the scenes you can be safe in the knowledge that this years EMC World Hands On Labs are going to be the best ever and if you are lucky enough to attend the show be sure to stop by and say hello to the folks behind the curtain that is EMC vLab!!


This years list of labs can be reviewed here bit.ly/1kKFlwc and you can express your interest by clicking “Add to My Interests”. 


See you in Vegas!

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