In training scenarios where students need more than just a desktop, one option is to create a virtual lab using VMware's Lab Manager.
Lab Manager is an add-on technology that works with VMware ESX as the underlying hypervisor. This software allows the user to create a single virtual server, or multiple virtual servers, for a virtual lab. Each of these labs, also known as workspaces, is capable of connecting directly to the network for interaction with other non-lab manager servers.
Advanced application training classes require instructors to create a Windows 2003 server. This server will need to perform just as a standard server would with the same performance specifications. But to create multiple copies of a virtual server, in any environment, can take anywhere from minutes to hours to complete. Lab Manager shortens this process.
VMware developed Lab Manager with the concept of linked cloning in mind. Similar to the way VMware View uses linked clones, Lab Manager creates a snapshot-based clone of a gold template to use in the workspace, allowing each workspace to be created in seconds. These workspaces can also contain many virtual servers, thereby creating a fully functioning environment for each student to utilize.
The concept of "network fencing" should be kept in mind when each workspace is fashioned. The "fence" stands as a router that performs the network address translation (NAT) between the private network and the public network. If each workspace requires communication on the network, each virtual server hostname and Mac address can stay the same. This is beneficial for licensing servers and certain application installation. The workspaces can be 99% identical, except for the IP address. Therefore, each server has the same hostname and any training manuals created can be simplified without needing to specify a special nomenclature for each student.
As you can see, there are many benefits of Lab Manager. Also keep in mind that an ultimate training configuration can be reached using Lab Manager in conjunction with VMware View. These two technologies do not integrate, as much as they play well together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Brad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, comments or suggestions.