I’m a big advocate of having a home lab for tinkering with various technologies related to a field of work and study. There’s something about having your hands on the gear that really helps garner an appreciation for what it requires to get a real environment up and running with success. That being said, budgets are often quite slim for these adventures (although some folks I know have dropped 5 or 6 figures on them). You do have the option of renting a cloud based lab, but often these are tailored to specific vendor configurations or limited to partner access.
Which is why I’m quite happy to see the announcement that VMware Lab Connect is now available for those pursuing their VMware Certified Professional (VCP) data center virtualization certification. Per the release statement:
A new self-paced, technical training lab designed to enhance the learning experience of VMware customers. This new VMware cloud-based, on-demand, multi-platform lab environment extends the classroom experience to further help students develop deeper technical skills to unlock maximum value from VMware products and solutions
For now, it appears that access is limited to those taking one of the pre-requisite courses for the VCP certification: either the Install, Configure, Manage course or the Fast Track course (version 5). If you took the course on or after October 1st you are grandfathered into the program and can also get into the cloud based lab.
One thing I find to be unique is the way that VMware will be metering hours. My typical experience with a cloud lab is based on reservations – you request a time frame of X hours and the lab is destroyed at the end of that period. In this program, it seems that you are granted 30 days in which you have 30 “active hours” to spend in the lab. An active hour is measured based on activity in the lab, and going idle for more than 10 minute turns off the clock.
Looking at the registration site for the various VCP pre-requisite courses, I don’t see an increase in course pricing. It looks like VMware has rolled the cloud lab access into the existing price model. This helps add value to the already quite pricey course and give potential candidates an additional leg up when supplying business reasons for attending to their manager (or whomever approves training expenses). It also gives the candidate further ways to validate their classroom education in a live environment, which has long been recommended by VCP holders as the best way to properly prepare for the exam.
In my Install, Configure, Manage (version 4) course, I found a big disconnect between the course materials and the exam. While this may not still hold to be true in VCP5, experience in a live environment (beyond the course lab) still seems like a solid plan prior to the exam.
I’m curious if you think that this is enough to help justify the costs of the course (which is required for certification)? Do you feel this will help VCP candidates with the exam? All comments and thoughts are welcome.