Benefits of Using a Virtual Lab Infrastructure

Doyenz VIrtual Lab

Most IT shops and server admins today are stuck with a big problem. The production servers, operating systems, and applications cannot be changed (or even touched) during production hours. In some shops, “production hours” are 24x7x365. In other shops, production hours are all day, every day except for a 1-4 hour maintenance window on Sunday night (that is generous these days). If an admin puts in a fantastic change that improves performance or functionality during the day then he/she is praised and no questions are asked.

On the other hand, if that same admin attempts the same change and, accidentally, server or applications are brought down then he/she faces the real possibility of losing their job. Why? Changes aren’t allowed in production, you should do it on the “test system”. However, will the company pay for a fully redundant copy of your production infrastructure to use as a test system? Absolutely not.

In the past, “test systems” were usually a hodgepodge of old servers and storage, thrown together, that had to be rebuilt from backups after testing was done. They could only support very specific use cases and applications.

Thankfully, with today’s technology we can use virtualization to build a virtual lab and it solves so many problems I’ve experienced building test/development infrastructures using physical servers in the past.

What is a Virtual Lab?
A virtual lab is any computing environment that you create using virtualization that is used to simulate a production infrastructure. You could create a virtual lab on your local laptop or desktop using a type 2 hypervisor like VMware Workstation or Fusion. You could create a virtual lab on a physical server using a type 1 hypervisor like free VMware ESXi or Hyper-V or even use cloud computing by paying an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provider for access to virtual infrastructure for your lab. All of these are viable options but they either charge you extra for this (the IaaS solution or the physical server) or they eat up resources that you probably don’t want to commit (your desktop or laptop system you are using to read this whitepaper.

Why You Need a Virtual Lab Infrastructure
The potential uses for a virtual lab are endless. Just about anything you can do on your production virtual infrastructure, can be done in the virtual lab environment. However, the real benefit is that the virtual lab isn’t your production virtual infrastructure so you can do the things that you aren’t allowed to do or would be afraid to do in production. Some of the many potential uses for a virtual lab are testing upgrade, patches, configuration changes, third-party applications, and even using the infrastructure to learn on while you prepare for a certification (like your MCITP).

How Can Doyenz rCloud Help?
There are a number of DRaaS providers today but not all of them offer virtual labs. If they do offer some kind of ability to test virtual machines backed up to the cloud, not all of them offer easy access via RDP or VPN. Plus, many of them have very strict limitations on how many VMs can be restored / tested at one time, how long you can use them, and they require you to involve that company’s support group to do it.

Doyenz includes virtual lab capabilities in their DRaaS rCloud product as a standard feature. With Doyenz, there is no additional cost to use your DRaaS servers as a virtual lab, no limitation on the number of servers that can be restored or how long they can be available. Plus, there is no need to involve the DRaaS support group as building a virtual lab is wizard driven and self-service, as you’ll see in the next section.

To find out more about using Doyenz for your virtual lab infrastructure and see how it works, step by step, read my whitepaper Using Doyenz rCloud as Your Virtual Lab.

About the Author
David Davis is the author of the best-selling VMware vSphere video training library from TrainSignal. He has written hundreds of virtualization articles on the Web, is a vExpert, VCP, VCAP-DCA, and CCIE #9369 with more than 18 years of enterprise IT experience. His personal blog is www.VMwareVideos.com