Benefits of Virtualisation For Training

Working in a Data Center brings with it various challenges that you wouldn’t normally find in most other jobs; we come across demanding solutions, ingenious ‘hacks‘, impressive software and outright weird errors.

Once we’ve crossed a particular hurdle then we need to go about disseminating this new found information to the other SysAdmins.

So far the best way I’ve found of doing this is to take a VM image, break it in the same way that we encountered and then make it available for deployment to the VM infrastructure (minus of course the malicious payload if it was part of a botnet). These VM’s are then made available to the teams to deploy at their will or used as part of the weekly inter-team training sessions. The VM’s are ‘tagged’ and a description of the issue with the fixes found to date are attached.

This allows people to either:

    a) Simply follow what was done so they know how to go about it themselves.
    b) Find new ways of fixing the issue
    c) Use it as an example of a particular technologies issues and the diagnostic methods used to ascertain what is wrong and fix it in classroom style training.

There is no additional hardware cost and with the use of snapshots people can experiment with various methodologies other than the ones that we initially used. If a quicker, cleaner or better way of fixing the issue is discovered this can be put on the wiki and tagged to the VM image. This practice really starts to pay off once you’ve got the ball rolling and people are experimenting, contributing or using it as teaching material and all without any further downtime or additional hardware cost.

At the recent IIS7 for Managed Hosting seminar in London we saw Microsoft make heavy use of ‘model’ VM Machines in conjunction with projected slides and Step-by-Step walkthroughs to show us the features and improvements of IIS7 (I still prefer apache if anyone is wondering) which just goes to prove that this is an effective and cost-effective method of hands on training.

This might seem like common sense to some people and may already be in place for some companies, but if its not then why not try it out and let me know how it works out for you?

As always I use VMWare technology.

Posted in Datacenter, Systems, Virtualization

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