An inexpensive classroom is as close as your local hypervisor.
It’s no surprise that thousands of companies worldwide save money by moving their physical systems to virtual ones but it may surprise you to know about virtualization’s role in training. The most notable fact about training is that’s it’s expensive. Training is expensive in terms of temporal, physical, fiscal resources and there’s the inconvenience factor of having your technical crew out of the office for multiple days. Virtualization requires less of all three resources, therefore making it the ultimate delivery vehicle for training.
Training’s return on investment (ROI) is often difficult to measure. The investment is too high for some companies in these days of stressed budgets and massive layoffs. Some company executives feel that training is a disposable commodity and not an investment in the company and its employees. An inexpensive and practical solution is to have the classroom come to you through the convenience and mobility of a mobile virtual classroom. Virtualization’s leveraged hardware, virtual machine templates, mobility and easy setup make its use for training a virtual no brainer.
Anyone who’s spent time setting up training labs knows that it’s time-consuming and, generally, just no fun. Quick-change hard disks or multiple partitions don’t make it any better or less expensive for the training facility. The static training facility requires a huge amount of hardware: one desktop computer per student, one or more server systems per classroom, network cabling, a switch and Internet access. Multiply those requirements and their costs by the number of classrooms and students to find out what the cost of your training facility is. It’s also likely that there’s a large support staff needed for equipping classrooms, replacing failed hardware and reimaging drives prior to each new class.
Operating system templates speed the creation of virtual machines and make it easy to create a new set of classroom computers, servers or mixed infrastructure with pristine images ready for a new class of students. During most classroom sessions, students change the system on which they’re workingâ€”sometimes irreparably so. In fact, for one of my Linux classes I demonstrated what happens when the dreaded [ rm â€“rf ] command is run as root at the highest level directory [ / ]. For standard desktop computers, this is a devastating and irreversible demonstration but always performed in the last hour of the last day of class.
Virtual machine templates would have made this demonstration possible at any time during class. After the demonstration, I would have only required a short break to restore the damaged virtual machines to their original untouched state.
For some classroom experiences, a raw virtual machine with no operating system is all that’s needed since part of the class involves the operating system installation. Again, virtualization makes the creation and distribution of raw virtual machines a snap. Wizards step you through their creation and, as discussed in the previous section, templates make the repetitive task of creating multiple identical machines obsolete. An entire classroom complement takes only a few minutes to create.
For travelling instructors, a laptop serves as the perfect hypervisor host. Today’s powerful laptops loaded with RAM and huge internal disks create a perfect mobile, self-contained classroom in a box. Hypervisors run in such small footprints and with such low overhead, instructors have a virtual classroom that is mobile, inexpensive and versatile enough to accommodate a handful of office-bound users to dozens of global users connecting via the Internet.
Virtualization changes the training game from a static “butt in chair” episode with a standard desktop to a mobile classroom providing low cost educational experiences remotely and on site for a wide range of applications. Thanks to virtualization, training no longer needs to be prohibitively expensive or inconvenient.
Kenneth Hess is a Linux evangelist and freelance technical writer on a variety of open source topics including Linux, SQL, databases, and web services. Ken can be reached via his website at http://www.kenhess.com
. Practical Virtualization Solutions by Kenneth Hess and Amy Newman is available now.