The Top 6 Reasons to Visit the Hands-on Labs @ VMware Explore Barcelona 2023

VMware VMware Explore Hands-on Labs HOL

Published on 21 October 2023 by Christopher Lewis. Words: 1565. Reading Time: 8 mins.

As a follow up to my previous post VMware Explore Barcelona 2023 - Top Things to Know Before You Go , and with just under 2 weeks to go before VMware Explore 2023 Barcelona, here are my top 6 reasons why you should make it your mission to swing on over to the VMware Hands-on Labs area whilst you are at the conference!

What are VMware Hands-on Labs?

If you are new to VMware Hands-on Labs then you are in for a real treat. The VMware Hands-on Lab environment is a free to use service from VMware that allows you learn more about the products by getting “hands-on” (hence the name) in a sandbox environment curated by VMware. Each lab comes with a manual (that I would consider a guide rather than a strict instruction set) that will walk through you the steps required to complete a module. However, you can also go rogue and just play with the environment until your time runs out or something breaks and then you can start again with a new environment!

The VMware Hands-on Labs platform is available 24/7 outside of VMware Explore by going to the Hands on Lab Website .

Top 5 Reasons To Visit Hands-on Labs @ VMware Explore 2023

#1 - The People

I have been involved with the VMware Hands-on Labs team for the last 4 years and I have not seen a more dedicated and passionate team of people anywhere at VMware. Whether we are talking about the Core Team, the Supporting Staff or the Principals / Captains, there is a whole lot of background magic that goes on out of sight of the attendees throughout the year to make sure everyone has a great experience when taking labs on the platform.

VMware Explore 2023 - HOL Team 1
VMware Hands-on Labs Team 1 - Cloud Management - Las Vegas (2023)

This year we have 5 teams of Hands-on Labs Captains. I am one of two Principals in Multi-Cloud Management Team (Team 1) and we have 10 Captains and a Content Architect. It is worth nothing that the team sign up for a 12 month commitment and (typically) give up their own free time to both develop the different labs and support the VMware Explore (and other) events.

Remember, to be able to curate the content in the labs, every person on the team is an expert in something (normally the product that is the focus of their lab), so if you have a question and no one else can help you… maybe you need the VMware Hands-on Labs Team!

Advice: Come along to the VMware Hands-on Labs section at VMware Explore and introduce yourself, ask the team questions about the technology and you never know we may even break out the whiteboard and pens!

#2 - The Content (Expert-Led Workshops)

For me, the pinnacle of the Hands-on Labs experience at VMware Explore, is the Expert-led Workshop (ELW). Each ELW seats around 25 people and provides a guided walk through of a module (or two depending on the complexity/length of time) with the Captain(s) responsible for that particular Hands-On Lab content. The ELW content is actually available in the On-Demand, Self-Paced area as well, but you do not get the benefit of a Captain there to walk through it with you and answer any questions. This is what makes the ELW such a unique part of the VMware Explore experience.

Now obviously the Captains have to try and finish the module walkthrough because there are lots of people in the room. Therefore if you have lots of questions around the topic where answers are not immediately needed to complete the module, I suggest you hold them in and speak to the Captain after the session. Prior to being a Principal, in my 3 years as a Captain, I always ensured I was available to spend time with anyone who wants to chat after an ELW.

Just so you know, the busiest day for ELWs and the Hands-on Lab historically tends to be on Monday. This is because most breakout sessions do not start until Tuesday. So if we are really busy, don’t be deterred maybe try the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) aspect of the Hands-on Lab or come back and see us another time. The tip about queuing in my previous post is relevant for the ELWs as well!

Advice: If you have time in your schedule (and even if you don’t), make sure you add an ELW to it. You will not regret it! and remember be curious, ask questions… that’s what we are here for!

#3 - The Content (Self-Paced Labs)

If you do not have time to sit through a 90 minute expert-led workshop but you still would like to get “hands-on” with the latest and greatest VMware products in a sandpit environment (whilst working at your own pace). Then the Self-Paced Labs are designed specifically for you! You can access all of the Expert-led Workshops content (and more) through the Content Catalog! At VMware Explore, you can decide whether to use a workstation (provided by the Hands on Labs team) or use the BYOD area to access the content.

It is worth pointing out that, whilst the majority of the Hands-on Labs content is available right now over the Internet for free through the VMware Hands-on Labs Site , at the event there are some exclusive, VMware Explore-only, sessions in the Content Catalog so make sure you do not miss out!

Advice: Not quite feeling that busy schedule you have? I can think of worse ways to spend your time at VMware Explore but remember to pace yourself!

#4 - The Scavenger Hunt

If you are planning to visit the Hands-on Lab area (which I highly recommend), then check out the Scavenger Hunt which provides the opportunity to win daily prizes and gain entry to the final Grand Prize! The Scavenger Hunt requires you to complete daily tasks and post them on social media, so if you do not have a social media account then I would recommend creating one in advance!

VMware Explore 2023 - HOL Team 1

For the full terms and conditions, see the Scavenger Hunt blog post.

Advice: The Scavenger Hunt is a quick relatively easy way to win some cool prizes, but you have to be in it to win it!

#5 - The Game (Odyssey)

The VMware Hands-on Lab Odyssey tournament returns to VMware Explore Barcelona for another year. If you are currently asking yourself “what is the VMware Hands-on Lab Odyssey tournament?” then shame on you! Odyssey is the gamification of the VMware Hands-on Labs content. Any attendee (not employees) can take part in the Odyssey tournament. The tournament rounds take place each day where each player tries to get onto the Odyssey Leaderboard by completing a set of administrative tasks as quickly as possible. On the last day of the conference, if a player is sitting in the top 10 on the Odyssey Leaderboard, then they are invited back to play the final round and this is where the big prizes can be won!

If you do decide to take part, it is worth remembering that the Odyssey challenges are different each day and each day will have a different focus (i.e. vSphere, VMware Aria, VMware NSX, etc). So you can find out which topic will be the focus for the day in the morning and then practice in the self-paced area to hone your skills before attempting the challenges for that day to give you the best chance of getting, and staying, in the top 10.

For more information on the Odyssey Tournament (and more importantly information on the prizes to be won), check out the VMware Blog site: Odyssey the Ultimate Test of your VMware Skills and Knowledge!

Advice: If you want to demonstrate the level of your skill in different VMware products, then look no further than the Odyssey Tournament. You do have to make a commitment to it though, because you HAVE to play every day to be in with a chance to get to the final round but there are some pretty cool prizes to be won!

#6 - The Tour

Have you ever wondered what goes into providing the Hands-on Labs environments at an event like VMware Explore? Wonder no longer! Come along to the Hands-on Labs Front desk and sign up for a Hands-on Labs Tour. During the tour, you will be guided through various points of interest where you will hear all about how we do it! From understanding the way we deliver services from multiple clouds over the Internet with little infrastructure on site, to discovering how many virtual machines are deployed per day and how many labs are taken!

For more information on The Tour check out the official blog on the VMware Blog site: Hands-on Lab Tours at VMware Explore Barcelona 2023

Advice: Be sure to make some time to take the Hands-on Labs tour to get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes!

Final Thoughts

I couldn’t imagine a VMware Explore event without the Hands-on Labs. In my view, the team represents all that is good about VMware and it’s EPIC2 values. It is an intrinsic part of the whole VMware Explore experience. Therefore, if you do get some downtime between sessions, or you just want to ask a question or three, be sure to come along and say hello!

Published on 21 October 2023 by Christopher Lewis. Words: 1565. Reading Time: 8 mins.