This post has nothing to do with Michael Jackson, his death, his kids, his Neverland Ranch or anything related to him. It has everything to do with my need for a virtual laboratory where I can test virtual machines, write about them or produce other documentation about them without a significant financial outlay of my own. I call this virtual playground, Neverland, because currently it is a fantasy of mine and the way many see it--it's likely to remain so.

Last week, I posted "My Midsummer Night's Dream of A Virtual Lab" on my Virtualization column at Linux Magazine to which this is sort of a sequel.

My desire is to plead with virtualization vendors to provide a virtual laboratory with which prospective customers, resellers and technical writers may work with their products. Working with the product as the vendor intended, is worth more than even the slightest frustration caused by trying to do it yourself for the first time.

Having a virtual lab would also make it easier to compare live, running systems on a feature by feature basis. The problem with a do it yourself option is that if something doesn't work, then the potential customer becomes frustrated and installs a competitive product. Rarely does anyone blow away a system that's working perfectly to research another.

I am further proposing to call this virtual lab, Neverland. Neverland because the services would never grow old or stale. Vendors could showcase their best and keep it fresh there in that virtual world.

So, how about it, VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, Oracle? You really do want to give us a place to play don't you? What about you, Amazon? How about freeing up some of that EC2 for a poor techie down on his luck?

I know, I know. It's a dream and a far-fetched one at that but it's the dreamers who keep innovation alive.

Write back and tell me what you think of Neverland and the idea of a virtual playground--I mean Lab.

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What are you proposing here? Is this some kind of KVM? VirtualBox? Free Live OS Zoo Qemu/Java Test Online Page?

I'm suggesting fully functional online virtual labs. Much like the one at http://www.elastichosts.com. You can build and test out VMs free there for a limited time period.

Ever heard of the phrase "Leaning on a shovel, praying for a hole?". Why don't you do it yourself? Why do you need Citrix, VMWare, MS or Oracle to hold your hand? Are you just a standard user, or a ferocious do-it-yourselfer?

I do this already. I've done it in VMWare, VBox and Linux's own KVM. The tools are out there for free. Go get them. Do it yourself. At any given time, I have about 10-20 VM's on my system. A while back I was an admin on an ESX 2.5 setup (before the main hypervisor was free). Know what's funny? They give away the basics and charge for the tools. Because people don't want to just do the VIrtualization thing, they want hand holding and will pay a lot of money for it.

Why do we need a program to copy virtual machines? They're large images! Did someone in recent history forget how to copy and manage large files?

Make a scale, on one end, you do little work but it costs a lot of money. On the other end, you do more work but it's free or almost free. It's also doubly free because you're not locked into one vendor and can choose your tools yourself.

Noone will give you your free lab, because they want to lock you into their products. They would also be afraid you may find a solution you like better.

Citrix has C3 Labs with Amazon for quite some time now.
The Amazon part isn't free but it's pennies on demand with EC2.

http://www.citrix.com/English/ne/news/news.asp?newsID=1690164

All the AMIs are pre-built by Citrix and you have the blueprints here -
http://community.citrix.com/display/cdn/Citrix+C3+Lab

A really nice deck about C3 and the "Cloud" -
http://community.citrix.com/blogs/citrite/michaelha/2009/06/30/The+overloaded+cloud%2C+IaaS%2C+the+future%2C+and+C3