Ravello Systems recently announced its new nested virtualization solution that runs VMware ESXi (ESXi) virtual clusters on popular cloud infrastructure like Amazon's AWS and on Google Cloud. Following a four-month beta period during which more than 1,250 VMware users put the solution through its paces -- logging more than one million ESXi CPU hours and 25,000 ESXi labs published -- Ravello released its InceptionSX product.
There are several business applications and use cases for creating ESXi environments in the cloud -- development and test, demonstrations, training, and labs, to name a few. But one of the best reasons for doing it is that you can have an entire ESXi cluster up and running in a few hours and for pennies an hour. Try that with traditional infrastructure, provisioning, purchasing, racking and stacking, and the red tape required to deploy a complex virtual environment.
For development and test scenarios, the applications are obvious. An "Etch-A-Sketch" virtual environment that can be built, torn down, and rebuilt in short time spans is a valuable tool for developers and for those testing out new concepts in a virtual infrastructure. Building specialty virtual machines for distribution when resources in the production lab are in short supply? A setup like Ravello's InceptionSX is invaluable. Temporary virtual labs make it easy and inexpensive for companies to test a new concept without investing tens of thousands (or more) of dollars in hardware that will likely sit dormant for weeks or months between projects.
Product demonstrations that go anywhere are a salesperson's dream situation. To have a ready-made environment that showcases your best work as it will look for your customer without having some elaborate webinar or video conference is a whole new definition of agile business.
If you've ever taken or taught online, web-based, even remote instructor-led training, you know that the initial build-out of a student environment is expensive and cumbersome. Ravello's nested virtualization makes deploying a training environment extremely easy and inexpensive to boot. On AWS and Google Cloud, you pay as you go, which can be as little as $0.14 per hour for a 2 vCPU/4GB RAM ESXi system.
The concept of a home lab isn't far-fetched. I have one. In fact, I have more than one. I have a garage lab and a lab in my office that's used for testing new products, for creating oddball virtual machines, for trying out new configurations, and for using them as a demonstration tool for writing about virtualization.
I have asked, in the past, for a virtual environment like this for testing. No one was able to provide one to me. But now that Ravello has made it easy, there are no excuses for not having a lab that is always available, costs very little to maintain, and can grow or shrink as needed. And who wants to create a lab now that in two or three years is barely usable and is mostly outdated? I personally can't afford to maintain expensive infrastructure, so this concept will enable me to spend less and get more out of a lab. For example, you can setup an eight-node VMware cluster on AWS or Google Cloud for as little as $1.12 per hour.
Ravello offers a free trial to get you started. You can use up to 2,880 CPU hours for free--that's 14 days for those of us who are calculator deprived.
If you sign up for Ravello's InceptionSX, let me know what you think in the comments section. If you are a current user, please provide some feedback. I'm interested to know what you think of the nested virtualization service. Talk back and let me know.