This week I attended an internal meeting about EMC's "Demo Cloud". The demo cloud hosts a wide variety of EMC product offerings that can be demonstrated to any number of customers. These products range from simulations that highlight user interfaces, to pre-recorded demos, to full-featured virtual storage appliances (like the Celerra VSA).
This cloud is accessible 24x7 from anywhere in the world by logging into one of a number of "demo accounts". Each account provides a catalog of available product revisions. It's possible to pull up an impromptu demo at any time. The software and hardware environments that actually implement the demo cloud can be found in multiple locations, including Ireland, Russia, and the US.
Customer demos that are critical and scheduled in advance can be "allocated" to run at a certain time (and for a certain duration). This prevents against a spike in spur-of-the-moment "demo storms" that might lock out or otherwise disrupt an important demo. Are demo storms likely? In 2009 the demo cloud hosted 17,000+ separate sessions. In 2010 this will increase significantly.
Compare this process against the demo logistics of 2-3 years ago. The ease of giving a demo in this environment highlights why there is so much buzz about delivering IT services via the cloud.
During the discussion we touched on delivering training via this environment. We also discussed internal usage of the demo cloud for engineers like myself. And then the light bulb went on.
One of the more regular activities I participate in these days is the packaging and internal distribution of futuristic virtual storage appliances. Other groups can modify the VSA to explore new product offerings. At the moment I have 2-3 different groups doing this very thing. Each of them currently performs a LONG ftp of the image to their own ESX server or VMPlayer, and together we go through the bring-up and education process. It may take 1-2 days of hand-holding. It could take a week if we are doing it as a skunkworks (e.g. in our spare time).
Whatever the case may be, the demo cloud makes things a lot easier internally. Once the VSA is uploaded to the demo cloud I can form an "internal" demo account, create an instance, and send a URL to my co-worker. The URL brings them immediately to a booted-and-ready-to-go image.
In theory, as we start expanding our global research efforts with universities, partners, and customers, we could use some form of this process.