What is a Virtual Network Lab?

June 7, 2023
10 min

What is a Virtual Network Lab?

Ever since commercial software development kits first became available, IT professionals have simulated production experiences in isolated environments to write, run, and test code prior to deployment in production environments. Over time, the nature of isolated environments evolved from physical servers, to virtualized machines, to cloud silos, to hybrid combinations.

As the environments evolved, so did their uses. Isolated environments—more commonly called “labs” these days—are now not only used to test code and to sandbox applications in development, but also to conduct sales demonstrations, run proof of concept trials, host hackathons, certify software, and train new employees – among many other uses.

Potential Issues with the Traditional Approach to Labs

The traditional approach to labs is that isolated environments are provisioned and decommissioned as required. However, infrastructures, testbeds, and topologies take time to set up, configure, and recreate. This can result in long waits for test, demo, POC, hackathon, certification, and training labs – or periods during which resources are unused due to the difficulty of sharing infrastructure components.

Further potential issues with the traditional approach to labs are that on-premises labs often lack scalability, while those deployed in the cloud can quickly accrue costs. There is also a risk that the wait time for labs can drive teams to circumnavigate established processes and build lab environments using unsafe and unapproved “Shadow IT” practices—potentially resulting in security and compliance issues.

The risks associated with unsanctioned Shadow IT environments are well chronicled. A lack of governance can create security and compliance risks, performance issues, and increase costs— notwithstanding that infrastructures, testbeds, and topology built “in the shadows” may not have the same quality controls as sanctioned labs due to a lack of skills and governance at the Shadow IT level.

The lack of skills can result in users taking shortcuts, which lead to unwelcome outcomes: code appearing to work, sales demonstrations appearing to resolve a customer´s pain points, and proof of concept trials appearing to demonstrate the viability of a product, among others. However, when these “solutions” are transferred to a production environment, they fail to function as expected, and the testing process has to start over in a sanctioned lab environment – costing the organization additional time and money.

Eliminate Delays and Risks with a Virtual Network Lab

The delays and risks associated with the traditional approach to labs are most often attributable to the process of designing, requesting, and building each individual infrastructure. Typically, the design and request stages are not time-consuming; however, depending on the complexity of the design, build times can take days or even weeks.

If multiple teams request different test infrastructures at the same time, delays can extend into months. Similarly, because it is often not possible to share test infrastructures across multiple teams, further delays can manifest due to creating and destroying virtual cloud environments, and then rebuilding them again with the same parameters, only to be subsequently amended one-by-one to resolve configuration issues or customer feature requests.

The way to eliminate delays and the risks associated with the traditional approach to labs is to implement a cloud-based virtual network lab – a solution also known as “Lab-as-a-Service,” or “LaaS”. A virtual network lab enables teams to automate test infrastructures with just one click and provision test infrastructures in minutes, not days, for on-prem, remote, and cloud resources.

By implementing a virtual network lab, organizations can slash the wait time for equipment, consume infrastructure on demand, make more efficient use of current resources, and automatically configure complex environments. With a virtual network lab such as Quali’s CloudShell, test infrastructures are readily available for remote users, resulting in more time available to spend on testing, demonstrating, POCs, hackathons, certifying, and training; and less time required to set up and tear down infrastructures.

The Advantages of a CloudShell Virtual Network Lab

Not only does a CloudShell virtual network lab offer the same self-provisioning, automation, and orchestration benefits as cloud computing, but organizations can apply guardrails to resource usage, cost, and security to govern how each test infrastructure is utilized. With a secure, optimized, on-demand catalog of resources available – one that is already sanctioned by Ops – there is no need for teams to circumnavigate established processes and build their own “shadow labs” in unsanctioned environments.

CloudShell virtual network labs include a single pane of glass orchestration across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments; the ability to reserve, schedule, and share test infrastructures; and the convenience to schedule start/stop times for recurring tasks. Organizations can also take advantage of SiSense integrations to visualize data insights and extract enhanced business intelligence from their test infrastructures.

With accelerated time to market, skyrocketed productivity, and slashed labs costs, Quali´s CloudShell is the only Lab as a Service solution that turns your lab into a net revenue generator rather than a net cost center. IT leaders and innovators around the world trust CloudShell to enable self-service infrastructure provisioning and automated decommissioning to streamline development, testing, and certification of software into production environments.

Find Out More about Virtual Network Labs

If you would like to learn about virtual network labs and their capabilities firsthand, request a free trial of CloudShell today.