Summary: Great Idea - shame about the implementation.
I've been testing out the TechNet Virtual Labs for Live Communications Server. The idea is great: you go to a web site, click a few links and you have some "real" machines to lay with. The machines are of course Microsoft VM's, based on Virtual Server. The nice thing is that they're all loaded and pretty much all you need is a web browser to access them.
The principal downside, at least today, is performance. They are VERY slow. It took around 45-seconds just to get Active Directory Users and Computers up and running. The VM seems to go dead - clicking on the VMRC client has no effect for long periods of time (30 sec - 1 min). To just add a user, and install LCS 2005 SE took nearly 35 minutes - most of which was waiting for response from the VM farm.
Another issue is the tools and the ports they require. Unfortunately, there is a combination of Java, Flash, and other tools, some of which require "non-standard" ports to be opened at the firewall.I am working with one client who has issues around opening seemingly random ports.
So while the idea is great, the performance is slow. And you need a fairly open firewall which is increasingly a rarity in today's security conscious world.
To add insult to injury, I attempted to provide feedback. Clicking on the Take The Virtual Labs Satisfaction Survey button produced: Microsoft Events is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please check back with us later. If you believe you have received this message in error, please contact Microsoft Events Support. :0(