At the New England VMware Users Group (NEVMUG) conference held mid January VMware announced a new service available for their customers. The Virtual Customer Labs will be a cloud hosted Proof of Concept (POC) infrastructure provided by VMware which enables customers to try and learn VMware products. The idea behind it is very similar to the Hands-on Labs provided at VMworld.
In phase 1 customers will be able to use the virtual Customer Labs for a period of two weeks.
In phase 2 VMware Partners will get access to the online virtual Labs. I guess this will officially be announced at VMware Partner Exchange 2012.
VMware annouced in September 2011 that the Hands-on Labs will be available for everyone with an expected release at January 2012.
The Virtual Customer Labs service will initially be available for trial in the northeast of the USA. Software provided for testing by customers are vCloud Director, vCenter Operations Manager and Site Recovery Manager.
For a more detailed overview of virtual Customer Labs see this posting of Scott Sauer.
More information in an article titled VMware previews cloud-based customer lab at NEVMUG on techtarget.com