Test Lab Guides (TLGs) are a modular content set that rely on a standard base configuration and allow IT professionals to build test labs that configure and demonstrate products, features, technologies, and IT solutions.

As a Microsoft partner, you are welcome to develop and publish your own TLG content that shows how your products, used in conjunction with Microsoft products, provide specific functionality or enable a multi-product, end-to-end IT solution. Here are some examples:

From a product development and sales engagement perspective, TLGs:

  • Are primarily designed as evaluation content, to be used by current or prospective customers to determine whether the core functionality of a feature, technology, product, or end-to-end solution meets their needs.
  • Allow customers to build out and demonstrate functionality using their own computer equipment (physical or virtual machines) and evaluation, trial, or loaner software or equipment.
  • Provide a hands-on experience that augments typical evaluation content such as white papers, specification sheets, and videos. Unlike online lab environments (such as Microsoft's TechNet Virtual Labs) or regional test labs (such as those provided by Microsoft Consulting Services), TLGs require the customer to build out the lab themselves. This does take time and computing resources. However, customers gain insight into infrastructure requirements that later inform planning and adoption. It also instills customer confidence in a product or solution based on their “I built it out with bare hands and it works” experience.
  • Help provide a working test lab configuration that the customer can snapshot and then experiment with, customize, and build upon for a more detailed evaluation of product or solution suitability.

What TLGs attempt to do is shorten the evaluation phase through a set of highly prescriptive documents (white papers or articles) so that a customer can demonstrate key product or solution value for themselves as quickly as possible.

TLG content does take time to develop, test, re-test, publish, and then maintain as your products evolve. This investment of time and resources must be weighed against other documentation efforts. When evaluating whether TLGs are a content type to invest in, consider the following:

  • Is there value in providing a way for your customers to create their own test labs during the evaluation phase?
    • In other words, to get your customers to say “Yes” or to say “Yes” more quickly, do they want to see it working in their own test lab environment, as opposed to online or regional test labs in which they don't necessarily have the experience of setting up themselves?
    • Do your customers want to play with the product on their own equipment or with loaner equipment during the evaluation phase?
  • Can you make trial, evaluation, or loaner versions of software or hardware available to customers during this evaluation phase?
    • For software vendors, trial software is typically available over the web. For hardware vendors, is there a program through your sales department so that customers can obtain a physical device during the sales engagement?

If the answer to both of these questions is "Yes," TLG content can be a great way for your customers, who might already be familiar with TLGs and have existing test lab environments, to "try before they buy."

For guidance and step-by-step instructions on how to develop and publish your own TLG content, see Wiki: Creating and Publishing Test Lab Guide Content.

For a more detailed overview of the TLG initiative and links to existing TLGs, see http://microsoft.com/testlabguides. There are over 200 separate pieces of TLG content published by Microsoft, community members, and partners.

For examples of customer feedback on TLGs, see the comments on this blog post and this portal page.