Introducing Our Newest Lab Environments: Lab Playgrounds

Want to train in a real cloud environment, but feel slowed down by spinning up your own deployments? When you consider security or pricing costs, it can be costly and challenging to get up to speed quickly for self-training. To solve this problem, Cloud Academy created a new suite of lab-based practical environments: Lab Playgrounds.

These playground labs are a series of longer duration, low-friction sandbox environments. They’re like normal labs but with a generally quicker start-up time and an average duration of four hours. They offer the ability to get started without any third-party tools. For instances where SSH or RDP is required, we offer completely in-browser solutions for those as well. They feature environments for working with all kinds of platforms including operating systems, coding languages, DevOps tools, and more.

The goal is to provide you with sandbox environments where you feel free to run any command and experiment any way you like, without the guidelines of a typical lab. The end goal is to increase the amount of practical, real-world experience you gain in some of our most popular areas. You can also use these playgrounds to follow along with many of our learning paths and courses.

We even made it easier to find these newest lab playgrounds.

Lab Playgrounds: Get up to speed faster

Previously, we offered playgrounds for Kubernetes and Sagemaker Notebook. As of today, we now also offer playground labs for multiple distributions of Linux, Docker for Linux and Windows, Python, and Java. We’ll continue to look for opportunities to expand these and create more playground environments.

You do not need your own account credentials to use the playground labs. When you start a playground lab, the system launches all the necessary resources and starts the timer. The technology you are learning about appears on your screen.

We now have eight lab playgrounds where you can learn freely without concern for any of your real environments.

Amazon Linux 2 Playground

This playground lab provides you with an Amazon Linux 2 host running in AWS. The instructions allow you to connect to the Linux host using an in-browser SSH session. Once connected, you can explore Amazon Linux 2 for four hours until the lab time expires.

Ubuntu Playground

This playground lab provides you with a Ubuntu host running in AWS. EC2 Instance Connect allows you to connect to the instance over SSH using your web browser. With EC2 Instance Connect, a new browser window opens with an SSH shell ready for you to use. Once connected, you can explore for four hours until the lab time expires.

Docker Playground

This playground supplements your learning by providing you with a ready-to-use Docker installation. The playground provides full access to an instance with dockerdocker-compose, and relevant command-line completions already installed and running.

Docker Windows Containers Playground

This lab playground is intended for anyone working with Docker Windows containers or interested in getting started. You’ll get instructions that allow you to connect to the Docker host using an in-browser RDP session. Once connected you have two hours to explore, test, build, and play with Docker until the lab time expires.

Java Development Playground

This Java development playground supplements Cloud Academy content by providing you with a ready-to-use Java integrated development environment (IDE). In addition to Java, the host has common development tools such as jshell and git installed and ready for you to play with.

Python Development Playground

This lab playground is intended for anyone learning Python or interested in getting started. It provides you with a web browser integrated development environment (IDE). The host has Python as well as common development tools such as pip and git installed and ready for you to play with.

Amazon SageMaker Notebook Playground

This lab playground experience involves Amazon Web Services (AWS), and you will use the AWS Management Console to complete all the steps. The console enables cloud management for all aspects of the AWS account, including managing security credentials and even setting up new IAM Users.

Introduction to Kubernetes Playground

The lab creates a Kubernetes cluster for you to use as you progress through the course. All of the commands that are used in the course are included in the lab to make it easy for you to follow along. You can also use the lab to experiment and try out different exercises in addition to what is explained in the course.

How to use Lab Playgrounds

You can find playground labs as you discover labs on topics that you want to learn about. Tip: When you search for a lab on a topic, you can use the filters on the left side of the screen to limit the results to hands-on labs.

Use the following steps to start a playground lab:

  1. Click the playground lab that you want to start. A page appears with detailed information about the playground lab.
  2. Click on the Start Lab button. The lab appears and the timer begins.
  3. When you finish experimenting in the lab, you can return to the labs list.

Other labs

Cloud Academy is constantly growing the number of hands-on labs to guide you in active learning, plus lab challenges to test you in real deployments without (too much) hand-holding.

What’s the difference between hands-on labs, lab challenges, and lab playgrounds?

Hands-on Labs

Hands-on labs are guided experiences to learn in live cloud environments. Build and validate practical experience directly on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Docker, Kubernetes, and much more.

  • Get step-by-step guidance to practice your skills without getting stuck
  • Solidify practical knowledge in a short amount of time
  • Facilitate knowledge retention and enable experimentation

Lab Challenges

Lab challenges are non-guided skill validation to demonstrate problem-solving skills — basically, hands-on labs with the gloves off. You jump into an auto-provisioned cloud environment and are given a goal to accomplish. No instructions, no hints. To pass, you’ll have a limited amount of time to complete the checks that inspect the state of your lab environment.
  • Validate your technical problem-solving skills in a real environment
  • Troubleshoot complex scenarios to practice what you learned
  • Develop production experience that translates into real-world expertise

Lab Playgrounds

Lab playgrounds provide a safe and secure sandbox environment for you to explore your own ideas, follow along with Cloud Academy courses, or answer your own questions — all without having to install any software on your local machine. You should feel free to take risks and try unfamiliar tools and commands to learn more about working in a live environment — even if it means running into a dead end and needing to start the lab over.

  • Explore and experiment in live environments without a set of objectives or checks to complete
  • No software installations or account credentials needed — the system automatically launches all the necessary resources
  • Use for an extended duration with an average duration of four hours

Go ahead, take a guided, hands-on lab, a non-guided lab challenge, or explore a lab playground, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

Alisha Reyes

Written by

Alisha Reyes

Alisha is a Navy Veteran with 20+ years of experience in the mass communications field, including technical writing, journalism, photography, and graphic design. She is passionate about learning new technologies and researching best practices to save time and resources. In her free time, she enjoys working out with friends and traveling around the world with family.


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