The site has six different categories of products to examine, including firewalls, backup, remote access and email security.
"We now have three full racks in our datacenter," says Dave Parry, the engineer from Sonicwall who started this as a personal project with a few pieces of equipment under his desk back in October 2007.
"We use VMware ESX 4.0 servers and an EMC array to house the fifty or so server, desktop, and client images that comprise the environment. All of the images are snapshotted. We restore them twice daily, so people can go ahead and break stuff, but any changes they make are just erased when the images are restored."
The products are all connected and interact with each other, so an SSL Virtual Private Network gives access to various resources, the backup products perform actual backups, and so forth. "The site contains functional, completely interactive demos for every product Sonicwall makes." You can see a network map of what Parry has created below.
That is a critical piece of the live demo environment: to actually let users try the products out.
"We made a choice during the original design and planning that rather than have flash demos or locked images, we'd just let people play around as much as possible. It's been fairly successful, as we usually have about 300 users a day, and traffic grows at a fairly consistent 5-10 percent a quarter," says Parry. "As far as I know, no other company does this to the extent we do."
For small businesses that are interested in trying out Sonicwall's products and getting a feel for how they work, their Live Demo site is worth a visit. Do let us know other places that offer something similar.