VMworld 2012 is just days away, but VMware is jumping the gun by announcing a new "test drive" version of its vCloud platform. The vCloud Service Evaluation was designed to give those interested a quick and easy way to check out vCloud through hands-on testing and experimentation.

The test drive service will be available in beta starting Aug. 27, and VMware is currently accepting registrations for users who want to be among the first to get some use out of the new service. The new service isn't free, but it's not far from it, either. VMware is pricing the vCloud Service Evaluation at a whopping 4 cents per hour for a Linux VM with 1GB of RAM. Hopefully that's enough for businesses to get a taste of vCloud and decide for themselves if it's the right choice to make for their cloud deployments.

Launching right in the middle of what seems to have become one of the largest IT trade shows currently running, the new vCloud Service Evaluation will surely fit into VMware's messaging next week at VMworld. Cloud is almost assuredly going to be taking center stage at VMworld, and VMware will likely expand on its cloud strategy.

With a shift in power coming at the beginning of September, it's a safe bet VMware will be taking the opportunity at the event to assure partners of the strengths of its virtualization and cloud strategies. And the company has its work cut out for it as it prepares to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft, which will be launching Windows Server 2013 with Hyper-V 3 shortly after VMworld ends.

As for vCloud and the upcoming beta of the test drive service, VMware will want to grab as many potential new customers as possible to increase interest and maintain the growth of its platform in the public cloud space.