One of the great scenarios for Azure is dev/test. Having the ability to quickly setup an environment in Azure and run your automatic or manual tests on them gives you an extreme flexibility. You pay per minute and you can have as many machines as you want in a couple of minutes.
But there are some challenges.
One thing I notice while working with customers is that they often want to limit how much money can be spent on Azure. Often customers asks for a cost calculation so they know beforehand how much Azure is going to cost them. Of course the whole idea of Azure is that you pay for what you use so giving of an exact amount is hard.
Another thing that teams sometimes struggle with is the amount of choice on Azure. You have different sizes of virtual machines, ranging from simple A-series to Godzilla machines. And add to that the number of virtual machine images you can use, network settings and security configurations and a team can suddenly be overwhelmed with all the options they have.
During Build this week Claude Remillard announced a new Azure service: Dev/Test labs. You can now create one or multiple labs in your subscriptions. These labs can have a quota on how much can be spent. This means that a team can never go over the amount you configure, giving managers and others a nice and secure feeling.
But that’s not all. You can also configure which virtual machine sizes can be used, which templates are accessible and you can easily create custom base images for your team. The developer division at Microsoft uses this themselves. They have base images that contain stuff like the correct Windows version, Office and other standard tooling. Then each night they run a scheduled build that takes a base image, adds the newest version of Visual Studio to it and create a new image ready to go the next day. You can configure your lab to automatically shut down VMs at the end of the day to save on costs.
Now integrate this with the new Release Management service (a topic for another blog!) and you have a great new tool to automatically setup and break down environments on Azure.
On Channel 9 you can find the recording of the session with demos showing the new lab features: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2015/3-721. Currently this feature is in private preview but you can request to join: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/campaigns/devtest-lab/
I’ve requested to join the private preview. As soon as I’m up and running I'll post more details on this promising new feature.
What do you think? Is this useful? Anything you like to see? Please leave a comment!