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Nov

Are you struggling to find the hardware to resource new DevTest projects?

Creating an environment for development and testing is a common requirement for all businesses. Customers always find that there are many challenges in hosting or managing an environment that is part of a development lifecycle. The major issues are management overhead and running costs.

Management overhead

Azure can help you address the cost of maintaining development environments by utilising DevTest Labs with its value-added features to quickly roll out a DevTest environment within few minutes. DevTest Labs allows you to develop and test the latest version of your application by quickly provisioning Windows and Linux environments.

Here is one of the value adds with this technology: not only can you upload your own custom images for standardisation, but you can also assign permissions to limit who can access them, for example.

Management can be further streamlined and automated using formulas, custom images and artifacts in Azure DevTest Labs.

Formulas

When provisioning multiple base VMs with similar specifications, formulas can be created which contain VM configuration settings such as image type, size and network configuration. These formulas can then be used to create VMs. By using formulas to create VMs, the process of provisioning VMs with similar bases becomes easier and faster.  This reduces the human error factor in manual provisioning; thus ensuring a more standard environment is deployed every time.

Custom image 

A VM can be prepared with all of the required software and configuration items deployed, which can then be captured as a Custom Image. This Custom Image can then be uploaded to the DevTest Lab and added to the gallery of deployable images. This can reduce the time to go from environment request to provisioned environment, and also standard configurations can reduce the human error factor of deploying software.

Artifacts

Installing tools and software are common tasks for administrators, developers or testers. DevTest Labs Artifacts let you specify actions that are performed right after the VM is created to install software or perform configuration actions. Artifact actions can perform procedures such as running Windows PowerShell scripts, running batch commands, and installing software like Notepad++, 7-Zip, Fiddler and etc. The artifacts can be selected from the Public DevTest Labs Artifact Repository as well as your own Artifact Repository. This reduces the need for packaged software to be maintained, and to leverage industry standard tools and configurations for no cost.

Running costs

DevTest Labs can help reduce your overall spend on DevTest through permissions, policies and reporting.

Permissions

Developers can be assigned a restricted set of permissions within the DevTest Lab, allowing them access to the resources that are required. For instance, a user can be assigned permission to access a DevTest Lab and only deploy Custom Images, thereby removing the requirement for a full Azure subscription and also removing the ability to deploy large cost items from the public gallery.

Policies

Costs can also be reduced by defining lab policies to only allow certain VM sizes to be selected by the developer. It is also possible to limit the total number of VMs and resources such as premium OS disks (SSD) per lab user. To save further costs, you can schedule auto-shutdown and auto-start times in the lab policy. This is really handy to manage VM up-time without any complicated configuration through Azure Runbooks or scheduled tasks. This helps reduce cost by not consuming Azure spend when staff are not at work.

Reporting

Cost management features like Lab Cost Trend and Cost by Resource in DevTest Labs can help to track the lab cost. Using Monthly Estimated Cost Trend chart to view the current calendar month's estimated cost-to-date, allows the lab manager to predict usage over the coming month.  This gives managers an idea if their budgeted cost for running a DevTest Lab will meet or miss projected targets.

Through the use of all these features, Azure DevTest can help you take control of your development environments. If you need more information or a demonstration of the power of DevTest Labs, talk to us!

Posted by: Yang Yu, Infrastructure Consultant, Cloud Design & Integration | 16 November 2016

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