From IT Pros to IT Heros–With Azure DevTest Labs

Claude Remillard, Group Program Manager

How IT pros can make devs very happy!

Reason to Exist

50% or more of infrastructure is used for non-production environment. In an old job of mine, we have dev, test, and production versions of every system. That’s a lot of money! The required life of dev & test is up and down. The cloud offers on-demand capacity.

DevTest Labs

Solution for fast, easy, and agile dev-test environments in Azure:

  • Fast provisioning
  • Automation & self-service
  • Cost control and governance

Think of it as a controlled subset of Azure where the devs can roam free.

Test Environments

Typical pipeline:

  1. Check-in
  2. Build
  3. Test
  4. Release

You can pre-configure a lot of things to get a VM. Standardize images. Use an image factory.

Training / Education

A number of training companies are using DevTest environments. They can set a limit in the lab, and then let people do what they need to do in that lab.

Trials / Demos / Hackathons

Invite people in to try something out, experiment with designs/patterns, and do this in a short-lived and controlled environment.

Demo

DevTest Labs is just another Azure service. You create the lab, configure it, and assign users to it.

In Overview, you can see VMs you own, and VMs that you can claim. In virtual machines, you can see an environment alongside VMs; this is a collection of related resources. Claimable VMs are pre-created and shutdown. An IT pro could take a s/w build, deploy it overnight, and let devs/tests claim the machines the following morning.

When he goes into a VM, it has a tiny subset of the usual VM features. It has other things, like Auto-Start and Auto-Shutdown to reduce costs. You can create a custom image from a VM, which includes optionally running Sysprep. That image is then available to everyone in the lab to create VMs from. Images can be shared between labs.

Everything in the lab can be automated with APIs, PowerShell (and, thus, Automation).

He goes to create a VM. The new VM is build from a “base”. Bases can be custom/gallery images, ARM templates, or formulas. It sounds like the ARM template could be in a source control system and you could have multiple labs subscribe to those templates, or other artefacts.

If you select a VM base, there’s just one blade to create it. Name the machine, put in a guest OS username/password (can be saved as a reusable secret), choose disk type/size, select a VM series/size (restricted by admin), add other artefacts (additional s/w you can add to the VM at the time of creation, e.g. Chrome using Choclatey package manager, join an AD domain, etc), optionally do some advanced settings (network options, IP config, auto-delete the VM, number of instance, make the VM claimable), and click Create.

You can export a lab as a file, and use that file to spin up new labs.

Back in the lab, he goes to Configuration & Policies. Cost Tracking shows trends and resource specific costs. This is based on RRP costs – special deals with MS are not available to the DevTest Lab APIs. The goal here isn’t to do accounting– it’s to see spend trends and spikes.

Users: Devs should be “Lab Users”. You can share a lab with external users, e.g. consultants.

Policy Settings allows you to control:

  • Allowed virtual machines: You select which series/size can be deployed.
  • Virtual machines per user: You can limit the number of machines. You can limit the number of machines using Premium Disks. Enforced per user.
  • Virtual machines per lab: You can limit VMs and Premium VM disks per lab

Schedules:

  • Auto-Start
  • Auto-Stop

You can send emails and webhooks before auto-shutdown.

External Resources:

  • Repositories: Places where you pull artefacts from. Supports VSTS, GitHub and Git. The asure-devtestlab GitHub has lots of sample artefacts, scripts, and templates. This is the best way to share things between labs.
  • Virtual Networks: What networks will be available – should be pre-created by IT pros. You set up a default virtual network for new VMs, optionally with S2S VPN/ExpressRoute. You can control whether a VM can have a public IP or not.

Virtual Machine Bases:

  • Marketplace Images: What is available from the Marketplace: nothing / all / subset.
  • Custom images:
  • Formulas:

At this point I asked if Azure DevTest Labs is available in CSP. The speaker had never heard of the primary method for selling Azure by MS Partners. That’s pretty awful, IMO.

Image Factories

A way to build images that can be reused. It’s a bit more though – it’s a configuration that builds VMs with configurations automatically on a regular basis. This makes it possible to produce the latest VM images with bits baked in to your devs and testers.

That’s everything.

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