A Glance at Azure DevTest Labs at //Build 2016


By //Build 2016, Azure DevTest Labs enhances its capabilities in the following four buckets:

  • Easier VM image preparation
  • Virtual network settings
  • Cost control and monitoring
  • Reusable templates for faster VM creation

In this post, we are very excited to share with you all the details on what’s been supported in the above four areas!

A little bit about Azure DevTest Labs

Before we start, in case you have never heard about Azure DevTest Labs, let’s do a very quick re-cap. Azure DevTest Labs is a service that helps developers and testers quickly create environments in Azure with reusable templates, while minimizing waste and controlling cost. It provides a self-service mechanism for developers and testers to create and manage their VMs through the Azure portal. On the other hand, it allows lab admins to define a set of policies to control how the resources can be used in the lab, which creates a sandbox environment that enforces developers and testers smartly use the resources in a predictable way.

In addition to the Dev/Test scenarios, Azure DevTest Labs is also ideal for the scenarios like training, hackathon, event demos, etc.

You can find more info from our 1st blog post “Welcome to the Azure DevTest Labs team blog“, and more details at “What is DevTest Labs” artifact about the definition and the value propositions for Azure DevTest Labs.

Now let’s take a closer look at those new capabilities as described at the beginning of this post.

Easier VM image preparation

For lab admins, Azure DevTest Labs becomes an even better place to get your VM images ready to use, basically through the following two ways:

  • Prepare your custom images (VHD files) shared in the lab.
  • Use VM images from Azure Marketplace.

Prepare custom image in the lab

Azure DevTest Labs makes it super easy for you to create a new custom image from a VM in the lab. After you provision and verify a VM in DevTest Labs, you can run the Create custom image command by either clicking the ellipsis (…) for that particular VM, or selecting it from the lab VM blade à Settings.

Create custom image

Figure 1: Run “Create custom image” command from the lab VM blade

The created custom images are stored in the “generatedvhds” blob container of the lab’s storage account, and they’re available as a VM base automatically for all the lab users to create VMs.

Use Azure Marketplace images

Azure Marketplace provides tons of certified VM images that are ready for use. You can create a VM for your Dev/Test environments by simply picking one from the Azure Marketplace if it meets the need, or alter your VM configuration to create a custom image in the lab from an Azure Marketplace image.

In Azure DevTest Labs, as a lab admin, you can specify whether you allow any Azure Marketplace images to be used in the lab and which images are allowed, as long as the images meet the following criteria:

  • The images create a single VM.
  • The images use Azure Resource Manager to provision VMs.
  • The images don’t require purchasing an extra licensing plan.

Set Azure Marketplace images

Figure 2: Manage Azure Marketplace images that are allowed in the lab

As seen in the above screenshot, when No is selected for Allow all Azure Marketplace images as VM bases, you can select the images that you want to allow in the lab, or you can select nothing so that none of the Azure Marketplace images can be used in the lab.

When lab users (developers and testers, etc.) create a VM in the lab, they will see all the allowed Azure Marketplace images appear in the same list of VM bases with custom images.

Figure 3: Create a lab VM using a image from Azure Marketplace

Figure 3: Create a lab VM using a image from Azure Marketplace

Virtual network settings

As a lab admin, if you’ve got a virtual network already set up (with Azure ExpressRoute, with site-to-site VPN, or for any other purposes), you can configure your lab to allow that virtual network to be used in Azure DevTest Labs, as long as it’s in the same region and subscription. Otherwise, it’s invisible from lab users who want to create a VM in the lab.

Virtual Networks Settings

Figure 4: Manage virtual networks allowed in the lab

We understand that using virtual networks inappropriately can also generate unexpected cost. So in addition to restricting the lab VMs created only using the allowed virtual networks, Azure DevTest Labs also enables you to apply some rules how the virtual network to be used. You can specify—for each subnet in the virtual network—whether public IP addresses are allowed, whether the subnet can be used when lab users create a VM, and the maximum number of VMs can be created in that subnet for each lab user.

Configure virtual network settings

Figure 5: Set rules how the virtual network is supposed to be used

Cost control and monitoring

In addition to all the policy settings that helps on controlling the cost in the lab, Azure DevTest Labs also offers the capability to visualize the lab spending. The Cost threshold in the lab Settings shows you the total estimated cost based on the regular retail pricing for the current month, along with a chart that gives you an idea on the trending of the spending.

Cost threshold

Figure 6: Monitor your lab spending through Cost Threshold

As its name indicates, visualizing the spending is just the 1st step. The cost threshold will allow you to specify your target spending in the future and enable more capabilities to help you track the cost.

Reusable templates for faster VM creation

As described earlier in the post, Azure DevTest Labs enables quick VM provisioning thanks to the reusable templates (custom images, artifacts, etc.). To save more of your time when creating a VM, we introduced formula in this //Build release. As a lab user, you can save the settings used in VM creating (i.e. base image, VM size, artifacts, etc.) from a lab VM blade even after the VM is created. Saved formula is shared within the lab and available to use as a VM Base, so that next time when any lab users want to create a VM with the same settings, they can pick the formula as the VM base, and then create the VM without filling all the other details again.

Create formula

Figure 7: Create formula from an existing lab VM

Summary

Azure DevTest Labs was announced as Public Preview at AzureCon last year. In the past few months, the team was super passionate about delivering all the features (including the above ones) to create your fast, easy and lean Dev/Test environments. With more and more high-quality features shipped towards to our goal, we find the service very close to point of GA. This will be our major focus in the next one or two months.

If you are running your Dev/Test environments in the cloud, or have been considering about it, we’d love you try Azure DevTest Labs and share with you about your thoughts. If you have an idea for how to make it work better for you, submit your feedback (or vote for others) at the Azure DevTest Labs feedback forum.

Have a question? Check out answers or ask a new question at the MSDN Community forum.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Enjoy!

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