Five Reasons to using CloudShare and why it is worth it.

This posts is not going to serve as a marketing story that sells you how much compelling features is being built in and provided by CloudShare but rather I am going to share on my perspective why I chose CloudShare for my day-to-day and I urge you all will see the same value as me. As a Consultant and Developer by profession, I would have to depend highly on my lab so that I could solve my own problems that I have encountered and also problems that my clients met into for their infrastructure that is being deployed and maintained by my organization. On top of that, my recent application to be a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) has been approved and therefore I have joined the league of professional trainers and hope to learn as much as I could. In my opinion, being a MCT delivery a class is not just based on the Microsoft Official Curriculum provided but it should also add in some real-world experience that I have earned when I am doing consultancy to the students. Therefore, being quick and decisive is an important element in the IT world because technology changes so fast that we could pick up the skills.

Therefore, these are five reasons why I would recommend all of you to try out CloudShare.

1. No hardware investment

Microsoft Technologies and the latest line of products have adversely increased the requirements of the hardware needed in order to run the environment smoothly. For example, when I am doing my SharePoint 2010 demo box, I used to only allocate around 4GB-6GB of RAM to the single virtual machine box. As of the launch of SharePoint 2013, I see the need to work with around 8GB to 16GB for the virtual machine. That jump would definitely require me to upgrade my workstation or my lab environment in order to accommodate to the new requirements. I used to lug around my Lenovo ThinkPad T420 with 16GB RAM but since I needed to run SharePoint 2013, I will be looking at either a slower and sluggish performance virtual machine on the same piece of hardware or I am forced to look at higher end model of the ThinkPad W Series which enable me to maximize up to 32GB of RAM. Remember, this is just part one of my hardware investment because for my lab environment at home/work, I will run SharePoint instances along with other Microsoft products for testing purposes. Although the lab servers in the office would usually contain higher class hardware that span across around 96GB RAM, but from time-to-time when the requirement of newer software increased, it means that the number of virtual machines we can run on the same lab server will decrease and therefore needing some upgrade.

For my home, I do not have the luxury to run huge servers because electricity is expensive here. Moreover, switching on the home lab server 24 x 7 would not only consume lots of electricity but it just meant that I would need to bear with the noise of the server fans. Another problem with running lab server within the organization/home lab is Connectivity. A secure environment like mine will force me to only connect to the lab environment via secure VPN connection. For my latest lab environment, it is powered with 2 x Intel NUC (~ USD500 each with 64GB mSATA + 16GB RAM) with a Synology NAS (~ USD1400 with 4 x 4TB hard disk). This would make up to a total of approximately USD3000 for a start include other miscellaneous items.

However, if you use CloudShare, the monthly commitment is USD59 (lowest available plan), it will provide you with 50 months (more than 4 years!) of utilization in order to rack up to the upfront investment for the basic hardware needed. I doubt the Intel NUC could last me 4 years especially when new software requirements are increasing!

2. Usability

All the while I have been trying to compare the various solutions that provide me with an easy way to connect to my lab environment in order to get some work done without the need to lug around with a heavy workstation. I now owe a Surface Pro 2 due to the software that I required to run to meet my basic needs. I wouldn’t be able to survive with a Surface 2 / RT because I could not install the proprietary VPN software that is required in order to connect back to my company VPN server.

One of the feature that allow me to leave my heavy laptop at home is the availability to connect to my CloudShare instances via any browser. With this feature, I could easily live with a lightweight laptop or table such as Surface RT/2 or even an Apple iPad.

3. Huge amount of time saved

Prior to using CloudShare, I used to build countless numbers of virtual machine in order to perform some of the testing needed at work or for my own learning. My latest project or mini project is to explore Team Foundation Server 2013. So I went ahead to time how much time and effort is needed in order to setup my own copy of Team Foundation Server so that I could meddle with the functionalities. So here is the estimated breakdown of the time spent:

· Building the base OS on a single virtual machine + Windows Patching: 1.5 hours

· Cloning the base OS to multiple virtual machine (Active Directory, SQL, Team Foundation Server, Build Agent Server) and perform sysprep: 1 hour

· Setup the domain controller and populating the various service accounts needed: 20 minutes

· Setup SQL Server for Team Foundation Server: 30 minutes

· Setup Team Foundation Server and configuration: 45 minutes

· Setup Build Server: 20 minutes

In total, I spent around 4.5 hours to complete the whole exercise! This does not include… What if I configured certain component wrongly and required re-configuration? With CloudShare, I could spin up an instance with Team Foundation Server 2013 along with Visual Studio 2013 installed in less than 5 minutes! Below are some examples of what is included in the 5 minutes setting up process…

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Team Foundation Server 2013 Image

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SharePoint 2013 Image

4. No longer required for trial software / subscription (Goodbye to TechNet)

One move by Microsoft to kill the TechNet subscription is to enable more users to move to the Cloud, however, for work purposes, I will definitely need to setup my own lab environment so that I could easily demo to my prospective clients the awesome features that is packed in the product. Without the TechNet subscription, I wouldn’t be getting the MSDN subscription for my home development use because the amount spent doesn’t justify the cost spent. Getting trial software would means that I would need to rebuild my lab environment every 180 days.

With CloudShare, you wouldn’t even need to bother about the licensing, you just spin up the instance as and when you like and delete it from your account when you are done with it. Forget about finding the product key to the software and having trouble activating virtual machine for your testing purposes.

5. No complex solutions needed

Sometimes I wonder whether I could mimic the solutions by CloudShare and create a Self-Service Portal as user-friendly as CloudShare so that my developers could easily launch an instance for their testing purposes as and when needed. However, after a serious consideration of the amount of hardware investment needed in order to ensure that every developers will get a fair share for them to deliver their project on-time, it really made me hard to present the idea to the management. On top of that, there will be on-going maintenance needed to ensure that the condition of the hardware are good for use. Below is some of the pointers that are part of my solution conceptualization.

· To deploy System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage all the Hyper-V hosts and to deploy Virtual Machine.

· Time is needed to create the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Time is needed to update the various Virtual Machine Templates.

· Need to engage the various specialist within the organization to borrow their time so that be part of the architecting team.

Hope you are able to see the value that I see in CloudShare. Interested? Head over now to get your trial account. Sign up for Trial

P/S: I am not affiliated with CloudShare in any ways.

Cheers!
Milton Goh

By | 2013-12-30T09:35:16+00:00 December 30th, 2013|Lab Environment, Productivity|0 Comments

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