Are you like me? Do you spend hours building your VM's just right, making sure they have everything you need, copying them and saving them for later only to realize that when you need them you don't have the base image or something doesn't work right. Are that kind of developer or architect that just needs to get a plain out of the box installation of SharePoint 2010 up and running really quickly without the long drawn out process of building it yourself? Or are you asked at the last minute to do a demo and you realize the only VM you have has a bunch of development on that doesn't quite work yet?
Well if you answered "Yes" to any of the above then you need Cloudshare in your life. It is great, you get access to a whole range of pre-defined templates or as they really are Virtual Machines that can spun up at a moment's notice. To get you excited about it thought I would take you through how it works. So firstly head over to www.cloudshare.com and sign up, you can sign up for the free account or go straight for the "ProPlus" account or even "Enterprise". Once registered you will be able to login to site and be presented with the following:
Underneath this if you do have any environments they will be listed, if you do not have one then you can create an Environment and then add machines to it. Mine looks like this:
To look at the machines in my environment I can click the "View Environment" option and I then get presented with my list of machines and a status that shows these VM's are currently loading.
As you can see I have a SharePoint 2010 Development server and a Windows 7 machine. You will also notice that at the top it tells you what percentage of loading has been done.
Once this has reached 100% then the Virtual Machines will be available and ready to get into. One thing you will noticed is that you have ability to "Share" your environment with colleagues, clients or even prospects which is very useful. To do this, simply type the name and email address and hit send. They will then get an email outlining how long they have access and how to connect.
So now the servers have booted, we can see this from the status beneath each machine.
We also have options on the right of the screen allowing us to modify the environment:
Take Snapshot – Self-explanatory really, takes a quick snapshot of the current state of your machine
Share Environment – Share with other people
Edit Environment – Add / Modify Machines in the Environment
Revert to Last Snapshot – Revert to previously saved copy
Delete Environment – If you really need too!!
So let's choose the "Edit Environment" option first. Once selected we get to choose the following options:
We will first add a new machine by selecting the "Add / Remove" option. You are presented with a carrousel kind of picker listing all the templates you have access to:
To show them all I have changed it to a list view:
Quite a few options are available, so for this one let's choose "Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop". I am then able to name my new machine and add a description:
Once I have completed the name and description, I can then press the "Add this Machine". This adds the machine to my list but waits for a save change to be done.
If we now press the "Save Changes" button we are sent to the following page where it outlines the percentage and the current status of the provisioning process.
Once completed, we are then able to click the "View Machine" option. If this is the first time you are connecting this way you will get prompted with the following:
If you already the plugin then it should load as shown below:
There it is, in a matter of minutes I was able to spin up a Ubuntu desktop. This VM is pre-built and just works, all applications installed and internet ready. The key here is that I have root access and can add other software, remove applications really anything I want to do with it.
Now if I want to remove this machine I can go back to the main dashboard for the environment and select the "Delete" option next to the machine.
I can then confirm the deletion and build something else.
One of the templates you can use is called "SharePoint 2010 (Info Worker)", this is a great one to use. Same process as before, select the template and then save the change and hey presto it begins building.
Once completed you should see the following status:
Once again click the "View Machine" option and you get the in web page RDP connection to the server.
As you can see using this template the site is already launched as contains documents ready for demos and testing. This template is based on the Microsoft Virtual Machine; it comes pre-loaded with all kinds of sites and applications. This is a great image to use and fantastic for demos or testing code on a "real-world" type machine. And the most fantastic thing here is it too less than 10 minutes to provision the whole thing from the moment I chose the template.
In the web page RDP client you also get some great tools:
Dynamic screen resolution, get access to the console of the machine, enable file sharing between your machine and the virtual machine, great tools for working with a VM.
As you can see this is great technology that can benefit anyone, whether you're doing demos, developing software or writing samples to be used at a conference. To get started head over to the site and look at the free offering, then if you like it look at the paid option. This table outlines the differences:
The thing to note here is that this is not really about hosting a web site on a Virtual Machine somewhere but more about having machines available for any occasion, testing, developing, research or demos. A note also that the machines will suspend themselves after 90 minutes of inactivity (if you keep the web page open you should be fine), if you are using direct RDP then it may not last that long. All in all, though this is a very compelling solution for everyone. Highly recommend trying it out and seeing what it can do for you. J