Cloud Comparison: Cost of CloudShare vs Azure Dev/Test VMs

Last week we began comparing CloudShare’s virtual labs to general purpose systems like Azure IaaS, pointing out the key features of a virtual lab: automated provisioning, saving, clone, suspension and sharing of full IT environments. This enables full system tests on-demand and automates many tedious IT and configuration tasks. This week we discuss how this automation also makes the lab much more cost-effective than a patchwork solution built from IaaS like Azure.

General Purpose Virtual Machines vs. Managed Virtual Labs

Virtual machines, like those in Azure IaaS and AWS EC2, are flexible, generic resources. Composed of storage, memory and CPU, they can be added to networks, loaded with software, scripted to handle a variety of tests or configurations, and deleted when needed. For example, Azure Portal VMs come with some preconfigured software and provisioning scripts. They can be hooked into services like Redis, Mongo and Visual Studio online, or scripted into dev/test environments, though this is not so straightforward. Dedicating engineers to retool and maintain VMs is costly and a distraction, but if it’s cheaper, it’s justified.

In the examples below, it is clearly not. Like other IaaS providers Azure delivers VMs as a service and charges for VM run time. With costs accruing at the individual VM level, full environment or lab costs scale out quickly. As a starting point, consider a simple two machine environment with a Windows Server with 3.5 GB RAM and a SQL Server Enterprise with 3.5 GB of RAM.

Windows Server with 3.5 GB RAM

Windows VM

SQL Server Enterpise with 3.5 GB RAM

SQL Server ent

To compare CloudShare and Azure, we assume perfect behavior from the users and administrators of the two Azure machines. When they finish, they shut off machines manually and then reboot when they start the next day. In this best case, there is little need for cost management tools — an increasingly popular startup niche — but there are some cost savings from CloudShare.


Cost Comparison for a Single User Running a Two Machine Environment:

3.5 GB Windows Server & 3.5 GB SQL Server Enterprise



But teams never behave perfectly and almost always need more than two VMs in a testing environment. The next example shows the outcome (and outlay) of many environments running overtime. As this startup knows, this is not an uncommon problem:


Cost Comparison for Five Users Running a Two Machine Environment:

3.5 GB Windows Server & 3.5 GB SQL Server Enterprise


*estimates include no additional storage, networking or support costs.

To limit runaway costs, IaaS administrators can purchase third party management tools or spend days just scripting environments to spin up and down. This work is costly, prohibitively error-prone at scale, and ultimately unnecessary.

CloudShare labs delivers flexible testing environments and manage lab costs. Snapshots keep environments suspended when not in use. Auto-suspension keeps environments from running over time. And custom project-based quotas allow managers to fix runtime, storage leases and global quotas. It’s lab management — from VMs to environments to costs — with no third party tools or scripting required.