I’ve been working with the SkyTap cloud virtual machine provider this week to try and find a flexible, on-demand VM capacity provider for use across the development spectrum.
SkyTap provide turnkey virtual machines “in the cloud” which can be used for development and testing purposes. All kinds of operating systems are supported – all Microsoft Windows client and server variants, along with a mix of Linux flavours – basically anything that can run on an Intel or AMD processors. Some legacy UNIX variants are unsupported for this reason (yes, AIX, HP-UX, etc. is still alive and kicking).
They also support networking of virtual machines – from a Windows server with a range of Windows clients to mimic typical on-premise installations through to an n-Tier load-balanced web application and database server deployments (APACHE) to mimic on-line services.
All of the VM configurations are template-driven, that means it is easy to spin up VM’s based on previously defined (and commonly used) templates. Templates can include one, or many, machines. VMware is at the heart of the SkyTap offering so a lot of existing templates can be easily moved into SkyTap.
Usage is metered, so the more VM’s that one uses the more it costs. However it is possible to set a time limit to auto-suspend inactive VM’s – you are not charged for VM’s that are not running. This is a policy that I’d recommend enforcing if you roll-out SkyTap (or any virtual machine provider) to avoid costs spiralling out of control.
There’s a few things still to check but so far SkyTap looks a great service. We need to check support for all required OS’s, whether it will work with various test automation suites, integration with TFS (I’m told it will be easy for TFS 2012 which I’ve also deployed recently), template management (in particular WSUS), performance (SkyTap are based in the US and the data centre we are using is in Virginia), and quotas.
SkyTap is definitely worth a look if you want to avoid the complexity, time (and cost) of deploying additional, feature-specific, infrastructure.