One of the better cloud computing bargains can be found at
Cloudshare.com. For a reasonable price, corporate IT departments can have up to six individual virtual machines (VMs) in their own private cloud. That is a deal, and makes the pain of software testing a lot more bearable.
There are plenty of cloud providers that don't charge much for smallish VM collections: Amazon Web Services and Rackspace are just two of dozens that charge by the virtual machine CPU-hour. I found Cloudshare a lot easier to use.
CloudShare has two different pricing tiers. (They used to have a third tier, with three VMs that was absolutely free of charge, but they have eliminated that deal, which is too bad.)
- The ProPlus package includes up to six VMs and will cost you $49 a month. You can start quickly with a few different pre-made templates for Linux (CentOS, Ubuntu) and Windows (Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows XP). Everything happens inside the Web browser. To populate your VM, you can drag and drop files to move them from your own desktop into the cloud environment. The only catch is that any VM you create can only occupy up to 300 GB storage and 10 GB RAM. It took me a few minutes to bring up my environment for the first time. Subsequent visits took a matter of seconds before I could access my VMs.
There are a variety of pre-made templates that include SQL Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint, Active Directory, Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 versions on top of the Windows OS, as well as 64-bit and Server 2008 R2 editions too. If you don't like these templates that Cloudshare provides and want to customize and upload your own VM, you need to start with the basic OS template and make any changes to it on your local desktop using VMware Workstation v7. They call this feature FastUpload but I didn't test it because it is still in an early beta phase.
- There is an Enterprise plan that can provide VPNs to access hybrid public/private clouds and even larger VM collections. The price depends on what the size of your environment will be.
On the Pro Plus plan, all of your VMs are on a flat network with a single subnet to connect them together and each machine has both a public and private IP address. You can move your data into the cloud via the desktop file sharing for smaller files, or use file transfer protocol for moving the larger sized ones. Since they are VMs, there are some limitations on what you can upload - trying to test out anti-virus tools in the cloud probably isn't a good idea - but if you need to quickly determine if some application will work on Windows 7, for example, you are spared the pain of setting up a new PC by using Cloudshare.
One of the nicer features of Cloudshare is the ability to quickly share your environment with others. Again, this makes for painless test setups: once you have your VMs in working order, you can share them with a colleague and Cloudshare will make a snapshot and copy and send the link to access the environment via email to your colleague. They have two days of usage before they have to decide whether to take ownership (in which case Cloudshare will create a clone for their own user) or move on. Another nicety is that the user names, passwords, and IP addresses of each VM are all shown alongside the remote terminal window in your browser so you don't have to fumble around to find this information. It really is designed for the frequent tester.
Cloudshare will help the way enterprises test products, and make IT test departments a lot more productive and cost effective. It can also be used to deliver real-time software demonstrations and training sessions where you need a live working Internet setup to show a particular application. And since everything is done inside a Web browser, it is dirt simple to deploy.
14-day free trial for Pro environment available
2929 Campus Drive?Suite 200?
San Mateo, CA 94403