While recently reading the latest Microsoft Azure updates, I found that we could try some VM’s from Azure Marketplace for free, even without any Azure subscription account. The feature is called “Azure test drive”. I found it interesting and decided to give a try, and see what it could offer. Here I am going to share my “driving” experience with the service.
I opened a browser where I was not logged to Azure, and went to the Test drives on Microsoft Azure webpage. There you can see a list of different VMs including DataStax, NetApp DataVault, and others. There are dozens of services listed there. I picked up a “SoftNAS Cloud NAS”, clicked and was redirected to the product page. On this page I had two options to create a VM. The main one was the usual “Create Virtual Machine” button, and the second one was located a bit lower and stated “Or, take a free test drive first”. I correctly assumed that was exactly what I needed (not a rocket science), and clicked it. I was was offered either to login or create a new “Orbitera” account for Azure Marketplace test drives.
The new service did not required an Azure account, but still asked to create one on another service. I didn’t have that account yet, and opted to create a new one. On the account creation page I was asked standard questions, filled out forms, and at the bottom confirmed that I was not a robot and pushed “sign up”. I got an email with a validation link just thirty seconds after that.
After validating my account I was able to sign up, and got to the test drive the page. I then received a button saying “Launch Test Drive”, an introduction video and couple of guides in pdf to download. One of the guides was a SoftNAS Cloud NAS Demo which helped get most out of the test drive, and another one was about the “SoftNAS Cloud NAS” itself. I pushed the button and got a counter showing how many many minutes were remaining to complete the deployment of my test VM.
It took less than 7 minutes to get link to the my Softnas interface and credentials. By the way, you don’t need to sit and wait when it is crating, you are going to get an email when the VM is ready to use and when you time is up. The test drive VM lives only one hour, and you have a counter on the test drive page with time left for you exercise. I got an hour to test SoftNAS. I later tried another test drive for SUSE HPC and got only 30 minutes available for it. I think the test time will depend on the service you want to try out, and how much time you may need to go through all the options.
Interestingly, I got a warning connecting to my newly created SoftNAS. It looked like certificate for the web interface was not good. My Firefox browser complained “The owner of softnas33027publicipdns.eastus.cloudapp.azure.com has configured their website improperly.” Of course you can wave that warning and add the certificate to exceptions but, I think,for SoftNAS it will be better to fix it.
So, I played with the test VM, shared couple of volumes, and was able to mount them on another VM and on my Mac. It worked pretty well and allowed me to make myself friendly with the interface and options. When the my hour had finished, the SoftNAS went down and all my mounts became unavailable. If you need more time you can just fire another trial and use one more hour. Yes, it would be a brand new VM, and no configuration would be saved if you had one, but, it will allow you to explore features you weren’t able to try before time was gone.
I liked the service. It provides opportunity to test and play with new products in Marketplace and decide either it suits you or not. And you can just show to somebody how to work with SoftNAS, how to share and mount a new NFS or do other things. I hope the test drive will be growing and we see more and more new brands among available products.