CloudShare Explorer for Visual Studio 2012

For those who don’t know about CloudShare.com – it’s a subscription-paid virtual server hosting environment along the lines of Amazon EC2 or Azure, which has a key twist: it provides pre-configured virtual machines that specifically focus on SharePoint and related technologies. We use it for development at itgroove when we need to do high-level development, as a complement to local Hyper-V development images.

I finally took their CloudShare Explorer extension for Visual Studio 2012 for a spin – it’s pretty sweet:

Allow developers to spend more time coding and less time thinking about the tools they use. The CloudShare Explorer allows developers to access CloudShare development and testing environments without leaving Visual Studio. With CloudShare Explorer for Visual Studio, you can easily create and access your cloud-based labs.

Features:
•Complete list of your CloudShare environments in the CloudShare Explorer tab. The list is continuously updated with the status of the environments.
•Full screen remote access to the CloudShare machines with just a click of a mouse.
•Resume your lab environments.
•Revert the environment, or a specific machine, to the latest snapshot (only works with a CloudShare TeamLabs account).
•Web access to your lab web servers within Visual Studio.
•Add a machine to an environment (only works with a CloudShare TeamLabs account).
•Delete a machine in an environment (only works with a CloudShare TeamLabs account).
•Prevent CloudShare environments from being suspended if the user is still working on them.
•Highly customizable – you can turn on / off most of the functionality of the plugin as needed

Config Steps:

Download for Visual Studio 2013

Step 1: Download and install the Visual Studio Extension

Step 2: Login to the CloudShare website and Generate your API Credentials under My Account > API Credentials

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Step 3: Add your API Credentials into the CloudShare Explorer interface in Visual Studio:
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Step 4: That’s it! You can now work with your CloudShare environments directly in Visual Studio!
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CloudShare Persistent DNS

Sweet! : https://support.cloudshare.com/entries/23712067-Persistent-DNS

Overview

Each individual machine in an environment have a Persistent external DNS name.  For long-time users of CloudShare, this replaces the previously used External Address which would change each time an environment resumed.

This means you can bookmark or save the RDP link and not worry about the IP changing.  For example, when using remote desktop connection managers or terminal services such as MSTSC, you can access that VM with the machine name instead of the External Address.  This will also maintain a VM’s external name (FQDN) for the lifetime of the environment.

The Persistent DNS feature will allow you to switch between servers quickly from a central location, should you want to work in multiple VMs, at the same time, in different windows or on multiple monitors.

External Address vs. Persistent DNS

Accessing machines through the CloudShare web UI has not changed.  Clicking ‘View VM’ is still the best method for actively working on a specific machine as this is how we keep your environment running.  CloudShare also accelerates this RDP connection to improve overall performance.

1. As with the old External Address, (pubN-NN.env.cloudshare.com), the specific numbers assigned in this string would be refreshed each time an environment suspended.

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2. This is not the case with Persistent DNS.  You will still see the name listed under ‘External Address, however its reference has changed.

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The VM’s DNS name will remain static across Suspend, Resume and Revert actions.

NOTE: When first launching an environment, it may take up to five additional minutes to assign the persistent DNS once the environment is listed as ‘Ready’.  Soon after the address is generated, it will temporarily have a dummy underlying IP address, which will automatically update once it is prepared.

Setting up Persistent DNS

There is nothing you need to do as CloudShare handles this automatically.  The Persistent DNS will be retrieved as part of machine details when creating, launching or resuming an environment.

Persistent DNS and Vanity URLs

CloudShare ProPlus has had the option of a Vanity URL as an overlay for your standard Web Access URL and this will work in much the same way.

  • Each machine in your environment have an automatically generated DNS name
  • You can set a vanity name for one VM in your environment. The DNS name for this VM will be based on this vanity name. For example if your vanity URL is http://my_vanity.cld.sr, the FQDN of this VM is my_vanity.vm.cld.sr
  • You can also set up an alias for the DNS and CNAME to a machine

Note that…

  • While the FQDN will remain the same, the underlying IP address will change as the environment suspends and resumes
  • As always, machines in your environment will have to be running for you to access them directly via the persistent DNS.  In conjunction with CloudShare’s API (in TeamLabs and Enterprise), you can resume and manage your environment remotely
  • You can set a DNS alias (CNAME) with your own domain name pointing to your CloudShare VM Persistent DNS

Cloud SharePoint for Developers : Office 365, Azure, Amazon AWS & CloudShare

Here’s a quick round up of our four top picks for getting your SharePoint Development going on in the cloud. Why develop in the cloud instead of perhaps using a local dedicated or virtual development environment?    Here’s ten reasons:

1. Scalable Add as many machines as you need.
2. Open and Flexible Choose development platform and programming model.
3. Secure Secure and durable technology platform with industry-recognized certifications and audits.
4. Fast Deployment Time Deploy applications without waiting for hardware to arrive.
5. Highly Available Highly reliable services and multiple fault-tolerant Availability Zones.
6. Quickly Adjust to Business Change: Running SharePoint in the Cloud allows you to add capacity as needed, without long lead time. You can easily scale up, or down, as business demands change. Stay ahead of the curve by adjusting capacity in minutes and hours, not days or weeks.
7. No New Hardware to Buy: All four options offer low, pay-as-you-go pricing, which eliminates hardware acquisition costs and allows you to pay only for the capacity you need. We do all of the hardware management, so you can focus on higher-value activities than replacing hard drives.
8. Shift Capital Expense to Operating Expense: While reducing both. You no longer need to plan, procure, manage, and depreciate your IT infrastructure.  You can replace large up-front expenses with more predictable costs that scale with your business.
9. Utilize Existing Skills and Software: Leverage your existing investments in IT skills and software assets, enabling your company to roll out new applications more quickly.
10. Low Cost Pay only for cloud resources used.

SharePoint Development on Office 365

Use an Office 365 Developer Site as a development and testing environment to shorten your setup time and start creating, testing, and deploying your apps for Office and SharePoint. Deploy the “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools to this preconfigured SharePoint site and you also get a head start on developing SharePoint-hosted apps, and apps for Office documents and mail items, without installing Visual Studio 2012 and Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012 on your development computer. With an Office 365 Developer Site, you get an isolated app domain for SharePoint-hosted apps, preconfigured to use OAuth, so that you can use the Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) for authenticating and authorizing provider-hosted apps for SharePoint that are deployed to this site.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/fp179924.aspx

Next steps

After you have a development environment and an Office 365 Developer Site, you can start creating apps for Office and SharePoint.

Next steps for working with “Napa” Office 365 Development Tools

Next steps for working with apps for SharePoint

Additional resources

SharePoint Development on Azure

Microsoft SharePoint Server provides rich deployment flexibility, which can help organizations determine the right deployment scenarios to align with their business needs and objectives. Hosted and managed in the cloud, the Windows Azure Virtual Machines offering provides complete, reliable, and available infrastructure to support various on-demand application and database workloads, such as Microsoft SQL Server and SharePoint deployments.

While Windows Azure Virtual Machines support multiple workloads, this paper focuses on SharePoint deployments. Windows Azure Virtual Machines enable organizations to create and manage their SharePoint infrastructure quickly—provisioning and accessing nearly any host universally. It allows full control and management over processors, RAM, CPU ranges, and other resources of SharePoint virtual machines (VMs).

Windows Azure Virtual Machines mitigate the need for hardware, so organizations can turn attention from handling high upfront cost and complexity to building and managing infrastructure at scale. This means that they can innovate, experiment, and iterate in hours—as opposed to days and weeks with traditional deployments.

Step-by-Step: Build a FREE SharePoint 2013 Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure Infrastructure Services

Prerequisites

The following is required to complete this step-by-step guide:

  • A Windows Azure subscription with the Virtual Machines Preview enabled.   DO IT: Sign up for a FREE Trial of Windows Azure   NOTE: When activating your FREE Trial for Windows Azure, you will be prompted for credit card information.  This information is used only to validate your identity and your credit card will not be charged, unless you explicitly convert your FREE Trial account to a paid subscription at a later point in time.
  • Completion of the Getting Started tasks in the following article:   DO IT: Getting Started with Servers in the Cloud
  • This step-by-step guide assumes that the reader is already somewhat familiar with configuring Windows Server Active Directory, SQL Server and SharePoint Server in an on-premise installation. This guide focuses on the unique aspects associated with configuring these components on the Windows Azure cloud platform.

Additional Resources:
How to: Deploy SharePoint Server 2010 on Azure
SharePoint 2013 on Azure Infrastructure

SharePoint Development on Amazon Web Services

Amazon EC2 running Windows Server is a secure and dependable environment for customers to deploy Microsoft SharePoint quickly and cost  effectively. The Microsoft License Mobility through Software Assurance program  allows Microsoft volume license customers to use their existing Windows Server applications licenses, including SharePoint Server, on AWS  without paying any additional Microsoft licensing fees. Take advantage of the benefits that the AWS Cloud offers such as pay-as-you-go pricing,  scalability, and data integrity to run your SharePoint workloads today.

The Get Started section below has more detail about all of the available technologies and resources for Microsoft on AWS, including pricing,  documentation, whitepapers, templates and sample code. If you have questions about SharePoint on AWS please visit the FAQ page for more info.

Get Started with AWS for Free
Sign Up Now »

AWS Free Tier includes 750 hours of Linux or Windows Micro Instances each month for one year. To stay within the Free Tier, use only EC2 Micro instances.

View AWS Free Tier Details »

Additional Resources

Microsoft and AWS     Overview of the relationship between the Microsoft and AWS, with technical resources, case studies, videos and more.

>     Learn More

Windows on the Amazon Cloud     Learn about pricing on Amazon EC2 for Windows Server and SQL Server, or find out about the Free Tier.

>     Learn More

SharePoint Reference Architecture White Paper     General concepts and technical guidance for setting up and running a SharePoint Server farm on AWS.

>     Read White Paper

Security for the Microsoft Applications on AWS White Paper Guidance, best practices, and available controls and capabilities within the AWS platform to run Windows Server-based applications securely on the AWS cloud.

Read White Paper

SharePoint Development on CloudShare

CloudShare provides an unmatched solution for SharePoint development and testing. Build a single server or multi-server SharePoint farm in minutes. With a few clicks, you can collaborate with other developers, demo for prospects, and deploy your solution to a production farm.

  • Explore the full functionality of SharePoint
  • Develop on virtual machines with sole server administration access
  • Select from development templates pre-configured with Visual Studio, Office, and various versions of SharePoint
  • Leverage tools including Team Foundation Server to store your solution code
  • Share your SharePoint solution across your organization

Try now using these top templates

SharePoint 2010 with SSRS 2012›
SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Small Farm›
SharePoint 2010 with Project Server›

CloudShare Free  Trial›

Conclusion

Each of these services has it’s strong points. With Microsoft’s Azure offering now set to price match against Amazon AWS, things are really heating up. CloudShare is an fantastic company with a super-simple deployment model – it’s possibly the simplest way to roll out a new development scenario.  Office 365 is rock solid, if you don’t need to actually manipulate server-side stuff and are focused on the Apps model.  I’m always interested to hear from other developers on their experiences with these different offerings.