I have recently been helping to define a set of capabilities that can be delivered to customers within Azure and the one I personally have been focused on has been one that I don’t believe gets enough marketing or attention from within Microsoft and that is Azure Dev/Test Labs.  Straight out of the Azure documentation, the following is an overview of the service:
 
Azure DevTest Labs enables developers on teams to efficiently self-manage virtual machines (VMs) and PaaS resources without waiting for approvals.
 
DevTest Labs creates labs consisting of pre-configured bases or Azure Resource Manager templates. These have all the necessary tools and software that you can use to create environments. You can create environments in a few minutes, as opposed to hours or days.
 
By using DevTest Labs, you can test the latest versions of your applications by doing the following tasks:
  • Quickly provision Windows and Linux environments by using reusable templates and artifacts.
  • Easily integrate your deployment pipeline with DevTest Labs to provision on-demand environments.
  • Scale up your load testing by provisioning multiple test agents and create pre-provisioned environments for training and demos.
Unfortunately, this overview doesn’t really give you the whole story. The first thing to mention is that DevTest Labs actually is two different services that are built on top of one set of features where certain capabilities are only available in one service and vice versa. The first of these services is DevTest Labs itself which is the most fully featured. The second is really a subset of the capabilities of DevTest Labs and that one is called Lab Services.

 

You might be asking yourself or wanting to ask me, if Lab Services is a subset of DevTest Labs, then why not just use for DevTest Labs for everything? You certainly can, but there would be a lot more work involved to implement the same features and especially the same level of security and isolation. To better answer this question, let me start by giving you a deep dive into the use cases for using each one as well as a deep into the features and functions of each.

Lab Services

Below, you will find a video that provides an overview and walk-through of the Lab Services capability that can be found within the DevTest Labs feature of Azure. As this is a subset of what the entire DevTest Labs service can provide, I will talk about the differences between DevTest Labs and Lab Services in the next section after you have a good understanding of just the Lab Services feature. The video does start with a slide deck to discuss the overview of the service prior to doing an Azure Portal demonstration of what you will see once it has been deployed.

DevTest Labs

 Now that you have an understanding what the Lab Services feature provides, let’s take a look at the super-set of capabilities by looking at DevTest Labs as a whole. Below, you will find a video that provides an overview and walk-through of the DevTest Labs service as well as a discussion of the types of use cases that it can be leveraged for.

Conclusion

After reading and watching all of this information, I hope that you are able to see the value of what Azure DevTest Labs has to offer. I also hope that you are able to see why there is a need for both services. Just as a review, here are the two major differences to keep in mind aside from the different use cases:
  • Lab Services only allows for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) options for the Students to use where as DevTest Labs supports both IaaS as well as PaaS services within a given Lab
  • Lab Services can be made available to external Students or Users, only needing an email address to receive an invite and these Users never have access to the Azure Portal, where as DevTest Labs requires that each “Developer” or “Tester” have access to the Lab and the Azure Portal to interact with resources within the Lab.
No matter which of the two services is going to be most important to you and your organization, there are some great opportunities for improving your online education

Additional Resources