Monday Coffee: Lab Environments

Having a lab environment is an absolute must for any IT professional. You need somewhere that you can test out code and new functionalities with zero risk. But where’s the best place to host?

My lab is in Azure, it’s convenient and (relatively) cheap but there is one problem with it; it requires an internet connection in order for me to use it.

Now 99% of the time that’s not an issue. Internet connectivity is available pretty much everywhere these days but still it can be an issue. Ever been to a presentation where the presenter hasn’t been able to connect to the wifi? It’s the reason that my demos for more involved subjects are all pre-recorded (that’s not the only reason but it’s a big one).

So what are the other options? Well, I know a couple of people who’ve hosted their own lab but that’s not really an option for many people. It’s expensive, noisy (servers are noisy) and you need quite a bit of space.

Then there’s building one on your local machine, using Virtual Box or Hyper-V. That’s a pretty good way to go, if you have a powerful enough laptop.

Another option is containers. Now that docker allows you to run linux containers on windows you can host pretty much everything on a not-so-powerful laptop. I have multiple images on my laptop that allow me to spin up versions of SQL Server from 2012 to 2017 in seconds. I don’t need to waste resources running full blown versions of all the different versions of SQL that I work with, the containers give me (almost) everything I need.

OK, I admit that there are some limitations so that’s where my Azure lab steps in but for most things, spinning up a container is a fast and simple way for me to test out code and investigate issues.

I highly recommend that anyone working with SQL Server (or any other app really) download docker and get involved with using containers. There really isn’t a downside to doing so.

Have a good week!

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