Setting up a test lab that can be rebuilt at a moment's notice can take hours that are comprised of installation, configuration, and documentation. And, then when updates are released for the host operating system, you practically have to start all over again just to integrate the new bits into the lab image. Virtualization, of course, has made the task of building the environment better allowing it to be rebuilt and spun up quickly. But, still have to have dedicated server resources adequate enough to host the test labs.
Through Windows Azure and Test Lab Guides, Microsoft is attempting to the make the process of building and maintaining the labs easier.
Windows Azure makes maintaining a test lab environment a bit easier through the provision of VMs and supplying the underlying hardware resources. This eliminates having to set aside, or even purchase, hardware equipment just for creating a test bed.
Test Lab Guides are the resulting documentation after Microsoft performs significant work implementing their own technologies and then recording and sharing the experience. The docs not only allow you to implement the same technologies in your own testing environment, but they also give you a unique understanding of potential gotchas and the breadth of work required to bring the technologies to life for your infrastructure.
Microsoft has just released an updated version of a Test Lab Guide focused on building a Windows Server 2012 R2 server in a Windows Azure VM instance. The 32 page document walks through creating a Windows Azure Virtual Network, installing and configuring a Windows Server 2012 R2 domain controller, producing a Windows Azure Virtual Machine, and configuring a client.
Download the guide here: Test Lab Guide: Windows Server 2012 R2 Base Configuration in Windows Azure