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Floating IT lab woos Windows 7 app testers

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Skytap is calling all Windows 7 app testers onto its floating IT lab.

Backed in part by Bezos Expeditions - the personal investment arm of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos - Skytap offers a virtual IT test lab that runs in, yes, that nebulous place people call the cloud. And with Microsoft set to release Windows 7 RTM code later this week, the Seattle, Washington-based outfit is wooing ISVs and enterprises looking for a way to test applications on Microsoft's latest operating system.

Built atop VMWare, the Skytap Virtual Lab runs any version of Windows - unlike, say, Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, which is limited to Windows 2003 Server - and beginning on Thursday, Microsoft's RTM date, the Lab will offer up ready-made Windows 7 virtual machine templates for any MSDN subscriber with keys for the RTM code. Skytap is also offering a Windows 7-specific subscription that provides 1000 hours of testing for a $250 monthly fee. Typically, rates start at $500 a month.

An outgrowth of research done at the University of Washington, Skytap bills itself as a place where you can recreate your IT stack inside a web browser. "You can take your existing IT enterprise environment - or any IT environment - and run it in the cloud unchanged," Ian Knox, the company's director of product management tells The Reg. This include a virtual networking layer for mimicking your internal IP addresses, virtual LANs, and the like.

But at the moment, it's meant for testing - not running production systems. There's no disaster recovery, for example. "We [handle] highly-dynamic, difficult-to-manage IT environments that are also low-risk," Know says. "Most people aren't ready to put production in the cloud yet, but they're very willing to put developer and test environments there."

Naturally, the pitch is that if you test in the sky rather than on the ground, you'll save all sorts of time and money.

"When you move to the cloud, you're using a multi-tenant environment, so you only pay for the minutes you use and it becomes much more cost effective." Assuming a 50-machine virtual lab that gets three hours of usage a day, the company claims a 71 per cent cost savings over three years.

Yes, if you're already an Windows 7 beta tester, you can run the OS in this VMWare-based virtual lab, as some Skytap customers already are. Skytap's Windows 7-specific subscription went live on Monday. ®

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