To try out new things in Microsoft Azure, but avoid to get charged for it, I find the Azure Learn Sandbox very useful.
And there are two great extras for free: You do not have to worry to impact any production setups, and you don’t have to care about housekeeping / cleanup of any resources!
Microsoft says they “… created the Learn Sandbox, allowing free, fixed-time access to a cloud subscription with no credit card required. You can safely learn, create, and manage resources without the fear of ‘breaking production’.” (see Azure Learn Sandbox FAQ).
To activate a sandbox, you need a Microsoft Learn module that contains hands-on Azure exercise. For more details, please refer to the Azure Learn Sandbox FAQ.
It is important to know that a sandbox times out after a given time which is shown by the learn module once you’ve created the sandbox. This happens no matter if you are done or in the middle of any activity. As the purpose is just to provide an environment to exercise some steps of a learning module, this has to be accepted. In case you want or need to somehow archive work results, the sandbox is not the right tool.
Once created, you can access the sandbox like your “normal” Azure environment: via the portal, Azure CLI, and any other tool of your choice. You just have to make sure you will sign in with the same account that you used to create the sandbox.
I also found Lukasz Gasior’s quick introduction very helpful when I started using the Azure Learn Sandbox.
Yes, there are some. Beside not being able to create resource groups (the sandbox provides the one and only to be used), at the time of writing the FAQ names:
- You can create only certain resources (based on the module you’re in).
- The sandbox is limited to specific SKUs for some services.
- You can use only specific regions (locations).
And I add:
- There can only be one (at a time).
- I was not able to download any software from the Internet (download just did not started).
- I was not able to install software copied to the VM (Windows 10; installation did not started).
What it is Not good for
In case you want to / need to keep any results of your work, the Azure learn sandbox should not be used. As said, the sandbox including its entire content will be destroyed after the predefined time. So whatever you created within the sandbox is lost then.
As I was not able to install anything on the Windows 10 virtual machine, to me it is also not good for testing software.
You need a Microsoft account to create a sandbox. I do not use my Azure “production” administration account. but created a new one.
I used the same e-mail address to setup the Microsoft Learn account (but a different password), and this works fine. I do have two different profiles now using the same e-mail address. After entering the e-mail address, Azure asks me which account to use. The “work or school account” is the one I created for Microsoft Learn purposes.
To me, activating a sandbox is sometimes confusing. Usually, I login to Microsoft Learn using my Work or School Account. Then I open the learning module and try to activate the sandbox. Some validation starts, then sometimes I needed to agree to some terms and conditions, then again needed to login (at least select the current account an enter its password), and then the creation of the sandbox completes.
One time it happened to me that I was not able to create a sandbox at all. The system always complained about missing a valid e-mail address. But I was not able to figure out which e-mail address it tries to use. The next day, everything worked fine again, without any changes.
So in case you run into simliar issues: Just be patient 😉