Friday, June 01, 2018

Deploy Cloud Dev Box on Azure with Terraform


Summary: See for a terraform based solution to deploy VMs in Azure with full remote desktop access.

Now the longer form :). I have blogged in the past about how to setup a Ubuntu desktop on Azure that you can RDP (remote desktop) into. Over the past few months I have moved onto doing most of my development work exclusively on cloud VM and I love having full desktop experience on my customized “Cloud Dev box”. I RDP into it from my dev box at work, Surface Pro, secure laptop etc.

I wanted to ensure that I can treat the box as cattle and not pet. So I came up with a terraform based scripts to bring up these cloud dev boxes. I have also shared them with my team in Microsoft and few devs are already using it. I hope it will be useful to you as well incase you want something like that. All code is at

A few things about the main terraform script at 

  1. It is a good security practice is to ensure that your VM is locked down. I use Azure NSG rules to ensure that the VM denies in-bound traffic from Internet. I accept parameters to the script where you can give IP ranges which will then be opened up. This ensures that your VM is accessible from only safe locations, in my case those are IP ranges of Microsoft (from work) and my home IP address.
  2. While you can use just the TF file and setup script I have a driver script at that you might find useful
  3. Once the VM is created I use remote execution feature of terraform to run the script in to install various software that I need including Ubuntu desktop and xrdp for remote desktop. This takes around 10 minutes atleast
  4. By default Standard_F8s machine is used, but that can be overridden with larger sizes (eg. Standard_F16s). I have found machines smaller than that doesn’t provide adequate performance. Note: You will incur costs for running these biggish VMs


Obviously you need terraform installed. I think the whole system works really well if you launch from because that way all the credential stuff is automatically handled, and cloud shell comes pre-installed with terraform.

If you want to run from any other dev box, you can need to have Azure CLI and terraform installed (use script for it) . Then do the following where subsId is the subscriptionId under which you want the VM to run.

az login
az account set --subscription="<some subscription Id>"

While you can download the files from here and use it, you should be better of by customizing the script and then running it. I use the following to run

curl -O
chmod +x
./ abhinab <password>



Now you can use a rdp client like mstsc to loginto the machine.

NOTE: In my experience 1080p resolution works well, 4K lags too much to be useful. Since mstsc default is full-screen be careful if you are working on hi-res display and explicitly use 1080p resolution.

There I am logged into my cloud VM.