Making a sandbox in Microsoft Partner Center

One of the things those who sell through Microsoft Azure Marketplace, Azure Portal, or AppSource will note is that there isn’t a nice place to test the offer. Many people want a sandbox environment to test away while only incurring charges on their bill for Azure resources without being billed for the offer itself. Today, no sandbox exists. There are valid reasons for this, but this article isn’t going to go into those. Instead, I want to focus on how to get the ability to test away without encountering extra, unexpected charges. I will only focus on the three main transactable types in Partner Center: Software as a Service (SaaS), Azure Application: Managed Application (AMA), and Virtual Machines. The pattern is the same for all three of these.

For every offer you publish in Partner Center, you need a companion test offer. The two offers are identical in all areas except for three:

  • Offer ID
  • Price on plans
  • Co-sell documentation (you don’t bother uploading this for the test offer)

Keep the offer IDs the same across both environments. This allows you to test your logic for provisioning or performing other actions on SaaS and AMA offers. This will also allow you to make sure that a VM which uses the Instance Metadata Service (works for Windows and Linux) to verify the running image has the right logic. It is possible that you’ll have a test case for VMs which requires running under an “unknown” plan name, just to make sure your logic for running only ‘blessed’ images works.

Any pricing on the test plans should be set to $0. In this case, not even a small $0.00001, but $0. I’ve had partners use the $0.00001 meter, then have test code cause a $10000 bill against that meter in a single month. This lets you validate units being reported to the reports in Partner Center without you being asked to pay $10000 so that Microsoft can take their processing fee and deposit the balance back in your bank account.

The test offer will contain the same text, plan IDs, descriptions, contact information, and so on. It will point to the same technical assets. The test environment will copy everything, with a couple of optional tweaks to allow development after your first publication:

  • SaaS: You may choose to point the landing page and web hook to the version of the asset which is in development or test.
  • AMA: Each plan will use the dev version of the zip file for the ARM template, UI Definition, and other assets. The technical configuration will also be updated. Once the test AMA is ready, these assets get copied to the production plans. You may also choose to point the Notification webhook to a test/dev version of the endpoint.
  • Virtual machine: Each VM SKU will get tested. Once all is working, the URLs for the OS disk and any data disks is copied to the production instance.

Finally, when publishing the test offer, never let the offer get past the Preview stage. If you do accidentally publish a preview, test offer, you can stop selling pretty quickly (a stop sell can take up to a few hours).

Once all looks fine, copy the updated technical details to the production offer, review, and publish.

And that is how you give yourself a sandbox environment in Microsoft Partner Center.

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