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April 06, 2015

Blueprinting: The Administrator's Best Tool for Control, Compliance, and a Good Night's Sleep

By, Rodrigo Flores, Managing Director, Accenture (News - Alert) Cloud Platform

Cloud blueprints are often likened to architectural blueprints—both describe how a design is to be built reliably, consistently, and efficiently. Sounds like a winning idea for cloud administrators, who struggle (often unnoticed) every day with career make-or-break issues like IT management, governance and cost control.

But there is a crucial difference between architects and administrators. If an architect makes a mistake on a house design, the blunder can be hidden with strategically placed vines.  But when a cloud administrator mishandles, say, configuration of a security group, the fallout is often too significant to be masked by a fig leaf.

That is why admins and project managers should view blueprints as a career-enhancing resource rather than another layer of complexity to manage and deliver. At the end of the day a blueprint is simply a template that describes infrastructure requirements, server configuration requirements, and application configuration requirements, so they can be passed on to an orchestrator to stand up an environment in a repeatable, reliable, and predictable way--always in policy compliance.

Compliance! Repeatable! Reliable! Those are three words that have kept many admins awake at night as they deployed new cloud environments in the traditional time-consuming process. There were precise server attributes to be described, provisioning policies to be written, software and scripts to be configured and installed. Worse, each step was prone to human error.

Blueprints solve these issues by allowing a standard environment to be established quickly, running both pre-packaged and custom software. An application stack or platform includes server definitions, network topology, firewall rules, load-balancing configuration and application configuration.  In Accenture (News - Alert) Cloud Platform’s recently expanded blueprint offerings, these plans are defined by Chef roles (or other configuration management scripts) used to provision software components of the stack. Once designed, tested and published, users can one-click order application stacks based on published blueprints.

Here’s another blueprinting win for administrators: ease of making changes. In old-school days, altering even one line of a small configuration file required the time-consuming process of recreating an entire server image.  Today, change is as simple as a quick modification to the Chef code, and convergence brings the server into compliance—maintenance becomes a DevOps practice, not a separate operational practice.

Blueprinting is one of the powerful, primary engines that deliver on cloud’s bold promises, such as software as a service and central governance, to deliver new levels of control, agility and security.

Administrators never enjoy complete peace of mind—after all, they are just one slipped fig leaf away from trouble. But the rapidly evolving market of blueprinting tools and processes should give them a few more hours of sleep each night.

 
Rodrigo Flores is Managing Director of the Accenture Cloud Platform in charge of Architecture, Product Management and its Innovation Center.  The Accenture Cloud Platform is a hybrid cloud service that delivers a variety of providers such as Amazon, Azure, NTT (News - Alert) and others. Additionally, Cloud Management Services, cloud brokering, security and valued added services such PaaS, SaaS and integration.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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