What are Azure Blueprints?

What are Azure Blueprints?

Blueprints, in the traditional sense, are used by architects and engineers to design and build new things.  They are used to ensure that the final products are built to specifications and in compliance with certain standards and requirements.

Azure Blueprints are used in much the same way as traditional blueprints are. In much the same manner that an engineer or architect uses a traditional blueprint to design and build to spec, IT engineers can use Azure Blueprints to design and deploy a repeatable collection of Azure resources that adhere to certain requirements and standards. By leveraging Azure Blueprints, engineers can quickly build and deploy new environments that are always compliant with organizational standards – and they can do so far more quickly than building new each time.

Azure Blueprints allow the IT professional to orchestrate the deployment of resource templates and other Azure artifacts, including role assignments, policy assignments, resource groups, and resource manager templates.  The service is back-ended by Azure Cosmos DB, which is globally distributed. Objects are replicated to multiple Azure regions to provide both highly available and low-latency access to those objects, regardless of where the Azure Blueprints objects are deployed.

Watch this short video to learn what CosmosDB can do.

The Lifecycle of an Azure Blueprint

Most resources in Azure have a natural lifecycle.  Blueprints in Azure Blueprints are no different as they are created and then deployed. When they are no longer needed, they are deleted.  As such, Azure Blueprints supports typical lifecycle operations and even builds upon them. Azure Blueprints provides support for typical continuous integration and for continuous deployment pipelines for companies that manage infrastructure as code.

The typical Azure Blueprint lifecycle consists of:

  • Creation of a blueprint
  • Publishing of the blueprint
  • Creating or editing a new version of the blueprint
  • Publishing a new version of the blueprint
  • Deletion of a specific version of the blueprint
  • Deleting the blueprint altogether

Azure Blueprints vs Resource Manager Templates

You may be asking yourself, “why not just use Resource Manager templates instead of blueprints?”  It’s a fair question, given the fact that Azure Blueprints do indeed appear to overlap the functionality of Resource Manager templates.

Understanding the differences between Azure Blueprints and Resource manager templates is key to understanding which to use and when.

Azure Blueprints is intended to assist with environment setup. Such environments often include Azure resource groups, role assignments, different policies, and  Resource Manager template deployments. Blueprints are essentially packages that pull these types of resources and artifacts together. These packages can then be composed, versioned, and assigned to a subscription. Such blueprint packages can also be audited and tracked.

Now, with all of that being said, almost everything that you’d want to do with Blueprints can also be done with Resource manager templates.  So what’s the difference?

Resource Manager templates are documents that don’t natively exist in Azure.  Such templates are typically stored locally or in source control. Once a Resource Manager template has been used to deploy Azure resources, there are no longer any active connections or relationships between the template and the resources deployed from it.

Azure Blueprints differ from templates because even after deployment of resources from a blueprint, the relationship between the blueprint definition and blueprint assignment (i.e., what was deployed from the blueprint) remains intact.  Preserving this connection allows for tracking and auditing of deployments. Another benefit of blueprints is that a single blueprint can be used to upgrade multiple subscriptions at once.

Because blueprints can consist of Resource Manager template artifacts, previously developed Resource Manager templates are reusable with Azure Blueprints.

Azure Blueprints vs Azure Policy

So, we’ve compared Azure Blueprints to Resource Manager templates. What about Azure Policy?  What is the overlap, if any?

An Azure policy is essentially an access system that provides default allow and explicit deny on new and existing resource properties to which the policy is applied.  An Azure Blueprint is a package for creating specific sets of standards and requirements that govern the implementation of Azure services, security, and design. Such packages are reusable so that consistency and compliance among resources can be maintained.

A policy included in a blueprint offers the ability to create the correct pattern or design when the blueprint is assigned.  Additionally, a policy inclusion ensures that only approved changes can be made to the resources or environment to which the blueprint was assigned.  This ensures ongoing compliance with the blueprint.

Blueprint Resources

As mentioned previously, Azure Blueprints are made up of artifacts. Resources supported as artifacts include resource groups, resource manager templates, policy assignments, and role assignments.

Resource Groups allow an administrator to organize resources and to structure them as needed.  They also serve as scope limiters for policy assignment artifacts, role assignment artifacts, and Azure Resource Manager templates.

Azure Resource Group Templates are useful when designing complex environments, such as those managed with Azure Automation State Configuration.  Leveraging templates makes standardization of such environments far easier than building them individually.

Policy Assignments provide a means for applying policy to a subscription to which a blueprint is assigned.  That said, the policy must be within the scope of the blueprint containing the policy. Parameters defined with a policy are assigned during blueprint creation or during blueprint assignment.

Role Assignments provide a means for adding existing users or groups to a built-in role.  This is done to ensure the correct people have the proper access to Azure resources. Role assignments are often defined for an entire subscription, but they can also be scoped to a specific resource group that’s included in the blueprint.

Blueprint Parameters

Azure Blueprints can pass parameters to policies, initiatives, or Resource Manager templates.  When the blueprint author adds an artifact to a blueprint, they must decide on a value to define for each blueprint assignment or they must allow the blueprint assignment to provide a value at assignment time.  With this flexibility, the author has the option to either define a pre-set value for all uses of the blueprint or to allow that decision to occur at assignment time.

Although a blueprint can have its own parameters, such parameters can only be created when the blueprint is generated from the REST API.  They cannot be created when generating the blueprint via the Portal.

Publishing and Assigning an Azure Blueprint

A new blueprint, when created, is in “draft mode”.  Before assigning the blueprint, it first needs to be published.  The publishing process requires a version string to be defined, along with change notes that must be provided.  The version, which consists of a maximum of 20 characters (letters, numbers, and hyphens), differentiates the blueprint from future changes to the blueprint – and allows each different version to be assigned separately.

As changes are made to a blueprint, the published version, along with unpublished changes, continue to coexist.  After all changes to the blueprint are completed, the updated blueprint is published with a new version. Each separate (published) version of a blueprint can then be assigned to a subscription. When assigning blueprints via the portal, the blueprint defaults to the version most recently published.  If there are any parameters, those are defined during the assignment process.

Summary

Azure Blueprints are essentially no different from architectural blueprints that building architects use to design and build large buildings.  They are actually used in much the same way. While architects use traditional blueprints to design and construct building to certain standards and specifications, Azure architects and admins use Azure Blueprints to design and architect Azure solutions to specific standards and specifications.

The lifecycle of an Azure Blueprint begins with the creation of the blueprint and then the publishing of the blueprint. New versions of the blueprint are then created and published as needed.  The lifecycle of an Azure Blueprint ends with deletion of specific versions of the blueprint, and then of the blueprint itself.

While Azure Blueprints are like Resource Manager Templates and Azure Policies, the blueprints differ because they are “living and breathing”, so to speak. As such, they retain their relationships to the resources they have been assigned to and can be tracked and audited.  This is not possible with templates and policies.

With its versioning capabilities, Azure Blueprints offers the ability to create newer “versions” of specific blueprints, and to leverage those versions independently from the original blueprint from which the new versions were created.  This further streamlines the configuration and architecting process of Azure environments since it doesn’t require the reinvention of the wheel each time a new change is needed.

When all is said and done, Azure Blueprints is a service that affords cloud architects the ability to define an easily repeatable set of Azure resources that conforms to the organization’s standards and requirements.  With blueprints, it is possible to quickly build and deploy new environments with a set of built-in components. As such, it is possible to not only deploy consistent environments, but it’s also possible to do so in a much more streamlined fashion, allowing organizations to speed up development and delivery of such solutions.

Avatar

Written by

Thomas Mitchell

Tom is not only a Cloud Platform & Infrastructure MCSE but also an IT industry veteran with 20+ years of experience in multiple technologies. An Active Directory specialist, Tom has never met an AD problem that he couldn't solve. He also speaks Microsoft Exchange fluently.


Related Posts

Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 9, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 2, 2020

New Content: AWS, Azure, Typescript, Java, Docker, 13 New Labs, and Much More

This month, our Content Team released a whopping 13 new labs in real cloud environments! If you haven't tried out our labs, you might not understand why we think that number is so impressive. Our labs are not “simulated” experiences — they are real cloud environments using accounts on A...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 19, 2020

Kickstart Your Tech Training With a Free Week on Cloud Academy

Are you looking to make a jump in your technical career? Want to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Kubernetes, Python, or another in-demand skill?Then you'll want to mark your calendar. Starting Monday, June 22 at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 12, 2020

Azure Certifications: Our Experts Explain Which Is Best for You

How do you choose an Azure certification? It can be hard to get started when choosing an Azure certification. There are so many to sift through, so many interesting options, and it requires a time commitment to just understand the cert landscape.To help guide you through the select...

Read more
  • AZ-900
  • Azure
  • Certifications
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 11, 2020

New Content: AZ-500 and AZ-400 Updates, 3 Google Professional Exam Preps, Practical ML Learning Path, C# Programming, and More

This month, our Content Team released tons of new content and labs in real cloud environments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first highly interactive "Office Hours" webinar. This webinar, Acing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, started with a quick overvie...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Rebecca Willis
Rebecca Willis
— June 3, 2020

Azure vs. AWS: Which Certification Provides the Brighter Future?

More and more companies are using cloud services, prompting more and more people to switch their current IT position to something cloud-related. The problem is most people only have that much time after work to learn new technologies, and there are plenty of cloud services that you can ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • certification
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 2, 2020

Blog Digest: 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified, OWASP Top 10, Getting Started with VPCs, Top 10 Soft Skills, and More

Thank you for being a valued member of our community! We recently sent out a short survey to understand what type of content you would like us to add to Cloud Academy, and we want to thank everyone who gave us their input. If you would like to complete the survey, it's not too late. It ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 11, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure Cert Prep: AI-100, AZ-104, AZ-204 & AZ-400, Amazon Athena Playground, Google Cloud Developer Challenge, and much more

This month, our Content Team released 8 new learning paths, 4 courses, 7 labs in real cloud environments, and 4 new knowledge check assessments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first course on Alibaba Cloud, and our expert instructors are working 'round the clock to create 6 n...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • gitops
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • lab playground
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 1, 2020

Introducing Our Newest Lab Environments: Lab Playgrounds

Want to train in a real cloud environment, but feel slowed down by spinning up your own deployments? When you consider security or pricing costs, it can be costly and challenging to get up to speed quickly for self-training. To solve this problem, Cloud Academy created a new suite of la...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Docker
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Java
  • lab playgrounds
  • Python
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 30, 2020

Blog Digest: AWS Breaking News, Azure DevOps, AWS Study Guide, 8 Ways to Prevent a Ransomware Attack, and More

  New articles by topicAWS Azure Data Science Google Cloud  Cloud Adoption Platform Updates & New Content Security Women in TechAWSBreaking News: All AWS Certification Exams Now Available Online As an Advanced AWS Technology Partner, C...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • programming
  • Security
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 9, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solutions Architect Exam Prep, Azure Courses, GCP Engineer Exam Prep, Programming, and More

Free content on Cloud Academy More and more customers are relying on our technology and content to keep upskilling their people in these months, and we are doing our best to keep supporting them. While the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make a small contribution to he...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • programming
Avatar
Logan Rakai
— April 7, 2020

How to Effectively Use Azure DevOps

Azure DevOps is a suite of services that collaborate on software development following DevOps principles. The services in Azure DevOps are:Azure Repos for hosting Git repositories for source control of your code Azure Boards for planning and tracking your work using proven agil...

Read more
  • Azure
  • DevOps