Today at Microsoft’s Worldwide partner Conference, Tier 3 announced an interesting product development which, away from the hand waving of the “everything to the cloud right away” advocates, speaks to the real pressing drivers for enterprise IT. Tier 3 has created a series of enterprise environment templates, that they’re calling “Cloud Blueprints”. These blueprints are pre configured for Microsoft Lync, exchange and SharePoint and allow enterprise customers to quickly deploy end user applications only Tier 3’s public cloud.
According to Tier 3, a typical 10-server SharePoint deployment can take over 30 hours to configure, build and deploy. It comes as an executable script that includes customized server builds, Windows or Linux commands and all the others bits and pieces that the environment will require. The Cloud Blueprints scripts contain 81 discrete steps – when triggered by the user, Cloud Blueprints prompt users to input the customized variables specific to their environment and the Cloud Blueprint sequentially completes the steps. Manual configuration of the Blueprint takes around 10 minutes. Once the user has configured the specific aspects of the Blueprint, the environment is automatically deployed and within a few hours is automatically ready to go.
In a world where labor is a highly constrained resource, and organizations are looking for ways to automate what they do, Cloud Blueprints is a great example of, as Marc Andreeson memorably put it, “software eating the world”. The Blueprints are initiated through Tier 3’s cloud management portal and deployed directly to Tier 3’s IaaS offering.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we’d all like to see everyone jump head first into the cloud. the reality for existing enterprise however is very nuanced and I tend to describe their cloud progression as being a case of peeling the onion – enterprises take a layer at a time until the timing, their appetite, the budget and the need makes it sensible to go to the next stage in their cloud journey.
When I talk with enterprises – a huge number of them tell me that the hosting of end-user applications is a common first step when moving to the cloud – hosting your own exchange or SharePoint instance makes little sense – it’s a completely undifferentiated product that has no basis to be a competitive differentiator – as such, shifting it to the cloud makes perfect sense. Cloud Blueprints helps with this process and hence I really like what it is enabling.
Many other service providers have this kind of notion, with many of them messaging it as a marketplace where customers can chose their particular applications almost in an “App Store” fashion, with the marketplace taking care of the infrastructure deployment. As such Cloud Blueprints isn’t exactly novel, but for enterprises that are keen to use Tier 3 as an IaaS vendor, Cloud Blueprints will undoubtedly make their life easier.