Imagine an RFP situation with multiple vendors for example.  Often a vendor will present and come across to the customer as more of an expert than the others. Obviously, there are many factors involved in the process and a component of this how the technical concepts are communicated.  Often this is in the form of a model and the Microsoft Architects have provided a great set of architecture blueprints as a starting point for modeling solutions in Azure.

The Blueprints Samples

The blueprints are broken into different scenarios ranging from BI and Data Analytics solutions to Financial Services to Gaming.  Each scenario is composed of a 2D and 3D model of the scenario as well as a video explaining the architecture and how it applies to the specific scenario.  At a minimum, this provides great insight on how to combine the different features of Azure.  Here is a sample of a model created for a sample MSDN project:

Visio Template

All the models are built using the Visio Templates supplied by the team. A training video is also supplied which helps to become more familiar with the template.  Two things really made a difference to using the template: understanding layers and scale towards the end of modeling.

Layers are simple once you are aware of them.  In Visio, it is possible to assign different objects to different layers which enables you to affect a collection of objects as a group.  To view layers, select Layers from the ribbon.

As an example, if you look at the layer properties in the template, you will see that only the Shapes layer is not locked.  This prevents the shapes in the other layers from being selected accidentally.  This is incredibly useful as there are so many overlapping shapes in the 3D model.  If you want to change one of the other shapes in a different layer (or even select it), then you could unlock the other layer temporarily.

Another useful tip is with a little planning, it is possible to use the layers to help build a presentation.  For example, let's say during the presentation you would like to focus on the how identity was handled in the solution and in particular you wanted to draw the audience's attention to the domain controllers.  Then you could present the diagram with the focus on the Identity Tier as shown below.

This was simply done by assigning the shapes to a particular layer, IdentityTier, and then increasing the transparency of the other layer.

The other tip is a simple one and applies to most modelling.  Don't worry too much about layout and scale until you have most of your content.  It is really hard to envision the final layout until you get all the content on the page.  Simple but this saves time by avoiding repeating formatting and layout steps.

In summary, hats off to the architecture team for supplying these resources to the community.  Much appreciated!