Millions of people around the world utilize AWS as their cloud computing solution. With its scalable and flexible pay-as-you-go functionality, it’s a great tool for organizations of all sizes. In 2012, Amazon introduced the AWS Well-Architected Framework, a set of concepts, design principles and architectural best practices aimed at helping users optimize their AWS usage. Even though it was introduced nine years ago, the framework is still considered a “hidden gem” and has gone underutilized by many in the industry. However, a well-architected review can uncover a lot, even beyond technical improvements. Use it to its fullest and you’ll get a holistic view of your entire business operation. Here’s how the tool works and why you’ll benefit from a review.
The basics of a well-architected review
Conveniently located right in the AWS Management Console, a well-architected review helps you regularly evaluate your workloads, identify any issues and keep track of your improvements. It utilizes five pillars to provide guidance on how to make those improvements: operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency and cost optimization. Each pillar has a set of foundational questions to help you measure how well your architecture aligns with best practices. Amazon solution architects initially developed the well-architected framework by using previous issues and concerns from customers, so you’re able to learn from the experiences of many other users.
It’s useful for AWS newbies and experts
AWS is constantly changing, so whether you’re brand new to the platform or a well-established user, you can definitely benefit from taking a closer look at your activities. If you’re new, a well-architected review is helpful because it touches on all the best practices and fundamentals. You’re able to build from the ground up, and start off on the right foot. If you’re an AWS “expert,” however, you’ll know that the best way to do things two years ago may not be the best way anymore. I’ve found that companies pretty much always find a surprise or two as they go through the process, no matter how much familiarity they have with AWS. A telecommunications client had good architecture in place but they didn’t have any plans for how to deal with potential outages. We identified some gaps that they had in managing their workload in AWS and shared best practices for how to do it properly.
Engage with the partner program
While a review can be done without an Amazon-certified partner, by doing it on your own, you’re missing out on critical insights. Working with a partner means you’ll have structured, organized guidance from the start, and can establish good architectural habits. Plus, any innovation, cost savings and reduction of business risk gained by using the framework will be accelerated. The service credits you’ll get for working with a partner don’t hurt, either.
Utilize the pillars to guide your discussions
The five pillars (operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization) provide a lens for exactly how AWS crosscuts your entire company. Use them to structure your conversation. For example, there’s accounting reporting you can get out of the review that allows you to automatically funnel that information to your finance team. Whatever your goals are going into a well-architected review, there are more than likely already a variety of tools in place to give them visibility and accountability.
Engaging in a periodic review of your AWS environment using the well-architected framework can help you maintain a secure and efficient infrastructure, while also gaining a better perspective of your entire business. Learn how we used the five pillars to address a hospital system client’s recent move to AWS in the client showcase below.
Well-Architected Review Case Study
We engaged with a hospital system client who had moved some of their customers into AWS in the previous year. Now, the employee who did the migration was no longer with the company, and our client needed help understanding how to properly manage AWS. The stakes were high because an outage meant that the hospital would be unable to access their scheduling system. We shared best practices and ended with a well-architected review. Here are the areas of improvement that we identified and implemented by utilizing the five pillars.
Security: In a hospital system there’s a large amount of personal identifying information that needs to be kept secure. We put security measures in place to keep developers away from personal data, minimizing the potential of data leaks.
Reliability: We introduced monitoring and metrics collection to understand what a healthy workload looked like. We then set up alarms to proactively prevent any potential performance impacting issues.
Operations: We identified runbooks and procedures preemptively so that quick action could be taken when issues occur or when services are impaired.
Cost Optimization: Our team identified areas where resources might have been overprovisioned and put a plan in place to resize. We also identified processes to take advantage of new features and services to reduce cost.
Performance Efficiency: Because we discovered that this client had overprovisioned resources, eventually they’ll need to go back and right size their environment, but they can’t do that until they understand how adding customers impacts their overall performance. We helped them identify and understand their performance baseline so they can see how adding additional customers would impact their workload.
About the Author
When not helping clients find their way to the Cloud, solution architect Jackson Stakeman can often be found drinking coffee or trying to raise a tiny human (preferably in that order).