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A Guide to the Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework

A solid cloud solution needs strong and secure infrastructure. Learn more with this guide to the pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

5 min read
A Guide to the Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework

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Cloud technology is a multi-billion dollar industry, and, according to SysGroup, is has been adopted by the vast majority of businesses worldwide. Cloud technology houses your company's software on pay-as-you go infrastructure that you access over the Internet. This offers enormous advantages over keeping it on-site, as it allows your workload to remain efficient and flexible without overpaying for computing services.

A big part of cloud adoption is architecture design, which maintains and manages your data and security. It needs to serve as your cloud's solid foundation. If you are unsure of what having a robust architecture design entails, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Well-Architected Framework is a great resource.

Building a Strong Foundation

AWS is the oldest and most popular infrastructure service provider on the market right now. The framework that they have compiled for their customers and partners consists of five pillars.

Below is an in-depth look at what these pillars are and how to use them effectively:

1. Operational Excellence:

If you want to make sure that operations run smoothly, then you need to set up a design that you can easily alter. On top of that, you want to check to make sure all your procedures are as effective as possible. To set you up for operational excellence, AWS has put together the following five actions:

  • Prioritize consistency by using infrastructure-as-code (IaC) to define and update your workload. Using IaC will also reduce human error and automate event responses.

  • Tweak your workload frequently to see what changes are improving it and which are not. In making this action effective, you must create changes that you can reverse. If they do not turn out to be useful, it won't be a big deal if you have to undo them.

  • As was previously suggested, you should also update operational procedures regularly alongside your workload. When you update your processes, make sure that your team is informed about it.

  • Prepare for the worst by running tests frequently to make sure that your system is ready to handle anything. As you continue running workloads in the cloud, it will get better and better at avoiding errors.

  • If you've failed, that means you've tried. Discuss with your team the failures you've made, what you will do going forward to avoid making them again, and how you will strive to improve in the future.

2. Security

Even though this is second on AWS's list, security should be the number one priority on your list. While this might come as a surprise, cloud technology protects your databases and systems better than on-site security. Here's what AWS recommends:

  • Within your AWS organization, all user accounts should have access based on the principle of least privilege to ensure users have access only to what they need. You should implement password rules including timed expiration, and MFA for account access. Your architecture should be designed around central management and using temporary security credentials when appropriate.

  • When you implement security features, AWS recommends that you use threat models that you can use to update potential threats and locate their origin.

  • You will save money by dropping resources you won't need if you automate your security. Plus, you'll also limit the need to access data and, therefore, reduce human error.

  • You'll want to prepare your systems for an attack before actually having one. Use tools that take no time to identify the threat and recover your data and run a test security event to make sure they are working correctly.

  • Using an old version of your security system could prevent your operations from running smoothly. Updating your security system will allow it to evolve alongside your workload.

3. Reliability

As discussed in the previous two sections, what makes your cloud architecture "well-architected" is its ability to correct itself without any manual processes. AWS suggests that this pillar requires the following actions:

  • Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to alert the system of a detected system failure. This notification should cause an automatic recovery that keeps everything running smoothly by fixing the failure or working around it.

  • Instead of seeing what is going right in your system, check on the weaknesses, and improve upon them. You can do this by testing multiple scenarios, some of which may have caused your system to fail before. Afterwards, you can develop ways that will prevent these failures from happening again.

  • Instead of using monolithic resources where multiple errors could occur, separate your architecture into loosely coupled components using Lambda functions, with API Gateway, SNS and SQS, or containers with EKS or ECS. This sort of architecture makes it easier to tell where a failure is occurring if you do happen to have one.

  • Manage how much of a workload your system takes on and allocate sufficient resources so those workloads can meet demand.

  • Don't manually make changes to your infrastructure—instead, leverage automation. You'll still be able to go in to see changes made, but you'll save plenty of time in the long run. This automation can be accomplished with CI/CD pipelines to deploy not only your applications but your overall infrastructure.

4. Performance Efficiency

This fourth pillar emphasizes computing resources and their ability to meet the current requirements, while also being prepared to evolve with future demands and technological changes. AWS suggests these five design principles for performance efficiency:

  • The main point of using the cloud is having its services do some of the work for you. Instead of having your team try to master the technologies, the cloud offers to finish intricate tasks, use its managed services to get the job done.

  • It doesn't cost much to send your workload out over several AWS regions. In the end, it should enhance your customer's experience and, therefore, benefit your business.

  • The cloud allows you to go fully remote. By using serverless architectures, you no longer have to manage or pay the extra fee that comes with using a physical server.

  • When you use cloud computing, you'll discover a whole new world of resources. Maximize your cloud computing experience by testing out a wide variety of them to see which ones are most useful for your work. Don't use any technology or software your team isn't going to find useful.

5. Cost Optimization

One of the most significant benefits of using cloud technology is only paying for what you use. Some of the previous sections already noted where you could be saving money, but this one discusses at length. Here are the final five AWS principles for the fifth pillar:

  • Invest in Cloud Financial Management to reach your business's financial goals. Putting in the resources necessary to maximize this technology's capability will allow you to optimize costs in other cloud services.

  • Use a consumption model to pay for what you use. Additionally, you can change your usage depending on how often you need a resource during a particular timeframe. This way, you don't spend on something when you aren't using it.

  • Measure your cloud's efficiency to get a good idea of the relationship between workload output and monetary gains. From there, you can see what methods are most efficient and bring you the greatest value.

  • There's no need to manage all aspects of your IT infrastructure anymore. AWS does much of that for you. Now, you can pay attention to what matters, your business and your clients!

  • To see your return on investment (ROI), track workload costs and usage. Then, you'll see how IT costs get attributed to workload owners and stream revenues.

Put AWS Well-Architected Framework to Use

Now that you've read through the AWS Well-Architected Framework, are you ready to get that cloud architecture up and running? Pilotcore can help you develop a plan that fits your company's needs. Learn more about our services and reach out for more information.

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