What is the AWS Well-Architected Framework, and why should you care about it? Posted by Terri McAllister on May 31 2018

When discussing a client’s strategy or roadmap for deploying their infrastructure into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, I often ask, “Have you heard about the Well-Architected Framework?”

Many people are not aware of it, and if they are, they quickly admit that they aren’t very familiar with it. We find ourselves discussing the framework quite regularly and convincing people why they need to care about it.

What is the AWS Well-Architected Framework? Technically speaking, the framework is a series of white papers – six of them, to be precise – that AWS has developed to help define what a Well Architected solution in AWS looks like. There is an overview white paper titled “AWS Well-Architected Framework,” plus five more:

1. Cost Optimization

2. Operational Excellence

3. Security

4. Reliability

5. Performance Efficiency

Originally developed by a group of AWS experts who have worked in the weeds of deploying all sorts of solutions into the cloud, the framework was meant to serve as a sort of “lessons learned” for AWS clients and partners. This framework is constantly being re-evaluated and updated as solution architecture evolves. 

The initial white paper frames the overall concept and purpose of the framework, and discusses each of the five categories, referred to as “pillars,” of a Well-Architected solution. Each pillar has its own white paper, where design principles, best practices and self-evaluation questions are captured. 

Ultimately, the AWS Well-Architected Framework serves as a tool to help you design, implement, optimize, evolve and evaluate your infrastructure. It defines best practices that every solutions architect should strive towards, and gives you the tools and skills to evaluate where your infrastructure and operational processes may be lacking. We highly encourage anyone who designs, deploys or maintains solutions in the cloud to read all of these white papers and become familiar with each of the pillars. All of the white papers are available as PDF and Kindle downloads from AWS here

It’s difficult to say exactly which pillar is the most important, since everyone’s priorities are different. However, the Cost Optimization pillar gets everybody’s attention. This pillar encompasses design and implementation to make sure your infrastructure will “avoid or eliminate unneeded cost or suboptimal resources.” 

The concept is pretty clear: AWS provides ways to make sure your infrastructure doesn’t cost more than necessary. 

To make sure costs are contained, The AWS Well-Architected Framework states the following design considerations: 

1. Adopt a consumption model 

Cloud pricing offers up a new model for infrastructure costs. With pay-as-you-go pricing, you no longer have to pay for underutilized or suboptimal resources. The best example is non-production environments, typically used for an average of 40 hours per week, maybe a bit more or less. In an on-premises environment, you pay for these servers every hour of every day, whether it’s a weekday, the weekend or at 2 AM on a Wednesday, when virtually everyone in your company is asleep. With AWS, you can configure these environments to only be on when you want them on. Turn them off at 6 PM, turn them on at 8 AM, and leave them off all weekend. With pay-as-you-go pricing, you pay for 40 hours/week, instead of 168, which roughly equals a 75% cost savings. 

2. Benefit from economies of scale 

By using cloud computing, you can benefit from numerous customers being aggregated in the cloud and obtain lower prices than you could typically obtain on your own. AWS has had 62 price reductions since launch…and 0 price increases. So, even if you don’t scale rapidly, you can realize savings.

3. Stop spending money on data center operations.

If your infrastructure is in the cloud, then you obviously do not need to spend money on a data center. Physical space is no longer a constraint or a recurring cost. Management is greatly simplified.

4. Analyze and attribute expenditure 

Utilize tags and allocate the costs for every service to a specific business unit or application. The cloud makes it easy to accurately identify the usage and costs of systems, which then allows for these IT costs to be attributed to the proper business owner. This makes it much easier to measure the return on investment and optimize costs or resources. 

5. Use managed services to reduce cost of ownership 

Using managed services in the cloud removes the operational burden of maintaining servers for databases, mail operations, or even hosting a static website. This means your team can focus on what matters to the business, and because these services operate at cloud scale it can lower your overall costs. This can be harder to achieve if your company wishes to remain cloud agnostic. 

Cost optimization is an ongoing effort. From the first review of a pilot or test workload to deploying a mature production infrastructure on AWS, we recommend that you regularly review your architectural approach and component selection. This monitoring and review process is made easier thanks to functions, features and services on AWS.

There’s more to AWS Well-Architected Framework than just cost savings. At Blue Spurs, we use the Well-Architected framework to guide all our development and deployment on the cloud. Our Solution Architects understand the framework in detail and know how to get the maximum value out of your AWS account. 

In upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore the other pillars and dig deeper into its many benefits. In the meantime, if you need some help, contact us for a free cloud consultation!

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