What started as a white paper from AWS, the Well-Architected Framework has evolved into a large ecosystem of partners and more
In the past year, agility has become one of the most prized IT attributes as organizations race to deploy more workloads in the cloud. There is a paradox, however: The faster organizations deploy applications, the more likely mistakes will be made. Cloud computing deployments are rife with misconfigurations that are the direct result of developers provisioning cloud infrastructure rapidly and incorrectly. Application environments are almost never as efficient as they could be.
The challenge and the opportunity IT teams now face is defining a set of best practices for securely and consistently deploying application workloads on cloud infrastructures that complement and extend agile development methodologies. IT organizations should not have to slow down application development and deployment because of security concerns. Identifying high-risk issues (HRIs) and being able to consistently achieve and maintain security without sacrificing agility is an absolute requirement.
It seems that Amazon Web Services (AWS) couldn’t agree more. The cloud leader has defined the AWS Well-Architected Framework to help organizations build workloads on AWS that are secure, efficient, reliable, cost-optimized and operationally excellent.
Through this effort, AWS hopes IT organizations benefit from removing the guesswork for building workloads on cloud. Cloud misconfiguration mistakes that conspire to make organizations question their commitment to agile development methodologies are eliminated. The only remaining issue is finding a set of tools that turn those AWS guidelines into a set of policies that can be achieved and enforced easily.
Agile Meets Well-Architected
In addition to making it possible to build and deploy applications faster, agile development methodologies make it possible to test the application code. IT teams gain unprecedented visibility into how applications behave. The equivalent of an application development methodology for managing cloud infrastructure is the AWS Well-Architected Framework.
The Well-Architected Framework is battle-tested, based on best practices AWS has observed over its 14-year history. The pillars of the Well-Architected Framework are:
- Operational Excellence: Under this pillar, operations teams need to understand their business and customer needs so they can support business outcomes. Operations teams create and use procedures to respond to operational events and then validate their effectiveness to support business needs. Those teams also collect metrics that are used to measure the achievement of desired business outcomes. It’s important to design operations to support evolution in response to change and to incorporate lessons learned through their performance.
- Security: This pillar focuses on the importance of putting in place practices that influence security before any workload is architected. IT teams need to control who can do what. In addition, they need to be able to identify security incidents, protect systems and services, and maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data through data protection.
- Reliability: This pillar encompasses the ability of a workload to perform its intended function correctly and consistently when it’s expected to. This includes the ability to operate and test the workload through its total life cycle. The workload architecture of the distributed system must be designed to prevent and mitigate failures, handle changes in demand or requirements and be able to detect failures and automatically heal itself.
- Performance Efficiency: This pillar addresses the need to use computing resources efficiently to meet system requirements and to maintain that efficiency as demand changes and technologies evolve. Teams must gather data on all aspects of the architecture, from the high-level design to the selection and configuration of resource types and make trade-offs in their architecture to improve performance, such as using compression or caching or relaxing consistency requirements.
- Cost Optimization: This pillar focuses on how to run systems to deliver business value at the lowest price point. Design decisions are sometimes directed by haste rather than data, and it can be tempting to overcompensate rather than spend time performing benchmarking to determine the most cost-optimal deployment. As a result, deployments can be both overprovisioned and underutilized. Using the appropriate services, resources and configurations for workloads is key to cost savings.
Each of these pillars requires tools to enable DevOps teams to proactively manage their cloud environments—not only by provisioning and deploying applications faster but also by making more informed decisions when considering trade-offs between performance, reliability, cost and security. It’s a balance as rarely are these decisions independent of each other.
The COVID-19 Imperative
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Well-Architected Framework essential. The number of workloads being deployed on AWS has increased sharply as organizations of all sizes accelerate digital business transformation initiatives. IT projects that once were expected to take months to complete now are expected to be up and running in a matter of weeks.