AWS Well-Architected Framework: 6 pillars of successful architectures
Adapted from gregbouwens.com with the permission of the author
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is currently the world’s leading cloud platform, with over 1 million active users and consistent year-over-year growth rates of more than 30 percent.
To help architects and developers learn and implement best practices in building systems on AWS, Amazon introduced the Well-Architected Framework in 2012. In 2020, Amazon introduced the first major revision of the framework since its initial release, focused on “removing perceived repetition, adding content areas to explicitly call out previously implied best practices, and revising best practices to provide clarity.”
At the heart of the Well-Architected Framework are the six pillars, which form a foundation for systems built on AWS. As Amazon puts it, “Incorporating these pillars into your architecture will help you produce stable and efficient systems. This will allow you to focus on the other aspects of design, such as functional requirements.”
In this article, I’ll review the six pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework and offer a brief explanation of each.
Pillar 1: Operational Excellence
In the Operational Excellence pillar, developers will find an overview of design principles and best practices in the areas of organization, preparation, operation, and evolution. This pillar encompasses the ability to
• Support development and run workloads effectively
• Gain insight into their operations
• Continuously improve supporting processes and procedures to deliver business value
Pillar 2: Security
The Security pillar focuses on best practices in the areas of security foundations, identity and access management, detection, infrastructure protection, data protection, and incident response. Developers will understand how to control user permissions, recognize security incidents, safeguard systems and services, and implement data protection measures.
Pillar 3: Reliability
In the Reliability pillar, we learn that the primary key to reliability of a workload in the cloud is resiliency: the ability to recover from disruptions, dynamically acquire resources to meet demand, and mitigate issues such as misconfigurations. The other two key reliability factors are
• Availability: The workload’s ability to successfully perform its function when needed
• Disaster Recovery (DR) objectives: Strategies for recovering the workload in case of a natural disaster, a large-scale technical failure, or a deliberate attack
Pillar 4: Performance Efficiency
The Performance Efficiency pillar is all about taking a data-driven approach to building a successful architecture in AWS. It encompasses the efficient use of computing resources to meet system requirements and maintenance of that efficiency amid changes in demand and technologies. Performance Efficiency covers best practices in the areas of selection, review, monitoring, and tradeoffs.
Pillar 5: Cost Optimization
In the Cost Optimization pillar, we focus on our ability to run systems in a way that delivers business value at the lowest possible price point. As with the other pillars, we must often consider tradeoffs of one benefit versus another, e.g. speed-to-market versus up-front cost minimization. Cost Optimization encompasses best practices in five areas:
• Practice Cloud Financial Management
• Expenditure and usage awareness
• Use cost-effective resources
• Manage demand and supply resources
• Optimize over time
Pillar 6: Sustainability
The focal point of the Sustainability pillar is minimizing environmental impact, particularly in terms of energy consumption and efficiency. The goal here is to achieve maximum benefit from the resources provisioned while also minimizing the total resources required. This effort can encompass, for example,
• Selecting efficient programming languages
• Adopting modern algorithms
• Using efficient approaches to data storage
• Deploying to appropriately sized and efficient infrastructures
• Minimizing requirements for high-powered end-user hardware
For a deeper dive into the AWS Well-Architected Framework, I highly recommend exploring the wide array of resources available on Amazon’s dedicated website, aws.amazon.com/architecture/well-architected.
Greg Bouwens is a lead developer with the Logic20/20 Architecture practice.