Promoting Best Practices on AWS
Adopting the AWS Well-Architected Framework
Morris & Opazo
AWS Well-Architected Framework
Build your AWS foundation with Cloud Best Practices
Promoting Best Practices on AWS
Creating a software system is a lot like constructing a building — if the foundation is not solid, structural problems could undermine the integrity of the building. When architecting technology solutions, neglecting the foundational elements creates challenges in creating an efficient system. Morris & Opazo utilizes the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Well-Architected Framework, which provides a consistent set of best practices with which customers can evaluate their architecture.
The Well-Architected Framework has been developed to help cloud architects build secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient infrastructure for their applications. Based on five pillars — operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization — the Framework provides a consistent approach for customers and partners to evaluate architectures, and implement designs that will scale over time.
A Structured Approach to Cloud Architecture
Morris & Opazo Well-Architected Review offer is intended to educate customers on architectural best practices for designing and operating reliable, secure, efficient, and cost-effective systems in the cloud. This offer was developed around the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Well-Architected Framework, which helps customers understand the pros and cons of decisions made while building systems on AWS.
We help customers make informed decisions about their architecture and understand the potential impact of those decisions.
General Design Principles
The Well-Architected Framework identifies a set of general design principles to facilitate good design in the cloud:
Eliminate guessing about your infrastructure capacity needs. When you make a capacity decision before you deploy a system, you might end up sitting on expensive idle resources or dealing with the performance implications of limited capacity. With cloud computing, these problems can go away. You can use as much or as little capacity as you need, and scale up and down automatically.
In the cloud, you can create a production-scale test environment on demand, complete your testing, and then decommission the resources. Because you only pay for the test environment when it’s running, you can simulate your live environment for a fraction of the cost of testing on premises.
Automation allows you to create and replicate your systems at low cost and avoid the expense of manual effort. You can track changes to your automation, audit the impact, and revert to previous parameters when necessary.
Allow for evolutionary architectures. In a traditional environment, architectural decisions are often implemented as static, one-time events, with a few major versions of a system during its lifetime. As a business and its context continue to change, these initial decisions might hinder the system’s ability to deliver changing business requirements. In the cloud, the capability to automate and test on demand lowers the risk of impact from design changes. This allows systems to evolve over time so that businesses can take advantage of innovations as a standard practice.
In the cloud you can collect data on how your architectural choices affect the behavior of your workload. This lets you make fact-based decisions on how to improve your workload. Your cloud infrastructure is code, so you can use that data to inform your architecture choices and improvements over time.
Test how your architecture and processes perform by regularly scheduling game days to simulate events in production. This will help you understand where improvements can be made and can help develop organizational experience in dealing with events.
The Five Pillars of the Framework
Creating a software system is a lot like constructing a building. If the foundation is not solid structural problems can undermine the integrity and function of the building. When architecting technology solutions, if you neglect the five pillars of operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization it can become challenging to build a system that delivers on your expectations and requirements.
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.
The operational excellence pillar focuses on running and monitoring systems to deliver business value, and continually improving processes and procedures. Key topics include managing and automating changes, responding to events, and defining standards to successfully manage daily operations.
The Operational Excellence pillar includes the ability to run and monitor systems to deliver business value and to continually improve supporting processes and procedures.
There are six design principles for operational excellence in the cloud:
In the cloud, you can apply the same engineering discipline that you use for application code to your entire environment. You can define your entire workload (applications, infrastructure) as code and update it with code. You can implement your operations procedures as code and automate their execution by triggering them in response to events. By performing operations as code, you limit human error and enable consistent responses to events.
In an on-premises environment, documentation is created by hand, used by people, and hard to keep in sync with the pace of change. In the cloud, you can automate the creation of annotated documentation after every build (or automatically annotate hand-crafted documentation). Annotated documentation can be used by people and systems. Use annotations as an input to your operations code.
Design workloads to allow components to be updated regularly. Make changes in small increments that can be reversed if they fail (without affecting customers when possible).
As you use operations procedures, look for opportunities to improve them. As you evolve your workload, evolve your procedures appropriately. Set up regular game days to review and validate that all procedures are effective and that teams are familiar with them.
Perform “pre-mortem” exercises to identify potential sources of failure so that they can be removed or mitigated. Test your failure scenarios and validate your understanding of their impact. Test your response procedures to ensure that they are effective, and that teams are familiar with their execution. Set up regular game days to test workloads and team responses to simulated events.
Drive improvement through lessons learned from all operational events and failures. Share what is learned across teams and through the entire organization.
The security pillar focuses on protecting information & systems. Key topics include confidentiality and integrity of data, identifying and managing who can do what with privilege management, protecting systems, and establishing controls to detect security events.
The Security pillar includes the ability to protect information, systems, and assets while delivering business value through risk assessments and mitigation strategies.
There are seven design principles for security in the cloud:
Implement the principle of least privilege and enforce separation of duties with appropriate authorization for each interaction with your AWS resources. Centralize privilege management and reduce or even eliminate reliance on long-term credentials.
Monitor, alert, and audit actions and changes to your environment in real time. Integrate logs and metrics with systems to automatically respond and take action.
Rather than just focusing on protection of a single outer layer, apply a defense-in-depth approach with other security controls. Apply to all layers (e.g., edge network, VPC, subnet, load balancer, every instance, operating system, and application).
As you use operations procedures, look for opportunities to improve them. AAutomated software-based security mechanisms improve your ability to securely scale more rapidly and cost effectively. Create secure architectures, including the implementation of controls that are defined and managed as code in version-controlled templates.s you evolve your workload, evolve your procedures appropriately. Set up regular game days to review and validate that all procedures are effective and that teams are familiar with them.
Classify your data into sensitivity levels and use mechanisms, such as encryption, tokenization, and access control where appropriate.
Create mechanisms and tools to reduce or eliminate the need for direct access or manual processing of data. This reduces the risk of loss or modification and human error when handling sensitive data.
Prepare for an incident by having an incident management process that aligns to your organizational requirements. Run incident response simulations and use tools with automation to increase your speed for detection, investigation, and recovery.
The reliability pillar focuses on the ability to prevent, and quickly recover from failures to meet business and customer demand. Key topics include foundational elements around setup, cross project requirements, recovery planning, and how we handle change.
The Reliability pillar includes the ability of a system to recover from infrastructure or service disruptions, dynamically acquire computing resources to meet demand, and mitigate disruptions such as misconfigurations or transient network issues.
There are five design principles for reliability in the cloud:
In an on-premises environment, testing is often conducted to prove the system works in a particular scenario. Testing is not typically used to validate recovery strategies. In the cloud, you can test how your system fails, and you can validate your recovery procedures. You can use automation to simulate different failures or to recreate scenarios that led to failures before.
This exposes failure pathways that you can test and rectify before a real failure scenario, reducing the risk of components failing that have not been tested before.
By monitoring a system for key performance indicators (KPIs), you can trigger automation when a threshold is breached. This allows for automatic notification and tracking of failures, and for automated recovery processes that work around or repair the failure. With more sophisticated automation, it’s possible to anticipate and remediate failures before they occur.
Replace one large resource with multiple small resources to reduce the impact of a single failure on the overall system. Distribute requests across multiple, smaller resources to ensure that they don’t share a common point of failure.
A common cause of failure in on-premises systems is resource saturation, when the demands placed on a system exceed the capacity of that system (this is often the objective of denial of service attacks). In the cloud, you can monitor demand and system utilization, and automate the addition or removal of resources to maintain the optimal level to satisfy demand without over- or under- provisioning.
Changes to your infrastructure should be done using automation. The changes that need to be managed are changes to the automation.
The performance efficiency pillar focuses on using IT and computing resources efficiently. Key topics include selecting the right resource types and sizes based on workload requirements, monitoring performance, and making informed decisions to maintain efficiency as business needs evolve.
The Performance Efficiency pillar includes the ability to use computing resources efficiently to meet system requirements, and to maintain that efficiency as demand changes and technologies evolve.
There are five design principles for performance efficiency in the cloud:
Technologies that are difficult to implement can become easier to consume by pushing that knowledge and complexity into the cloud vendor’s domain. Rather than having your IT team learn how to host and run a new technology, they can simply consume it as a service.
For example, NoSQL databases, media transcoding, and machine learning are all technologies that require expertise that is not evenly dispersed across the technical community. In the cloud, these technologies become services that your team can consume while focusing on product development rather than resource provisioning and management.
Easily deploy your system in multiple Regions around the world with just a few clicks. This allows you to provide lower latency and a better experience for your customers at minimal cost.
In the cloud, serverless architectures remove the need for you to run and maintain servers to carry out traditional compute activities. For example, storage services can act as static websites, removing the need for web servers, and event services can host your code for you.
This not only removes the operational burden of managing these servers, but also can lower transactional costs because these managed services operate at cloud scale.
With virtual and automatable resources, you can quickly carry out comparative testing using different types of instances, storage, or configurations.
Use the technology approach that aligns best to what you are trying to achieve. For example, consider data access patterns when selecting database or storage approaches.
Cost Optimization focuses on avoiding un-needed costs. Key topics include understanding and controlling where money is being spent, selecting the most appropriate and right number of resource types, analyzing spend over time, and scaling to meet business needs without overspending.
The Cost Optimization pillar includes the ability to run systems to deliver business value at the lowest price point.
There are five design principles for cost optimization in the cloud:
Pay only for the computing resources that you require and increase or decrease usage depending on business requirements, not by using elaborate forecasting. For example, development and test environments are typically only used for eight hours a day during the work week. You can stop these resources when they are not in use for a potential cost savings of 75% (40 hours versus 168 hours).
Measure the business output of the workload and the costs associated with delivering it. Use this measure to know the gains you make from increasing output and reducing costs.
AWS does the heavy lifting of racking, stacking, and powering servers, so you can focus on your customers and organization projects rather than on IT infrastructure.
The cloud makes it easier to accurately identify the usage and cost of systems, which then allows transparent attribution of IT costs to individual workload owners. This helps measure return on investment (ROI) and gives workload owners an opportunity to optimize their resources and reduce costs.
In the cloud, managed and application level services remove the operational burden of maintaining servers for tasks such as sending email or managing databases. As managed services operate at cloud scale, they can offer a lower cost per transaction or service.
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