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What are the 6 pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework?

Illustration of a monunment with 6 pillars, with clouds and retro tech - Miracle Mill

It’s not an original metaphor to suggest that constructing a software system is similar in many ways to building a physical structure. If the foundation is not strong and stable, it can cause issues that affect the overall functionality and reliability of the system, much like how a weak foundation can compromise the integrity and usefulness of a building.

Wouldn’t it be good if someone had established a set of guidelines and principles for creating a sound structure? Well, if you’ve read our article “What is the AWS Well-Architected framework?”, it should come as no surprise that the blueprint for building a cloud operation with a sound structure is called (wait for it…) the AWS Well-Architected framework!


Design Principles and the 6 pillars

Alongside several general design principles, at the core of this framework stand the Six Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. These six pillars guide and inform the structural integrity and function of a well-constructed cloud application, and each pillar also has a set of specific principles and best practices of its own. While the general design principles are extremely useful in their own way, it’s the specific nature of the six pillars and the guidelines that come with them that offer uniquely practical advice to cloud computing practitioners.

The 6 pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework

1. Operational excellence

The main goal of the Operational Excellence pillar is to ensure that your operations run smoothly and respond quickly to changes in demand or customer requirements without impacting performance or availability. This includes monitoring system health, automating operational processes, setting up proper alerting mechanisms and having good change management policies in place.

It’s also a good idea to have an effective response process and develop plans for how incidents should be handled. Likewise, your operational excellence can get a boost from doing things like implementing automated testing, using version control software and documenting all your procedures. These activities help you respond faster when incidents occur while minimizing downtime and disruption.


2. Security

The Security pillar is designed to help organizations protect their systems, data, and applications from malicious actors. It focuses on identifying risks and fixing them through proactive measures such as encryption, access control and threat detection.

Once you understand the threats that your organization faces and identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited, you can then implement appropriate security controls and establish procedures for responding quickly when incidents occur so they can be dealt with promptly before any damage is done. You should also consider implementing policies around user access control, process monitoring, and encrypt sensitive data stored both at rest & in transit.

3. Reliability

The Reliability Pillar focuses on four key areas: Automation, Fault Tolerance, Security, and Cost Optimization. Automation helps you to reduce errors in tasks such as deployments or backups. This also eliminates the need for manual intervention when dealing with system failures or unexpected events, and you can respond quickly to incidents without having to rely on human operators.

Fault tolerance ensures that applications remain resilient when part of the system fails or goes offline unexpectedly. This includes designing architectures with built-in redundancy, using clustering technologies, implementing backup and monitoring strategies, and keeping all your software components up to date. Security plays an important role here too, as does cost optimization which is discussed further below.


4. Performance efficiency

Getting the most in terms of performance starts with understanding what kind of workloads will be running on your system and how they interact with each other. Monitoring tools are also useful here, so that potential issues can be identified quickly before they become major problems.

Once your systems are properly optimized for peak performance levels, you can look forward to improved user experience, cost savings from lower resource usage, and continued reliability and availability even under heavy loads.

5. Cost optimization

Cost optimization is simple compared to the other pillars and focuses on reducing waste to maximize savings without affecting your services as a result. This pillar includes strategies such as right sizing resources, leveraging automation tools, monitoring usage patterns and taking advantage of any discounts available from the pricing models.


6. Sustainability

Sustainability is the final and most recent addition to the pillars of the Well-Architected Framework and addresses concerns over the environmental impact of cloud technology, including the ability to reduce an organization’s carbon footprint by leveraging energy efficient technologies such as renewable energy sources or data centres with high power usage effectiveness.

Genuine environmental sustainability starts at the design phase of any solution architecture, and AWS offers several services that enable customers to build green architectures while optimizing costs. For example, auto-scaling groups scale resources up and down relative to demand without having idle resources running unnecessarily, while S3 Intelligent Tiering helps optimize storage costs by automatically moving objects between different tiers based on access patterns.

You can also consider other aspects beyond technology when it comes down sustainable solutions, such as resource management policies, equipment recycling and avoiding new hardware purchases to further minimize your carbon footprint.

Resilient, scalable, and maintainable

After exploring them in some detail, we can see how the six pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework provide a comprehensive set of guidelines for building and operating reliable, secure, efficient, and cost-effective systems in the cloud. By following these best practices and continuously improving your architecture, you can maximize the benefits of the cloud and deliver high-quality applications and services to your customers.

Let’s start upgrading your cloud

Would you like to find out how the Well-Architected Framework can help streamline your processes, improve your cloud security and reduce your costs? Whether you are just starting your journey to the cloud or are an experienced cloud practitioner, the AWS Well-Architected Framework can help you make informed decisions and design systems that are resilient, scalable, and maintainable. You can read more about our Well-Architected Review packaged offer, and contact us to schedule a meeting today and let’s begin the conversation.

And don’t forget to stay tuned for upcoming articles on the individual pillars!

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