There’s a saying “stand on the shoulders of giants.” It means to benefit from the knowledge of those before us. That knowledge is what comprises best practices – those collections of processes and procedures that have proven to be superior to other methods, and have set the standard for how things should be done. In terms of best practices in cloud architecture, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is definitely among the giants whose shoulders should be stood on. Fortunately, AWS has made it easy to do that with the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

The Framework represents the lessons learned by AWS’ solution architects and partners ─ like ClearScale ─ over many years of creating secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient architectures across virtually all business verticals and use cases. AWS’ solution architects and partners discovered what worked ─ when, where, and why, as well as what didn’t work. The result: a collection of best practices for designing and operating reliable, secure, efficient, and cost-effective workloads in the cloud that now represent a widely accepted cloud deployment methodology.

About the AWS Well-Architected Framework

The Framework provides a consistent approach for evaluating cloud architectures against the qualities expected from modern cloud-based systems. The idea, in simple terms, is to answer a few foundational questions to assess how specific cloud operations and architectures compare to best practices, and then identify areas where improvements can be made to better align with those best practices. Doing so is more likely to lead to a successful cloud deployment.

At the same time, the Framework helps customers and their partners understand the benefits and risks of the various decisions involved in building workloads on AWS. It’s not a static framework, however. It continues to evolve to better define what makes an optimal cloud environment as AWS learns more from working with its customers.

The Framework contains a number of resources that facilitate the review process:


Lenses provide guidance, architectural principles, and best practices to design and evaluate your workloads in AWS. Each lens has its own set of questions, practices, notes, and improvement plans. The AWS Well-Architected Lens is automatically applied when a workload is defined.

AWS also offers lenses specific to industry and technology domains, such as SaaS, machine learning (ML), data analytics, serverless, high-performance computing (HPC), IoT, SAP, streaming media, the games industry, hybrid networking, financial services, governance, and foundational technical reviews (FTR). In addition, customers can create their own custom lenses or use custom lenses provided by someone else. A workload can have up to 20 lenses.

AWS Well-Architected Labs

The Framework includes a repository of code and documentation to provide hands-on experience in implementing best practices. The labs are categorized into levels, where 100 is introductory, 200/300 is intermediate and 400 is advanced.

AWS Well-Architected Tool 

The AWS Well-Architected Tool supplements the standard guidance provided by the AWS Well-Architected Framework and AWS-developed lenses. It allows for adding specific best practice guidance using custom lenses so reviews can be based on requirements specific to a particular industry.

The process is simple: define the workload, apply a custom lens, and then begin the review. The well-architected tool will provide an action plan for building on the cloud using the defined best practices.

AWS Partner Network

Not all organizations have the internal resources to review and build cloud environments on their own. Or they need some assistance to do so. The AWS Partner Network (APN), of which ClearScale is a member, provides the necessary resources. It’s a global community of partners that have proven their expertise in using AWS programs and resources to build and deploy custom solutions.

Some, like ClearScale, are well versed in the use of the AWS Well-Architected Framework and can help customers review and improve their workloads.

The Six Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework

Among the things that AWS and its partners have learned over the course of architecting cloud environments is that there are six areas or features that are most important: operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, cost optimization, and sustainability. These AWS Well-Architected review pillars are what cloud architectures are assessed on during the review. Each has its own set of design principles, which are extremely useful for evaluating cloud architecture and determining if they’ve been implemented to allow for scaling over time.

The following is a brief overview of each pillar:

  • Operational Excellence – This pillar focuses on running and monitoring systems, and continually improving processes and procedures. It covers “how-to’s” for automating changes, responding to events, and defining standards to manage daily operations.
  • Security – The focus here is on protecting information and systems. It addresses issues such as data confidentiality and integrity, managing user permissions, and establishing controls to detect security events.
  • Reliability – This pillar looks at how to make workloads perform their intended functions, as well as how to recover quickly from failure. Topics include distributed system design, recovery planning, and adapting to changing requirements.
  • Performance Efficiency – This one targets the structured and streamlined allocation of IT and computing resources, with a focus on selecting resource types and sizes optimized for workload requirements, monitoring performance, and maintaining efficiency as business needs evolve.
  • Cost Optimization – Avoiding unnecessary costs is the goal here. The cost optimization pillar covers topics such as controlling fund allocation, selecting the right type and quantity of resources, and scaling to meet business needs without overspending.
  • Sustainability – Minimizing the environmental impacts of running cloud workloads is the objective for this one. It covers the shared responsibility model for sustainability, understanding impact, and maximizing utilization to minimize required resources and reduce downstream impacts.

How the Process Works

Once the review is underway, it’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1.  Define the workload. It can be simple, such as a static website, or something complex like a microservices architecture with multiple data stores and rigorous compliance requirements.
  2.  Conduct the architectural review. Here, you’ll review your workloads against AWS best practices by answering a set of foundational questions. You’ll also have the option to create your own custom lens.
  3.  Apply cloud best practices. Use the AWS Well-Architected Tool, which will provide a list of issues found in your workloads. Then review the step-by-step guidance from the well-architected tool to make improvements.
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The Case for Partnering

Of course, things aren’t always as easy as they sound – including the use of the Well-Architected Framework. Without a strong knowledge of AWS best practices, cloud architecture, and the factors that can affect cloud architecture, running a review can seem daunting. The same goes for implementing the recommendations that come out of the review.

That’s why many organizations choose to work with an AWS partner, with experience using the AWS Well-Architected Framework. ClearScale is one to consider. In addition to being an AWS Premier Tier Services Partner, ClearScale has extensive experience assessing workloads against AWS best practices and using the results to architect optimal cloud environments.

The following are just a few examples of our work with customers which included the use of the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

Get an Assessment

Learn how your workloads compare to the six pillars of AWS Well-Architected Framework – and experience the value that ClearScale brings to the process. Ready to learn more? Contact us today for a consultation with a ClearScale cloud expert:

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