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The AWS Well-Architected Framework

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Amazon has published the AWS Well-Architected Framework (PDF), a guide for architecting solutions for AWS, with design principles that apply to systems running on AWS or other clouds.

Amazon has based the AWS Well-Architected Framework on four pillars and a number of design principles as outlined in short bellow.

  1. Security. According to Amazon, security in the cloud regards 4 areas - Data Protection, Privilege Management, Infrastructure Protection, Detective Controls – and they recommend the following design principles to strengthen the security of a system:
    • Apply security at all levels
    • Trace everything
    • Automate responses to security events
    • Secure the system at the application, data and OS level
    • Automate security best practices
  2. Reliability. This pillar represents a system’s ability to “recover from infrastructure or service disruptions, dynamically acquire computing resources to meet demand, and mitigate disruptions such as misconfigurations or transient network issues.” The areas covered by reliability are Foundations, Change Management and Failure Management, and the paper recommends the following design principles:
    • Test recovery procedures
    • Automatically recover from failure
    • Use horizontal scalability to increase availability
    • Automatically add/remove resources as needed
  3. Efficiency. This is about efficient use of CPU, storage, and database resources. It also covers the space-time trade-off, i.e. consuming more memory and disk space to solve a problem quicker or using less resources but solving it in more time. The design principles recommended are:
    • Use advanced technologies
    • Deploy the system globally for lower latency
    • Use services rather than servers
    • Try various configurations to find out what performs better
  4. Cost Optimization. This is evidently about optimizing costs, eliminating unneeded or suboptimal resources. Cost optimization should consider matching supply with demand, using cost effective resources, keeping an eye on expenses, and lowering the costs over time. This can be done by:
    • Transparently attribute expenditure
    • Use managed services
    • Buy computing resources in the cloud rather than hardware
    • Use the cloud for its pay-as-you-go policy
    • Do not invest in data centers

The framework includes a list of questions to be used when assessing a proposed architecture, such as “How are you encrypting and protecting your data at rest?” or “How are you planning your network topology on AWS?”. The authors also provide their recommendations for addressing each of the problems mentioned in these questions, some of them applying only to AWS, others being valid for any cloud computing architecture.

This article has extracted the main points from the 56-pages whitepaper on architecting solutions for the cloud. For a detailed explanation of all the best practices mentioned we recommend reading the The AWS Well-Architected Framework.

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