Understanding the AWS Well-Architected Framework

Rob Harding, Pax8 Senior Manager of AWS Technical Go-to-Market
AWS Well Architected

Discover the AWS Well-Architected Framework

What is the Well-Architected Framework?

AWS developed this framework after analyzing thousands of deployed AWS cloud environments, across all verticals, for all sizes of organizations. From this research, AWS created a best practice approach for how to “put something on the AWS cloud.” This methodology is broken down into six pillars:

  1. Operational excellence
  2. Security
  3. Reliability
  4. Performance efficiency
  5. Cost optimization
  6. Sustainability

Each pillar has a set of criteria and values that are used for critical analysis when reviewing an architecture. This ensures that what you deploy to the AWS cloud is successful and mitigates potential risks.

Operational excellence

This pillar analyzes the running and monitoring of your systems, so that they can continue to deliver the business value you expect them to. Working with Infrastructure as Code solutions helps you implement small, rapid changes if something doesn’t go to plan. And, knowing that’s an inevitability, this pillar emphasizes the proactive approach by giving you a solid set of tested procedures that can alleviate impact on your end customers.


All organizations will have business critical data they wouldn’t want anyone else to get ahold of. That’s why this pillar considers the security of accounts, access, and systems and whether they are too permissive or using a least privilege approach, defined as the actions that can be taken on specific resources under specific conditions. A common item to consider is a review of security groups that control the traffic that is allowed to reach and leave the resources that it is associated with and their rules. Finding a security group rule with open port(s) that allows a TCP or UDP port number to actively accept packets or a public S3 bucket happens more often than you think. If left open, hackers can easily exploit those endpoints in a number of nefarious ways.


What happens when failures in systems occur? How long are your systems offline? Will your end customers see the impact? And when will the data be restored? These are just some of the many questions this pillar answers, including considering automatic recovery from failure. That way if your EC2 system goes offline, AWS can automatically create a new one without any manual intervention. And, if the end customers are behind a load balancer, they shouldn’t be impacted (assuming session data isn’t held here).

Performance efficiency

When considering performance efficiency, a great question to ask about your architecture is: are you using the right technologies for the job at hand? In 2022, AWS released more than 3,000 new services or features. With so many updates, it stands to reason that the technology you employed on AWS years ago could be obsolete, and there is a better way of working today. One way to work smarter is by embracing newer instance types for EC2 systems. The newer instance types are generally faster, perform better, and along with the pillar below, can save some operating expenditure.

Cost optimization

Simply put, the amount you pay should be commensurate with the level of service you’re providing to your end customers. Now, it can be argued that cloud is more expensive, but you must consider the total cost of ownership of your existing environment before you jump to that conclusion. For example, a database may cost a little more in AWS when run 24/7. However, it’s a fully managed service, so how much are you saving in not having a DBA supporting that database? You can now reskill this DBA for other business needs. A significant number of your resources may not be needed on a 24/7 availability, such as dev or UAT environments, so scale them down outside of office hours and save yourself from unnecessary costs.


What environmental impact does your workload have when running on AWS? This is the main question this pillar helps answer. AWS has invested heavily in a sustainability cloud model that provides green technology solutions. An example would be making sure you’re on the latest versions of operating systems, as performance tends to improve. When that happens, you may be in a position to move to a smaller instance type that will reduce your carbon footprint.

Better together

As you have read through the Well-Architected Framework and its pillars, you will notice that each pillar isn’t isolated. Instead, they work in tandem with each other to achieve the best outcome. It’s clear the Well-Architected Framework plays a crucial role in the design, implementation, and ongoing support of a workload on AWS.

Please join us at our next bootcamp on August 22 to hear some more examples on how Pax8 utilizes the Well-Architected Framework.

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