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AWS – Using the Well-Architected Tool to evaluate a production workload

AWS recently added the Well-Architected Tool to the AWS console. This is a tool that has been used for years behind the scenes at AWS by solutions architects to conduct detailed reviews with customers and partners. It is now available directly to you, and if you take the time to walk your team through a careful and honest assessment, it can provide valuable insights into ways you can improve your architecture.

How to do it…

Follow these steps to conduct a review on one of your workloads:

  1. Gather executives, architects, senior developers, and/or any other key personnel who have knowledge about the workload under review. 
  2. Log in to your AWS account, select the AWS Well-Architected Tool from the Management Tools category, and then click Define workload:

AWS Well-Architected Tool
  1. On the next screen, define the properties of the workload:
    • Workload name
    • Description
    • Industry type
    • Environment
    • Regions
    • Account IDs
A workload is an application or a closely related set of components that work together to create some sort of business value. It’s up to you to decide how to separate one workload from another for the purposes of a well-architected review.
  1. Click Define workload, and on the next screen, click Start review.
  2. Each pillar is divided into a set of questions by topic. Each topic has a list of statements and resources to help you evaluate those statements, as follows:

Operational Excellence topic 1
  1. Each of the checkboxes represents various facets of the question that’s being asked in the current topic. Check the boxes that apply to your workload. Be wary about simply clicking Question does not apply to this workload if you are unsure about the answers. Most topics do apply to all workloads in some way, and there is a big difference between does not apply and I don’t know. If you don’t know, check None of these so that the topic can be flagged as an area for improvement.
  2. Click the Info link next to each statement if you are not sure how to respond. Keep the Well-Architected white papers handy for reference.
  3. Use the Notes box to document the details about your workload as it pertains to this topic. The notes can help provide context for anyone who receives a copy of the completed review.
  4. Click Next to move on to the next topic.
  5. When you reach the last topic of the last pillar, click Save and exit.
  6. Back on the Review Summary screen, click the  Save milestone to save the results of the review at this point in time. You will be able to make changes to the workload review as you improve your architecture:

Save milestone screen
  1. Click the Improvement plan tab to see a summary of areas that need improvement:

Improvement plan overview screen
  1. Scroll down the page to drill into the details for the areas for improvement. As you can see in the following screenshot, the tool has flagged OPS 7 as a critical remediation item:

A high-risk topic
  1. Click one of the links under Recommended improvement items to get more information about it:

Links to more in-depth documentation
  1. Go to the Review tab and click Generate report. Open the PDF after it finishes downloading to see a complete review of your responses.

How it works…

The AWS Well-Architected Tool pulls information together from the official white papers and from AWS documentation to provide a single place where you can catalog the architectural state of your workloads. The recommendations that are given are based on years of experience helping AWS customers to follow best practices while building systems that their customers can depend on.

A Well-Architected review that is all green, with no critical red flags or orange flags for recommended improvements, is the pinnacle of architectural prowess. It’s not easy to get there, but with determination and persistence, it’s absolutely possible.

There’s more…

A few technology categories have what is known as a Well-Architected Lens, which is an additional white paper that gives details on best practices that are specific to that category. Some of them are as follows:

  • Serverless applications: Learn how to optimize your serverless architectures that provide access to RESTful APIs, mobile backends, streaming, and other functionality that can be implemented using services such as AWS Lambda.
  • High-performance computing: This lens covers applications that are deployed to high-throughput instances in clusters that provide access to tremendous amounts of computing power.
  • IoT (short for Internet of Things): Apply best practices when you deploy fleets of devices that interact with your cloud resources.

If your company is an AWS partner, and you have a high degree of proficiency with delivering Well-Architected reviews, you can apply to be a part of the Well-Architected Partner program. Your solutions architects will be called upon to conduct reviews of customer workloads as a supplement to the architects employed by AWS. This program gives partners a wealth of opportunities to help customers build secure, reliable, and performant products, and also acts as a solid foot in the door for consulting partners to gain trust with prospective clients. For more information about AWS Well-Architected Partner Program go to https://aws.amazon.com/partners/well-architected-program/.

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