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A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting an AWS Well-Architected Review (AWS WAR)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting an AWS Well-Architected Review (AWS WAR)

Is your team adhering to the latest best practices for effective cloud cost management? Do you prioritize continual cloud cost optimization to ensure resource efficiency? Moreover, how do you secure your data in transit? These are a few of the many questions that can potentially save you millions in cloud expenditures. These questions stem from a fundamental framework that significantly impacts the success of your cloud infrastructure: AWS Well-Architected Review (AWS WAR)


Why is AWS Well-Architected Review Essential for Long-Term Cloud Success?

Your AWS cloud environment is a dynamic landscape, evolving as your business soars. It’s essential to ensure that your cloud infrastructure remains well-governed and doesn’t descend into cloud sprawl. This is where AWS Well-Architected Review plays a crucial role.

The AWS Well-Architected Framework is a comprehensive assessment comprising design principles and architectural best practices. AWS WAR serves as a blueprint for businesses to evaluate their cloud architectures across six pillars: operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, cost optimization, and sustainability. The AWS Well-Architected Review Framework is designed by seasoned cloud experts based on their experience in reviewing various cloud architectures.

By conducting regular AWS Well-Architected Review, organizations can identify potential bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, and cost inefficiencies, helping in cloud cost management and cloud cost optimization for long-term success.

Before diving into the review process, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the AWS WAR. Composed of six pillars—Operational Excellence, Security, Reliability, Performance Efficiency, Cost Optimization, and Sustainability—each plays a vital role in ensuring a resilient and efficient cloud infrastructure. Thorough comprehension of these pillars lays the foundation for conducting a comprehensive review.

Let us understand the objective of each pillar in the AWS Well-Architected Review:

  1. Operational Excellence Pillar

Operational Excellence is the foundation pillar, enabling continuous improvement and maximizing operational efficiency in the cloud. 

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for operational excellence in the cloud:

  • Perform operations as code
  • Make frequent, small, reversible changes
  • Refine operations procedures frequently
  • Anticipate failure
  • Learn from all operational failures
  1. Security

With cybersecurity threats increasing in sophistication, security remains a top concern for any cloud-based infrastructure. The Security pillar in AWS WAR emphasizes a holistic approach to secure your workloads, encompassing data protection, identity and access management, and network security. 

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for security in the cloud:

  • Implement a strong identity foundation
  • Enable traceability
  • Apply security at all layers
  • Automate security best practices
  • Protect data in transit and at rest
  • Keep people away from data
  • Prepare for security events
  1. Reliability Pillar

Reliability Pillar in AWS WAR ensures that workloads perform their intended functions correctly and consistently throughout their total lifecycle.

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for reliability in the cloud:

  • Automatically recover from failure
  • Test recovery procedures
  • Scale horizontally to increase aggregate workload availability
  • Stop guessing capacity
  • Manage change in automation
  1. Performance Efficiency Pillar

Performance Efficiency Pillar in AWS WAR focuses on the effective use of computing resources to meet requirements and maintain efficiency amid changes in demand and evolving technologies. 

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for performance efficiency in the cloud:

  • Democratize advanced technologies
  • Go global in minutes
  • Use serverless architectures
  • Experiment more often
  • Consider mechanical sympathy
  1. Cost Optimization Pillar

Cost Optimization, the financial pillar in AWS WAR tackles the challenge of delivering maximum cloud ROI at minimum expenditure.

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for cost optimization in the cloud:

  • Implement cloud financial management
  • Adopt a consumption model
  • Measure overall efficiency
  • Stop spending money on undifferentiated heavy-lifting
  • Analyze and attribute expenditure
  1. Sustainability Pillar

The Sustainability Pillar in AWS WAR aims to minimize your cloud usage’s long-term environmental, economic, and societal impact.

Below are the design principles stated by AWS for sustainability in the cloud:

  • Understand your impact
  • Establish sustainability goals
  • Maximize utilization
  • Anticipate and adopt new, more efficient hardware and software offerings
  • Use managed services
  • Reduce the downstream impact of your cloud workloads


Let us now understand the step-by-step process of conducting a successful AWS Well-Architected Review.

Step 1: Define Objectives and Scope

Setting clear objectives and defining the scope of your review is pivotal to its success. Establish a detailed plan encompassing the aspects you wish to evaluate, potential areas of improvement, and any specific goals to be achieved. By establishing a clear focus and defining the boundaries you pave the way for an effective AWS Well-Architected Review and will prevent scope creep.

Step 2: Identify Your Workload

The next step involves clearly defining the workload you intend to assess. Understand its components, dependencies, and the business objectives it serves.

Step 3: Collaborate with the Right Team

Collaboration is key! AWS Well-Architected Review necessitates a cross-functional team proficient in cloud architecture, security, finance, operations, and development. Their diversified expertise guarantees a more holistic assessment, ensuring all aspects of your workload are scrutinized and optimized.

But we have to agree that the AWS Well-Architected Review process is quite extensive and time-consuming, requiring specialized expertise. In situations where organizations may lack the time or dedicated specialists for a thorough review, teaming up with a trusted AWS Well-Architected Review partner can be a real lifesaver. This collaboration not only saves time and effort but can also be cost-effective. 

These AWS Well-Architected Review partners are well-versed in the framework and can enhance your team’s capabilities, making sure your cloud workloads are evaluated comprehensively and effectively.

Step 4: Access the AWS Well-Architected Tool

The AWS Well-Architected Tool is a comprehensive platform designed to guide you through the architectural review process. This tool empowers you to benchmark your workload against AWS’s best practices and provides a concise analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

Step 5: Choose the Pillars

Select the relevant pillars of the AWS WAR Framework based on your workload. 

Step 6: Answer the Pillar Questions by AWS Well-Architected Tool

For each pillar, the AWS Well-Architected Tool presents a series of targeted questions. These questions delve into specific aspects of your workload’s design, highlighting potential areas of improvement. Answer them honestly and thoroughly, as they serve as the foundation for subsequent steps.

Step 7: Collect Data and Analyze

Gather all relevant data about your infrastructure including key performance metrics, architectural diagrams, compliance documents, and security measures. AWS provides various tools, such as AWS Config/ AWS Trusted Advisor/AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to retrieve pertinent information. Analyze this data against the pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Review, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas where optimization is required.

Step 8: Identify Improvement Opportunities

Based on the analysis, pinpoint specific areas where improvements can be made. Leverage the expertise of your team or an AWS Well-Architected Review Partner to propose practical and actionable solutions. Prioritize the identified opportunities by assessing their potential impact and ease of implementation.

Step 9: Create a plan and Implement Changes

Craft a strategic action plan that outlines clear steps to be taken to address the identified improvement opportunities and improve your workload architecture. Prioritize the most critical areas for enhancements. Ensure your plan is both practical and realistic, taking into account available resources and timelines. 

With improvement opportunities prioritized and agreed upon by stakeholders, it’s time to put the changes into action. Work closely with your team as an AWS Well-Architected Review Partner to implement the identified enhancements, ensuring that you stay within the framework’s guidelines and best practices. Regularly monitor and track the progress of these changes to verify their effectiveness.

Step 10: Continuously Iterate and Optimize

Following the implementation of changes, return to the AWS Well-Architected Review Tool to evaluate how the improvements have impacted the overall architecture. 

Conducting an AWS Well-Architected Review is not a one-time task; it’s an iterative process. AWS suggests performing AWS WAR on a recommended interval of every 12 to 18 months. Embrace a culture of ongoing improvement, using tools like AWS CloudFormation and AWS CloudTrail to maintain a well-architected system that adapts to evolving business needs.

The goal is not only to optimize your cloud infrastructure but also to ensure its long-term sustainability and success. With the right team, a clear plan, and a commitment to continuous improvement, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a truly well-architected AWS.