The Role of a Well-Architected Framework in an Evolving Digital Landscape


Author: Tangent Solutions

Published: 22 April 2022

What is the Well-Architected Framework?

At Tangent Solutions, when we talk about public cloud platforms, we always reference a well-architected framework (WAF). The well-architected cloud framework is the guiding structure to architecting a healthy cloud environment.

As a business solutions provider, our priority is to shape digital organisations that run effectively today while considering growth and long-term digital state requirements. 

The WAF thus forms a core part of a cloud design process. We understand that a solid foundation is vital to support the integrity and longevity of a cloud environment and, by virtue, the organisation, as well as internal and external stakeholders.  

The Guiding Tenets of a Microsoft and AWS Well-Architected Framework

Although the number of pillars may differ between public cloud providers, the overarching principles remain similar. In context, the Microsoft and AWS Well-Architected Framework differ in the number of pillars highlighted. However, the WAF objective and general notion for both is to deliver an efficient and effective cloud environment. 

It is important to note that a WAF is only one of the steps necessary for successful cloud migration. In fact, Tangent recommends that a cloud WAF is always preceded by an environmental assessment of the business’s current on-premise ecosystem.

Furthermore, a cloud migration should be complemented by a digital strategy that ensures management alongside iterative pragmatic updates.

The Cloud Well-Architected Framework Pillars include:  

  1. Operational Excellence. 
  2. Security. 
  3. Reliability.  
  4. Performance Efficiency.  
  5. Cost Optimisation.  
  6. Sustainability.  

The cloud’s well-architected framework consists of various interconnected and self-sustaining pillars that interrelate to ensure success in the cloud. 

Engineering a Self-Regulating Cloud Environment Utilising the WAF Pillars as Part of a Broader Digital Strategy

After an environmental assessment, businesses will be confronted with a number of choices due to the information surfaced. Here is where a lot of cloud environments tend to get tricky, as the cloud is different to on-premise environments. The skills, practices and technologies that have worked in an on-premise environment will often deliver unpredictable outcomes in the cloud.  

The Lift & Shift, AKA the Lift & ‘Oh Sh*t’ 

This ‘like for like’ migration method is the direct replication of an on-premise environment in the cloud. This methodology is only ever recommended in very particular scenarios and is highly dependent on the client’s needs. It is also followed by an iterative plan that architects and delivers the cloud WAF over a finite time. 

One Pillar is Not Enough 

Each pillar is equally important when designing and supporting a sustainable cloud environment. As a result, these pillars need to be looked at in relation to each other, as their ability to work in unison contributes to the success of a well-architected environment.

To ensure success in the cloud, each pillar requires a series of best practices and design principles. By not using the suggested Microsoft and AWS well-architected framework pillars, you are inherently at risk of building a cloud environment that will not perform effectively, eventually failing to meet business expectations.  

Understanding the Business and its Needs is Key to Success in the Cloud 

There are various environmental structures when migrating to the cloud, including hybrid, monolithic and multi-cloud ecosystems. Selecting the right option for the business plays a role in delivering what the company wants to achieve in the cloud.  

Another factor to consider is how each public cloud provider has nuances regarding its abilities and strengths, its licencing, as well as pricing models. These can affect the structure chosen for the business’s needs.  

Essentially, a well-architected framework is a part of a bigger plan. Understanding the different cloud provider’s services and nuances is beneficial for businesses and can equip organisations to make better cloud migration decisions in conjunction with implementing the WAF.  

Business knowledge and skills access, however, is challenging in today’s context. Thus, taking on a cloud service provider (CSP) in any instance is beneficial considering a CSPs experience, scope, and breadth of work across technologies, clients, and industries. Whether as a full scope implementation or guidance partner, a CSP can provide invaluable information and effective options an organisation may not have known of and thus considered.

The Role of Design Principles and Best Practices in a Well-Architected Framework and the Impact on Business​

1. Operational Excellence for a Digital Organisation 

The ability to gain insight into operational performance is necessary to improve existing business processes and procedures whilst anticipating and identifying possible failures to support long-term goals. As part of our digital approach, implementing progressive IT practices is the cornerstone of success, as it enables faster deployment and development processes.  

Operational excellence is thus a mindset and functional imperative in the way IT is done. This pillar highlights the importance of adaptability and growth within a digital organisation, ultimately improving business practices to ensure the best user experience possible for all stakeholders. 

At Tangent, we implement several methodologies and practices within this sphere to enable continuous progress for the business, namely DevOps. 

2. Security for the Smart Organisation 

In today’s world, escalating cybersecurity attacks alongside their increasing complexities places immense pressure on businesses’ security no matter what environment they operate. According to a late 12021 Forbes article citing Cyber Security Ventures research, by 2031, ransomware alone is predicted to cost $265 Billion. 

At Tangent, we understand that security should be a default and not an add-on. Well-architected environments offer the ability to automate security and protocols that reflect the organisation’s requirements based on best practices. A well-structured cloud environment allows all business infrastructure, software, and assets to take advantage of cloud security technologies. Meaning businesses have control over the confidentiality and integrity of data.  

Moreover, by defining best practices and implementing tools from initiation in the security pillar, companies are in a better position to; 

  1. Isolate and respond to security incidents that may occur; 
  2. Reduce monetary losses;  
  3. Ensure enhanced compliance in regards to regulations; 
  4. Recover quicker due to cloud native technologies and architecture. 

Take a look at SASE, a modern approach to cybersecurity.

3. Reliability for an Always-On Workforce 

How tolerant and resilient is your infrastructure to faults that may occur? Have you done simulation testing or implemented a recovery response plan?  

By working with a cloud platform, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, your business has access to many of the foundational aspects required to ensure reliability and resiliency in the cloud.  

Resilience refers to the cloud’s ability to recover quickly, while reliability is the ability to work continuously and consistently no matter what happens in the cloud.  

Again, proper protocols and pillar development in other architecture areas influence this area’s ability to operate. Tangent implements reliability measures, resilience best practices, and industry protocols as part of the business strategy and cloud architectural design. Thus, enabling business continuity, scalability, and business agility in response to demand as well as environmental factors outside a business’s control.

4. Performance Efficiency in a Digital Organisation 

Building a cloud environment must be done with the future in mind. This is key when building a high performing architecture in a digital organisation.  

The technologies, software, and engagement tools we utilise today may be vastly different in the future. Think of computers, phones, and smartwatches. Years ago, no one was developing for a smartwatch, and before that, no one was developing for a phone. Being able to pivot and support a smartwatch could be the need of the future. Your architecture should be set up to support these requirements quickly. Utilising cloud native technologies and methodologies that enable good architecture are crucial to the business’s ability to augment and evolve.  

The cloud should be architected around the maturity of the business. As the business matures, so too should its cloud environment. This maturity relates to evolving the company’s technologies, methodologies, practices, and processes in order to support the organisation in its current phase. 

Tangent utilises performance monitoring tools to consistently analyse the business’s cloud set-up, ensuring optimal performance aligned to your business objectives. Improvements are recommended as the needs of the company evolves as well as in instances of efficient digital alternatives that make business sense.  

5. Cost Optimisation in the Cloud 

An advantage of migrating workloads to the cloud is the ability to oversee and measure costs more effectively. Implementing a cloud WAF is a key factor in cost management. If these critical steps are not incorporated into a business’s migration journey, they are often hit with bill shock.  

Managing costs in the cloud go even further. As mentioned, understanding the cloud providers’ nuances and costing model affects how businesses can provision and store data in the cloud. Strategically utilising these models, monitoring usage, and automating governance protocols are imperative to cost management success. Knowledge and practice are thus vital, as the right skills can essentially make or break a budget.  

A basic example is the underutilisation of active resources and, on the flip side, overprovisioning of resources. Both scenarios have adverse effects on efficiency as well as long-term costs. Proper cloud environmental assessments guide the WAF implementation, which then enables self-regulation.  

Having followed best practices, a business should have sufficient governance protocols in place, delivering iterative updates and overseeing utilisation reports from relevant platforms. In these instances, cost management should be a given.  

6. Sustainability is the Natural By-product of a WAF 

A well-architected cloud environment is by default more efficient. It is lighter on resource usage as it is optimised, meaning it also has less impact on natural resources.  

Moreover, the infrastructure is architected to evolve as the company grows. It should scale on demand and have governance protocols that are automated. To this point, the cloud environment would be less reliant on people when it comes to management and governance. The cloud can also scale in minutes, as opposed to weeks, and ensures business continuity by design. Thus, delivering a better user experience for all stakeholders and, by virtue enabling the delivery of shareholder value now and in the long term.  

Essentially the cloud WAF is the digital business foundation that enables organisations to operate and compete in the digital economy.  

Businesses adopting a digital strategy that purposefully integrates the cloud WAF positively impact not only their business but the greater economic and social environment. The organisation benefits people through better workplace operations and jobs while reducing its impact on the planet with efficient workloads. These aspects further enable the delivery of business objectives and profits that stimulate economic growth.

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