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TechnologyJan 18, 2022

Analysis of Cloud Well Architected Frameworks

Nidhin Sam

As the world looks forward to moving past the COVID-19 pandemic, IT spending is rapidly transforming. Specifically, the proportion of IT budgets that will be appropriated for cloud services is growing. A recent Gartner article stated that “worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 21.7% in 2022 to reach $482 billion, up from $396 billion in 2021.” This growth is fueled by the need to deliver cloud-native applications that are highly performant, available, and resilient.

How can organizations ensure cloud-native applications are architected in a way that aligns with business needs, are highly performant and reliable, and are cost-effective? The three major cloud providers today, AWS, Azure, and GCP, have each developed a well-architected framework for customers to use while architecting applications, and we will evaluate each of these in this blog post.

AWS Well-Architected Framework

The AWS Well-Architected Framework helps cloud architects build secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient infrastructure for their applications and workloads. The framework encompasses six pillars (cost optimization, operational excellence, performance efficiency, reliability, security, and sustainability). For each pillar, AWS provides a variety of design principles, as well as best practices. One of the key differentiators is that AWS has developed lenses, which are tailored guidance to specific industry and technology domains, such as serverless, internet of things (IoT), machine learning, software as a service (SaaS), the financial industry, etc.

To help customers architect applications, AWS also has a Well-Architected Review tool. This tool provides a series of questions that span the six pillars of the framework. Within the tool, end users can select one or more lenses and then proceed to answer the questions for the review. The end user has more granular control while conducting the review since they can omit specific questions from a pillar. Once the review is completed, the tool generates the appropriate improvement actions per pillar, which can be exported as a report in PDF format. Milestones can also be created to track workload growth over time. 

To further support customers in addressing recommended improvement actions, AWS also provides customers with a tool called Trusted Advisor. Trusted Advisor collects telemetry from your deployed AWS services and provides recommendations that align with the best practices of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. 

Azure Well-Architected Framework

The Azure Well-Architected Framework is a set of principles that can be used to improve the quality of a workload. Like the AWS Framework, the Azure Framework spans five pillars, which include cost optimization, operational excellence, performance efficiency, reliability, and security. For each pillar, Microsoft offers guidance for the best practices around the design and implementation of services. 

To further help customers, Microsoft also developed an Azure Well-Architected Review tool, which is a set of questions customers can answer on their workload of choice. Microsoft gives users the flexibility to omit pillars, but once a pillar is selected, all the questions for the pillar must be answered. 

Compared to the AWS tool, the Azure tool provides an end user with less flexibility, which can be difficult given that some of the questions may not be relevant to an end user, but still must be answered. Once the review is completed, the tool populates recommended improvement actions per pillar, as well as provides a score per pillar and for the workload overall. End users can also export the results in CSV format, which will include each recommendation, as well as direct links to Azure documentation for each. End users can also create milestones, a point-in-time snapshot of a workload review to be used to track the growth of a workload over time. 

In addition to this, Microsoft also provides Azure Advisor, which is a tool that provides recommendations for deployed Azure services that align with the best practices of the Well-Architected Framework. Azure Advisor also has an Advisor Score, which aggregates all the recommendations into a simple score. Like the score within the Well-Architected Review tool, this score outlines the overall score, but can also be drilled down into the score for each pillar of the Well-Architected Framework. 

GCP Well-Architected Framework

GCP’s Architecture Framework describes best practices, makes implementation recommendations, and goes into detail about products and services. The framework encompasses four pillars, which are operational excellence, security, privacy and compliance, reliability, and performance and cost optimization. For each pillar, GCP provides documentation around detailed best practices, GCP-specific recommendations, as well as key services to use to align with best practices. 

Because this framework is relatively new, unlike Azure or AWS, GCP does not have a Well-Architected Review tool for customers to use, nor does it have a tool like Azure Advisor or AWS Trusted Advisor to provide real-time recommendations that align with best practices. Due to these limitations, you may need a seasoned cloud professional to help you utilize this framework. 

Finding the Right Cloud Architecture Framework

So which architecture framework should you choose? From a maturity standpoint, the AWS Framework is the most mature and robust. It has undergone significant revisions over time and provides end users with a more comprehensive framework, compared to Azure and GCP. 

The Azure Framework comes in second but is gaining ground on AWS as the framework rapidly matures. It does have its advantages, but because the output can be overwhelming, a cloud professional could be needed to prioritize the list of recommended actions. 

Given that the GCP Framework is the youngest of the three frameworks and does not have many of the similar features, it would be the least mature at this time. If your organization has already made investments with either of these three cloud providers, their respective frameworks are still a great starting place to architect workloads appropriately. 

Interested in conducting a well-architected review of your cloud workloads or having a conversation to explore more? Reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.

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