Understanding and Utilizing the Azure Well-Architected Framework
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Given the diversity in organization types, business segments, goals, etc., it is quite clear that there cannot be one templatized solution to creating a solution architecture or an SOP for innovating, designing, deploying, and making ongoing improvements in technology systems.
However, some principles do abide and exist independent of cloud service providers (CSPs), technologies, or architecture types. To help organizations build robust clouds and get the most from their ecosystems, Microsoft Azure has set down certain principles in the form of five pillars. The five pillars of the Azure Well-Architected Framework are described below.
Every organization should undertake cost estimation exercises at periodic intervals—this includes identifying existing resources that need redevelopment or transition and matching appropriate services, and hallmarking business-critical objectives. Provisioning services optimized for cost is not just good for the bottom line, it actively reduces the quantum of effort organizations have to put in to complete a given task, as a consequence.
Cloud providers, like Azure, offer cost management tools that organizations can use to review their billing statements and better understand their expenditures. The cloud’s pay-as-you-go approach has completely disrupted costing, as it enables organizations to avoid or at least minimize expenses that would have resulted from over-provisioning capacity to handle spikes in demand. Using tools that are provided by Azure, organizations can design their architecture, they must detect and erase waste across their environment.
DevOps has taken the computing world by storm, but for all its benefits, some organizations still don’t understand that while DevOps has brought a major change in the way we design modern architectures using continuous integration, DevOps itself is as much cultural as it is technical. To reap the full benefit of the DevOps approach, organizations need to create an atmosphere of collaborative working. Without breaking down silos and promoting a collaborative working environment, organizations will find it impossible to create the culture of transparency and mutual trust that is necessary to realize operational excellence.
Automation is a big step in easing a lot of the workload, saving time, and money, and avoiding delays and human error. Other time and cost savers are technologies like Serverless computing that abstract away base components that would otherwise drain time and money. Technologies like microservices can further help add savings while promoting scalability.
Automation can also help build robust security, starting with an effective monitoring system that provides a complete view of the architecture. This will allow organizations to identify anomalies, as well as malfunctions in their system before end-users are
affected. Collecting data points from each component at all layers of an organization allows management to keep a watchful eye so threshold ranges are not breached.
Performance optimization implies understanding how well your applications are performing; this includes monitoring applications across all layers, and identifying, and eliminating any bottlenecks that might be hampering performance. Two major aspects that organizations must consider while optimizing their architecture for performance are storage and network performance. A properly thought-out strategy of partitioning data will help optimize performance and prevent adverse impacts.
To further enhance performance, reduce contention and improve scalability, organizations can also add a messaging layer. Caching is another expedient to improve performance. It can be used between databases and application servers to reduce data retrieval time. Caching between web servers and users also helps decrease latency while switching between web pages.
Be it s business practice, industrial system, or software application, a single point of failure (SPOF) is any single element whose failure will stop the entire system from functioning. This can only be prevented if these potential SPOFs are identified and eliminated in advance. This should be matched with ensuring high availability, which will enhance the reliability of an architecture.
Organizations need to analyze potential capabilities of high availability relative to their service-level agreement (SLA) while ensuring proper coverage and identifying key improvement areas.
The reliability of a system and/or its components is bolstered when organizations map and adhere to a well-defined recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). This enables organizations to enhance backup, replication, recovery, and restore capabilities of their architecture quickly and as painlessly as possible, continuing to maintain uptime conditions even in the event of network outages, and enabling data retrieval, post-disasters.
The approach to security in any organization must be multilayered; it must incorporate in-depth defenses for data, networking, policies, access, applications, perimeter, physical security, and compute resources. Such a multilayered approach increases protection against attackers. Azure provides security services for all the infrastructural components of the cloud that it is responsible for, depending on the cloud computing model in question.
These security responsibilities as one move from Security as a Service (SaaS) to Platform as a Service (PaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas). In a SaaS model, security for everything from the application/s to storage is the CSP’s responsibility; in a PaaS model the responsibility for the application and middleware falls on the user; and in IaaS, everything barring servers and storage is the user’s responsibility. This is known as Shared Responsibility. Organizations must carefully evaluate the technologies and services they use and accordingly provide the needed security controls to the architecture.
Key Design Principles
Azure Well-Architected Framework recommends a few design principles that organizations must factor in during their architecture design.
⦿ Architectural Evolution: IT architecture is dynamic by nature. To enable the growth and evolution of their architecture, organizations must make the most of new technologies, tools, and services as they become available.
⦿ Data-Driven Decisions: Data is the key to intelligent decision-making. Collecting data from disparate sources, centralizing it to one repository, analyzing it, and using the intelligence it provides enables organizations to make insightful decisions—for their businesses and their architecture. Aspects like user load and performance, data cost, etc. can guide organizations in making the right decisions for their cloud environment.
⦿ Education: The cloud computing landscape is continuously evolving, and one needs to evolve alongside it or get left behind. This means incorporating a judicious education and up-skilling program to ensure the business, operations, and development teams can make the right choices when building solutions that avoid bottlenecks and improve efficiency, and cost-effectively. Practices like proper documentation protocols, and sharing of configurations, current best practices, must be made a habit among an organization’s members.
⦿ Automation: repetitive tasks and manual processes cost—a lot! Introducing automation, wherever possible helps streamline jobs, eliminate manual errors, ensures consistency, and reduces long-term costs.
The architecture of your IT is the foundation for the organization’s applications. The Azure Well-Architected Framework empowers organizations to build architectures that meet their needs and their customers’ requirements. The principles enshrined in the five pillars of Azure’s Well-Architected Framework can help organizations build high-performing solutions that drive innovation, improve operational efficiencies, improve RoI—especially on IT investments—and bolster customer loyalty.
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