In this article, we discuss how embedding well-architected reviews into migration projects can help prioritise improvements and reduce the risk of costly issues down the line – such as security incidents, outages, and inefficient use of cloud resources.

When moving workloads to the cloud, organisations face a choice: do a ‘quick and dirty’ lift and shift, or invest in modernisation to maximise the benefits of a cloud-native workload. 

A lift and shift migration strategy – also called rehosting – means making as few architectural changes as possible. The old environment is translated into equivalent cloud resources, retaining existing deployment pipelines and security models. Everyone involved accepts this will likely result in some anti-patterns, falling short of best practices for the trade-off of faster migration and quick access to basic cloud benefits. 

Bad practice is bad for a reason, though – how can you know what issues may lay down the line if you haven’t identified and assessed the risks and costs of the tech debt that you’re carrying forward? Once you’ve lifted and shifted, where should you focus next to address that tech debt and move towards a better cloud architecture?

In the other camp, we have the modernisers. Their focus is on replatforming or even re-architecting workloads to exploit cloud-native technologies. But doing so can be a daunting task. With so many cloud products available, and many competing business requirements, how do you know what good looks like? Trying to fix everything at once generally results in progress grinding to a halt, so what should you focus on improving to get the maximum gain?

Everyone talks about ‘best practice’, but totally complying with it is a pipe dream for most organisations, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s ok – perfect is the enemy of good, after all. What matters is having an understanding of where you are falling short of best practices, what the potential impact of that is, and how you’re going to manage it. 

That’s where the Well-Architected Framework can help.

AWS’s Well-Architected Framework (WAF) was first published in 2012, and similar guidance has since been produced by the likes of Microsoft as well, though both companies’ versions are largely cloud-agnostic. It has been updated frequently to keep up with the ever-changing cloud landscape. The framework sets out best practice principles across six pillars: 

-Operational efficiency

-Security

-Reliability

-Performance efficiency

-Cost optimisation

-Sustainability 

AWS also provides a process for reviewing workloads against WAF best practices. This review process is supported by the Well-Architected Tool, but requires collaboration and open discussion with business and technical workload experts. WAF reviews aim to identify and classify possible issues, and spark conversation leading to better understanding and a starting point for planning improvements. 

Lift and shift may avoid making architectural changes – but when combined with WAF, it helps us to understand where the technical debt lies, what mitigations should be in place, and most importantly, where to focus efforts once the migration is complete.

If you’re investing in deeper modernisation, WAF provides a clear view of what improvements need to be made, which can then be prioritised in order to focus resources on the areas that will yield the largest benefits.

By holding WAF reviews you will:

-Better understand the pros and cons of architectural decisions and trade-offs

-Spark productive conversations about your current and future cloud architecture

-Make use of pragmatic, proven advice to avoid reinventing the wheel

-Tackle the ‘elephant in the room’ questions which may have been avoided in the past

-Be better placed to carry out a smooth, low risk workload migration.

Well-Architected reviews are designed to be lightweight, being completed in hours rather than days. A WAF review should be done as part of migration discovery, with the findings helping with prioritisation and risk management when planning. Reviews should then be used to evaluate new designs before commencing implementation, and repeated on completion to perpetuate the cycle of continuous improvement.

Of course, following all the architectural best practices in the world doesn’t mean that business problems are solved or that benefits are automatically realised. It does, however, help avoid future issues, optimise costs, enable scalability, and lay the foundations for sustainable digital transformation.  Done right, it keeps the focus on solving business challenges, which should always be the primary objective of any migration. Framing issues within the context of your own business needs – gauging the effort versus the benefit of fixing it – is how you get the best value out of the Well-Architected Framework.

At Automation Logic we have many years of experience in helping businesses get the best value from their migrations, and a deep understanding of architectural good practice. Well-Architected reviews are one tool we use to help our customers drive successful cloud adoption.

Wherever you are in your cloud adoption journey, if you have any questions or want to talk more about tackling complex migrations, I’d love to hear from you!  Let me know what business challenges you have addressed using WAF, or how you think it may help de-risk and future proof your migration efforts.

Check out our Workload Migration Offering here

By Luke Wiltshire

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