During AWS re:Invent last year, AWS updated their Well-Architected Framework and introduced a new pillar to the family; Operational Excellence. In this article, we explore what Operation Excellence looks like in AWS architecture and how to start getting this best practice met.

Why was AWS Operational Excellence introduced?

A large contributor to AWS leading the extremely competitive cloud market is because they are fantastically customer centric. AWS constantly evolve their product suite and best practices in line with customer requests, catering to emerging trends and new security threats. While this provides customers with the very best services and cutting edge technology, it represents a significant challenge for enterprise and anyone leveraging AWS for critical production workloads.

Operational Excellence was introduced in response to the market wanting more guidelines and best practices to follow ensuring their infrastructure is continually running at the top of its game.

AWS Operational Excellence Definition:

The Operational Excellence pillar includes the ability to run and monitor systems to deliver business value and to continually improve supporting processes and procedures.

How do I implement AWS Operational Excellence?

To put it frank, there’s no quick solution. It can be quite daunting but if you look at Operational Excellence as a journey and take one step at a time, you’ll certainly be on the right path to achieving it. Remember, Operational Excellence is a combination of processes and continuous improvement to ensure your AWS infrastructure remains secure, reliable, efficient and cost effective.

Here are a few starting points to keep in mind when taking on the challenge of achieving Operational Excellence:

  1. Automate, automate, and automate!

Don’t rely on humans to perform critical tasks. If you’re relying on staff to do this, you’re inevitably going to experience issues - even the most experienced, reliable staff make mistakes. Automation on the other hand does exactly the same thing every time! Thinking this way means all of your deployment, particularly in Production accounts, being automated makes simple sense.

Automation also ensures you get the most out of your AWS infrastructure by utilising features like auto-scaling and self-healing. Far too often I speak to large AWS customers that are either not experiencing the cost savings usually associated with cloud adoption, or struggling to leverage the agility of the cloud, due to lack of automation. For those early in their cloud adoption keep in mind it’s much easier to automate from day 1 than retrospectively once you are “all in”.

2) Leverage tools where possible

Enthusiastic, reliable, qualified AWS professionals are hard to find, not to mention expensive! Don’t waste those resources doing tedious and repetitive tasks that can be easily (and cheaply) covered by an AWS certified technology product. Free these resources up to focus on the more important tasks, such as automating everything!

Since AWS have implemented a rigorous process that partners need to pass before they become a certified technology partner. Look for the AWS Partner logo below and you can be sure that you’re getting a quality product that is already being used by other AWS customers.

3) Security is not an afterthought

Too many times organisations are so focused on demonstrating the benefits of the cloud, rapidly migrating from their on-premise infrastructure without baking security in from the start. We all know the pain associated with change management and trying to retrospectively implement processes and tools (let’s face it, more work!) so make a commitment to keep security front and centre.

4) Constantly evolve and make the most of new services

AWS constantly evolve their product suite. Anyone that’s been lucky enough to attend re:Invent in Las Vegas understands just how much AWS improves their offering each year. Even if your accounts were completely optimised, reliable, efficient and secure 2 weeks ago, there’s no guarantee they are now! Review your infrastructure regularly and make a point to reassess the AWS products and services to see what else would benefit your architecture.

Final thought on AWS Operational Excellence

To achieve Operational Excellence you need to remain vigilant and open to alternative approaches. Ensure you maintain oversight of what’s happening in your AWS accounts along with who has access to your infrastructure. You may also need to re-architect as best practices change and new services are released. If you’re using a 3rd party technology product, keep them honest! Make sure they are constantly improving their offering and keeping up with best practices. Since the partner community is expanding every day, if your current provider isn’t evolving as quickly as AWS, you can be sure there’s another one that is!

Cloud Conformity provides continuous assurance that your AWS environments follow best practice. With the Well-Architected Framework rooted in the platform, including the newest pillar, Operational Excellence, your critical loads are under constant monitoring providing you with full visibility. Cloud Conformity runs over 500 checks against your AWS accounts, alerting you of any rule violations as you decide necessary. Check your Operational Excellence posture today with a free 14-day trial, giving full access to the platform including the API, real-time monitoring and auto-remediation.