AWS Architecture Blog

On Architecture and the State of the Art

On the AWS Solutions Architecture team we know we’re following in the footsteps of other technical experts who pulled together the best practices of their eras. Around 22 BC the Roman Architect Vitruvius Pollio wrote On architecture (published as The Ten Books on Architecture), which became a seminal work on architectural theory. Vitruvius captured the best practices of his contemporaries and those who went before him (especially the Greek architects).

Closer to our time, in 1910, another technical expert, Henry Harrison Suplee, wrote Gas Turbine: progress in the design and construction of turbines operated by gases of combustion, from which we believe the phrase “state of the art” originates:

It has therefore been thought desirable to gather under one cover the most important papers which have appeared upon the subject of the gas turbine in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland, together with some account of the work in America, and to add to this such information upon actual experimental machines as can be secured.

In the present state of the art this is all that can be done, but it is believed that this will aid materially in the conduct of subsequent work, and place in the hands of the gas-power engineer a collection of material not generally accessible or available in convenient form.  


Both authors wrote books that captured the current knowledge on design principles and best practices (in architecture and engineering) to improve awareness and adoption. Like these authors, we at AWS believe that capturing and sharing best practices leads to better outcomes. This follows a pattern we established internally, in our Principal Engineering community. In 2012 we started an initiative called “Well-Architected” to help share the best practices for architecting in the cloud with our customers.

Every year AWS Solution Architects dedicate hundreds of thousands of hours to helping customers build architectures that are cloud native. Through customer feedback, and real world experience we see what strategies, patterns, and approaches work for you.

“After our well-architected review and subsequent migration to the cloud, we saw the tremendous cost-savings potential of Amazon Web Services. By using the industry-standard service, we can invest the majority of our time and energy into enhancing our solutions. Thanks to (consulting partner) 1Strategy’s deep, technical AWS expertise and flexibility during our migration, we were able to leverage the strengths of AWS quickly.”

Paul Cooley, Chief Technology Officer for Imprev

This year we have again refreshed the AWS Well-Architected Framework, with a particular focus on Operational Excellence. Last year we announced the addition of Operational Excellence as a new pillar to AWS Well-Architected Framework. Having carried out thousands of reviews since then, we reexamined the pillar and are pleased to announce some significant changes. First, the pillar dives more deeply into people and process because this is an area where we see the most opportunities for teams to improve. Second, we’ve pivoted heavily to focusing on whether your team and your workload are ready for runtime operations. Key to this is ensuring that in the early phases of design that you think about how your architecture will be operated. Reflecting on this we realized that Operational Excellence should be the first pillar to support the “Architect for run-time operations” approach.

We’ve also added detail on how Amazon approaches technology architecture, covering topics such as our Principal Engineering Community and two-way doors and mechanisms. We refreshed the other pillars to reflect the evolution of AWS, and the best practices we are seeing in the field. We have also added detail on the review process, in the surprisingly named “The Review Process” section.

As part of refreshing the pillars, we have also released a new Operational Excellence Pillar whitepaper, and have updated the whitepapers for all of the other pillars of the Framework. For example we have significantly updated the Reliability Pillar whitepaper to provide guidance on application design for high availability. New sections cover techniques for high availability including and beyond infrastructure implications, and considerations across the application lifecycle. This updated whitepaper also provides examples that show how to achieve availability goals in single and multi-region architectures.

You can find free training and all of the ”state of the art” whitepapers on the AWS Well-Architected homepage:

Philip Fitzsimons, Leader, AWS Well-Architected Team