Why WAF: Driving Technical Excellence in Delivery for your Organization

Reasons to adopt WAF as a key part of your overall technical delivery process.

This post provides a brief review of the Azure Well-Architected Framework and its cousin the Well-Architected Review and presents the case for adoption within your delivery organization. I will address this from several perspectives, including improvement of your organization’s technical excellence, customer satisfaction, team upskilling, and alignment with Microsoft.

Having proceeded down the path as we integrated WAF into my own company’s processes, I wanted to share the benefits that have resulted, both internally and externally (with customers). Together, WAF and WAR provide a huge (and free!) set of resources for your team.

Quick Review: Well-Architected Framework (WAF) and Well-Architected Review (WAR)

The Azure Well-Architected Framework (WAF) is a set of guidelines or principles available for you to leverage in the design and implementation of your Azure architected solutions and workloads.

The overarching goal behind WAF is to produce high quality, stable, and optimized cloud architectures across five pillars (ReliabilitySecurityCost OptimizationOperational Excellence, and Performance Efficiency) via the WAF itself and its supporting elements, shown in the picture below.

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Figure 1 – Well-Architected Framework Visualization

Complementary to the WAF is the Well-Architected Review, a separate service, freely available online from Microsoft, to easily help you examine your workload(s) through the lenses of those same pillars. (Note that you are able to specify which high-level workloads, and which pillars, you desire to review; the experience is completely customizable). You will also notice that I’m intentionally singling out the Well-Architected Review within this mix because of what I believe to be its additional importance in jumpstarting your team’s skillsets and providing an easy roadmap into WAF. Below are screenshots of a Review session in progress for the Security Pillar of a core Azure workload, and an example of the output summarizing the overall review results.

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Figure 2 – Well-Architected Review In-Progress

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Figure 3 – Well-Architected Review Example Results

Benefits of Integrating WAF and WAR Into Your Delivery Processes

Now that we have some context, let’s jump into why you should be interested. My own company has become more and more enthusiastic as we have increased our use of WAF, and there are many reasons to embrace it, but let’s start with the most important one: It will make you and your team better at what you do.

Enhancing your Solution Delivery

The leveraging of WAF and WAR, quite simply, is an easy way to jumpstart your team’s knowledge of what makes for a technically excellent architected workload or solution in the Azure Cloud, and then to deliver on that knowledge in your deployed workloads. Remember those pillars? The WAR will first assure that you cover all of them as you assess your workloads, and then you take that information and leverage it to transition this to the design, architecture, and deployment of your solution. As you do this, you will find that you continually build your team’s cloud architecture skillsets, that your solutions are more stable, robust, and efficient, and that the typical problems that we encounter in our deployed solutions – that cleaning up of loose ends and addressing of missed pieces that is typical of software and cloud-based solutions – begin to dramatically lessen. In short, it will allow you to build critical cloud architecture skillsets internally and differentiate yourself from the competition externally.

Upskilling Your Team

In my view (our personal experience), the Well-Architected Review is your entry into the Well-Architected Framework. It presents the coverage areas in an easily consumable checklist format. I’m a pilot, and in the aviation world, checklists are key. The Well-Architected Review provides this via an impressively easy to use tool. By starting with the WAR and transitioning that knowledge into actual solution architecting with the WAF, you begin building your team from a set of smart resources with various levels and breadths of point knowledge, to a team of professionals with knowledge of all key cloud architecture areas using formalized processes to assess, design, and deploy. We have found that our technical delivery team was able to significantly boost their cloud architecture skills, with accompanying side benefits such as career building and job satisfaction.

Customer Satisfaction

In our organization, customer satisfaction is the end all and be all. It’s what we drum into our team from the pre-hire interviews through their yearly touch points and annual reviews, and so on. Prior to our integration of the WAF we had a variety of home-grown checklists and process documents that served as guidance for our cloud practice areas. With WAF, our deliverables to our clients have been taken to a new level – much more formalized, standardized, and professionalized. We go in to first Assess with the Well-Architected Framework, then design and architect based on that data input using the WAF, and in general present a consistent and highly professional set of customer deliverables – all backed by what we can demonstrate as a framework backed by Microsoft and their top architects. This has proved to be a nice additional differentiator. (Note: My company, Atmosera, builds solutions for customers, so I often speak from the perspective of a Professional Services / Consulting company; However, of course everything applies to internal organization use as well).

Alignment with Microsoft

Finally, if you are a Microsoft Partner, the Well-Architected Framework and Review are beginning to be ubiquitous among their technical guidance as well as to some of their key partner programs. For instance, in order to achieve many Microsoft Specializations (a key indicator of competence, skillsets and scale for Microsoft’s top partners), demonstration and use of the Well-Architected Review or Framework is becoming a formal requirement. If growing within the Microsoft Partner Program ecosystem is part of your plan, the WAF may need to be one important part of that plan. Besides, it just plain makes you better!

Conclusions

In summary, I see the benefits of WAF as follows, and I highly encourage you to check it out. And to emphasize, I would start with the Well-Architected Review (the easiest to consume and leverage) and then expand that into the fuller use of WAF as you build your team’s skills.

  1. The Well-Architected Review allows you to easily go in and Assess cloud workloads in a formal, standardized, comprehensive, and thorough manner. It shows your team (internal) and/or the customer (external) where they stand, where there may be deficiencies, and where improvements can be made – all in a professional manner with an easily visualized output for further discussion. It’s also amazingly easy to get started with and to leverage immediately.
  2. Taking the output of the Review and transitioning into your design and architecture, the WAF then enables you to build your solutions while taking into account the key pillars of well-constructed cloud architectures and deployments, making sure to cover everything appropriately.
  3. The Well-Architected Review and Framework are designed to be flexible in their use, allowing you to focus on what is important to the particular challenge at hand, and to fit within your preferred organizational/cloud operating model.
  4. It aligns with trusted and vetted cloud architecture principles as promoted by and aligned with Microsoft.
  5. Most importantly, WAF helps you create a better, more professional delivery organization, it results in a better delivery output, and it helps accelerate your team’s overall journey to being the best they can be.

I encourage you to go ahead and investigate the Well-Architected Framework and Review. If you want to grow your team’s skillsets, using guidance from top cloud Architects, it’s a great set of tools to add to your toolbox.

And don’t stop there. To continue to take things further on your cloud architecture journey, combine WAF with some of the many other resources available from the Microsoft Azure team. I want to highlight in particular the Azure Architecture Center. The Architecture Center provides comprehensive guidance for architecting solutions on Azure using established patterns and practices, including full reference architectures.

Growing your personal and organizational cloud architecture expertise is an enriching and never-ending journey. These tools give you a great path forward.

Learn More

Learn more about the Well-Architected Framework and the Well-Architected Review at these links:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/framework/

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/assessments/?mode=pre-assessment

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cloud-adoption-framework/operating-model/compare

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/

About the Author

Todd Fine is Chief Strategy Officer at Atmosera, a nationally recognized consulting, managed services, training, and security firm dedicated to helping companies on their digital transformation journey to the cloud. Todd is also the Microsoft Regional Director for Atlanta and works extensively with Microsoft in various forums and capacities. An aviation enthusiast and pilot for over 30 years, Todd enjoys flying all different types of aircraft, including gliders, helicopters, and hang gliders.  He is building a WWI fighter airplane in his basement, which he plans to test and fly himself, so this may be the last time you ever hear from him.

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