United States | The 5 Pillars of Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework

Jonathan Hazelden - 03.08.202320230803

The 5 Pillars of Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework

United States | The 5 Pillars of Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework

In this blog series we take a deep dive into the five pillars of the Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework (WAF) and highlight some of the most useful aspects.

I wanted to answer a common question I know a lot of people ask; “what’s the difference between the Well-Architected Framework and the Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure”?

Azure’s Well-Architected Framework targets a specific workload and the Cloud Adoption Framework picks them up from the point of migration to the cloud. When working with Partners and their customers we use the Well-Architected Framework to check how an application/workload measures up to Microsoft’s best practices for Azure.

Part one of this blog introduces the five pillars of the Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework using some common scenarios we see and questions we receive from customers. While this approach can certainly be taken to review and improve existing applications and workloads already in the cloud, it is easier to plan for a Well-Architected Framework during the initial deployment stages than it is to re-design once you are already there. In either case, adopting a Well-Architected Framework is equally important.


The Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework is a set of guiding principles to improve the overall quality of a workload. This framework is based on five pillars of architectural best practices for Azure workloads:

  • Cost Optimization – Managing costs to increase the value produced
  • Operational Excellence – Operational processes which keep a system operating in production
  • Performance Efficiency – The system’s ability to adapt to changes in load
  • Reliability – The system’s ability to recover from failures and continue to operate
  • Security – Protecting applications and data from any threats

Here is a summary of each of the five pillars of the Well-Architected Framework before we deep-dive into them individually in the upcoming blogs of this series:

  1. Cost Optimization

When undertaken properly, you can accelerate your time to market without heavy up-front capital investment due to cloud-native capabilities. In the cloud your application should be elastic, hence it scales out (and in) to meet service demands. The model of over-provisioning is unnecessary in the cloud as resources are available on-demand.

The workload should be driven by well-established business goals and a return on investment (ROI). The principles of cost optimization are a series of considerations which help achieve the business objective(s) and cost justification.

  1. Operational Excellence

Operational Excellence ensures an application is running as expected. To ensure deployments are reliable and predictable we rely on Infrastructure as Code (IaC) versus more variable and manual processes. Deployments, feature updates and bug fixes should be fast and routine. An application must be able to automatically roll back to its previous state (in the event of an error caused by an update) to maintain operational excellence.

Cloud applications run on infrastructure you have limited control over, particularly as applications mature in the cloud space. Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings do not utilise virtual machines (VM) that you can log into to troubleshoot issues. Instead, monitoring and diagnostics metrics provide these critical insights and alert you to failures when and where they occur and help you keep applications running as expected.

  1. Performance Efficiency 

Performance efficiency is the ability of a workload to scale to meet changes in usage demand. Performance efficiency, also referred to as capacity, reflects resource availability (CPU, memory, storage and networking). These resources are a major planning and design consideration which have been around for a long time.

Prior to the cloud, System Administrators commonly overprovisioned hardware to meet unexpected and potential future usage demands. This practice makes sense for on-premises environments as it builds in extra capacity. So how do you address a sudden change in hardware capacity demand when familiar ratios are no longer applicable? The cloud enables you to access additional capacity on demand.

  1. Reliability

Building reliability from the ground up into a cloud application is an essential design principle, as this will not only keep business critical applications highly available but also helps to minimise potential loss of revenue, reputational damage and user experience impact. Accepting there will a be failure in the cloud and, in response, building reliability against failure allows you to minimise impact instead of spending too much time focusing on preventing failures.

  1. Security

Attacks occur daily worldwide, so continual adaptation is essential to safeguard against progressively convincing threats. Whether on-premises, in the cloud or hybrid, a defense-in-depth strategy is required to secure your applications. In the upcoming blog focusing on the security pillar we list some of the recommended methods to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your workload and its data.


Part 2 in this Microsoft Azure Well-architected Framework series will take a deep dive into the first pillar; Cost Optimisation.

For more on Microsoft Azure visit our blog insights page.


United States | The 5 Pillars of Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework

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United States | The 5 Pillars of Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework

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