Among the various job roles related to AWS services, the AWS solutions architect is one that is valuable for many enterprise applications. AWS has a certification for this job role, and you’ll see various job postings and other references to the AWS solutions architect in business literature. But what do these professionals do?
On a very basic level, the AWS solutions architect is someone who fits AWS services to an enterprise model.
We asked some career professionals in the industry to define what an AWS solutions architect is. Here’s some of what we came up with.
“AWS Solutions Architects spend most of their time architecting, building, and maintaining cost-efficient and scalable AWS cloud environments,” says Ryan Kroonenburg, co-founder of A Cloud Guru. “They also make recommendations regarding AWS toolsets and keep up with the latest in cloud computing. Meanwhile, Senior AWS Cloud Architects deliver technical architectures and lead implementation, ensuring new technologies are successfully integrated into customer environments. This type of role works directly with customers and engineers, providing both technical leadership and an interface with client-side stakeholders.”
“(An AWS solutions architect) provides recommendations for implementing and deployment of applications to Amazon Web Services,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at RankSecure. “(They) can evaluate organizational needs as they pertain to architecture of systems to work with AWS. (They) can work to determine level of effort/quote the time and effort required to determine business requirements and craft an application solution for AWS.”
Many professionals who talk about the AWS solutions architect role mention scalability and the task of aligning AWS services that move with the needs of the growing and progressing organization.
Another major aspect of managing how businesses use AWS services is integration — an AWS solution architect may spend quite a bit of time working on exactly how to assimilate an AWS services set into existing business operations. (To learn more about AWS, check out Are You Missing Out on Amazon Web Services?)
Want to get this certification online? Check out the course overview here.
Challenges of Being an AWS Architect
Part of what an AWS solutions architect does involves boiling down the many components of a powerful and many-segmented business service and helping to make these services digestible to a business model.
“AWS is an awesomely powerful and dynamic ecosystem, but that’s a double-edged sword in some ways, because that power and flexibility can become overwhelming — or at least complicated — for companies trying to figure out the best, most cost-effective ways to build technology infrastructure to both support their business and help their business succeed,” says Chandler Collison, who actually works with AWS for Mission, a cloud consulting company. Collison adds that these professionals help employers to identify the tools and technologies that are best for various aspects of business and particular processes.
“And then some days,” he says, “we’re just helping people put out fires or triage a technology to-do list that feels overwhelming. Our most fundamental goal is to help organizations build a technology footprint that’s not a burden or a hassle but rather a strategic asset.”
Pick and Choose, Mix and Match
Again, part of the reason that companies need to utilize these professionals is the innate complexity of AWS systems. Let’s just look at some of the most popular AWS services that companies incorporate into enterprise systems.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud or EC2 helps virtualize machines and other hardware. This is an aspect that appeals to people who want to make the hardware architecture more efficient, but it’s only one small part of what Amazon Web Services does.
On the storage side, you have Amazon S3, where object-oriented storage is taking over from older systems like redundant array of independent disks (RAID) and incorporating various security and efficiency benefits. Then there’s Amazon SNS for integration, Amazon Elastic Beanstalk for developers, and Amazon Autoscaling for server groups.
Serverless is a disruptor because it enables businesses to actually untether their service functions from either physical or in-house virtualized hardware setups. By simply ordering functions as a service, those utilizing Lambda’s serverless capabilities have a wealth of options at their fingertips — but again, they may need assistance from an AWS solutions architect in order to build a virtual data center or application system, house accommodations for particular development projects, or otherwise augment in-house business systems. (To learn more about serverless computing, see Serverless Computing: Which Service Is Right for You?)
People and Processes
In some ways, AWS solutions architects are “helpers.”
“A systems architect tries to make things simple for web-developers and end users of a digital product or service,” says Shakir Ali, senior systems engineer on the Platform & Systems team at 10up. “Even a simple looking website may, in fact, have a lot of complexities in the backend as each application requires effort to maintain security, reliability, performance, scalability and several other requirements. AWS provides a wide range of services, and it’s the responsibility of an AWS solutions architect to choose which services are best fit for a project.”
These professionals, Ali adds, follow up on their choices with special tools showing feasibility and predicting the logistics of integration.
“Once the services are chosen, the AWS solutions architect needs to visualize how each digital system interacts with the others using a system such as Cloudcraft,” Ali says. “The provided solution must be cost-effective and within budgetary guidelines. In the end, an AWS solutions architect understands how to map these services together to support an online business as it scales.”
Another way to say this is that by plugging in various Amazon Web Services the right way, the AWS solutions architect is doing the problem-solving that supports teams. That allows developers to focus more on their core mission to build the applications and microservices that make business run.
The bottom line is that the AWS solutions architect job role is very much part of a highly specialized organizational structure that looks at function, efficiency, reliability and cost for all of AWS vendor services. Return on investment is important. So is the learning curve — these services can either be a tremendous boon to a business or a real headache depending on how they’re deployed and how they’re integrated into operations. Learn more about how an AWS solutions architect works and why this job is so much in demand today.