“I’d certainly recommend AWS Well-Architected Review for any company using AWS. The focus of the review will be different depending on whether you have just started out with AWS or have more experience. But every environment will certainly have room for improvement.”
Bjarne Hansen, Head of IT Web Architecture at Topdanmark
Topdanmark is one of the largest insurance and pension companies in Denmark. Topdanmark has a 16 percent market share in general insurance and a 10 percent market share in life insurance in Denmark.
While it ain’t broken, there’s certainly something to improve
Topdanmark offers customers a web-based self-service system. Previously running on-premise, the system was built on AWS by Topdanmark’s own architects who didn’t have extensive experience working with AWS before.
“There were no obvious issues with the application, but we started thinking: should we have done something differently? Are there processes that could be easier or more secure? Can we make it more cost-effective?”, says Bjarne Hansen, Head of IT Web Architecture at Topdanmark.
“As we didn’t have any external AWS architects when building it, we felt there must definitely be some areas for improvement,” he continues.
Since having a proper self-service channel is becoming increasingly important for their business, Hansen wanted to ensure they made the app as functional, secure, and operationally as effective as possible.
The solution: AWS Well-Architected Review with Cybercom
Hansen discussed their challenge with their Amazon Web Services contact in Denmark, who came up with a suggestion of AWS Well-Architected Review.
Amazon Web Services has developed the AWS Well-Architected Framework, which can be used as a checklist to verify if your architecture and implementation fulfill key requirements.
The Framework contains five distinct pillars used to evaluate and compare your architecture and implementation against AWS best practices. These pillars—Operational Excellence, Security, Reliability, Performance Efficiency, and Cost Optimization—give guidance to produce stable, efficient, and scalable systems.
After familiarizing himself with the framework, Hansen felt the review would be an excellent sanity check for the solution they had built.
“When discussing the potential AWS partners who could deliver us the AWS Well-Architected Review, our Danish AWS contact suggested Cybercom as the best option,” Hansen says.
Cybercom is one of the few approved AWS Well-Architected Partners. “We chose to work with Cybercom because we wanted insights from an experienced AWS architect, and Cybercom’s AWS Advisory compelled us with their knowledge,” Hansen says.
Operational excellence a standout candidate for a makeover
The Cybercom Well-Architected Review covers all five pillars of the framework in a one-day workshop. After the workshop with Topdanmark, Cybercom provided Hansen a detailed report with 11 findings and optimization proposals in different areas.
“Our biggest aha moments were related to operational excellence, which is one of the five pillars in Well-Architected Framework,” Hansen explains.
“We hadn’t thought about the operational processes ourselves that much. Nowadays it’s more DevOps, so the developers building the platform are running the operations of it as well. We don’t have that much operational knowledge in our team yet.”
One of the 11 suggestions was to remove unused resources. For example, the review revealed Topdanmark had some unused servers they didn’t even know of. The servers were connected to an account opened by a consultant who has already left the company.
“We need a repeatable, monthly process for finding and removing such idle resources. Getting rid of just that one unused account I mentioned will save us approximately 10 000 euros per year,”, Hansen explains.
He feels they have a lot of room for improvement on the operational side. A big portion of that is simply related to differences between working with a traditional on-premise environment versus cloud.
“If I’m running an operation on-premise, I can simply go to the basement and see which servers are in use and which are not. But in the cloud, I can’t easily see what’s running and what’s not, and I just get a big bill at the end of the month,” Hansen describes.
After finding the issues, what will they do about them?
“We plan to implement all 11 of the suggestions Cybercom’s review gave us. It will probably take around six months to complete them all,” Hansen says.
Topdanmark will implement most changes by themselves, but also plans to work with Cybercom to solve a few of the issues found.
“We now have a good relationship with Cybercom, and we know we can trust them with implementing what they’ve found during the review,” says Hansen.
“I appreciate working with people who know their area very well. The review was delivered by a very experienced and knowledgeable AWS architect supported by a local Sales Manager from Cybercom. It’s not just about them wanting to sell us something, but an honest and open discussion on how we can improve and get more out of AWS,” Hansen explains.
“We now have a good relationship with Cybercom, and we know we can trust them [...] It’s not just about them wanting to sell us something, but an honest and open discussion on how can we can improve and get more out of AWS.”
He’s already planning on doing another Well-Architected Review with Cybercom in six months.
“Now they know our system and how it’s set up, so next time they can focus on diving deeper into details, for example, how could we benefit from some new AWS services”, he says.
Who would benefit from the Well-Architected Review?
“I’d certainly recommend AWS Well-Architected Review for any company using AWS. The focus of the review will be different depending on whether you have just started out with AWS or have more experience. But every environment will certainly have room for improvement,” says Hansen.
“Everyone can benefit from having a review like this. Spend one day for the workshop with an AWS expert, get a lot of insights, and then decide what issues you want to act on.”
Wondering if the AWS Well-Architected Framework could help your business? Get your free copy of our guide: Why AWS Well-Architected Framework will unleash your time and improve business value.