What does a AWS solution architect do

What does a AWS solution architect do?

Last updated on 06th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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A solution architect is an AWS solutions Architect Certification holder, who is usually a part of the solution development team, has the responsibility of designing one or more services or applications within an organization. The solution architect is required to have both business and technical skills in the right balance. He or she will often have to work with an enterprise architect for strategic direction. The focus is mainly on the technical decisions regarding the solution and the impact they have on business outcomes. The information is used by the development team for implementation of a solution.

Solution architects require process as well as people skills. More often than not, they are required to explain complex problems to management in the simplest possible terms. They need to explain the same thing in a different manner, depending on their audience. Of course, they would have to understand the processes of the business well for creating a cohesive product vision. 

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What does a Solutions Architect do?

The position of a solution architect is one of the most sought-after positions among developers. They are responsible for building and integration of computer systems and information for meeting specific needs. Typically, this involves the integration of hardware and software for meeting the customer-defined purpose. Examination of current systems and architecture is also one of their responsibilities. They work with technical and business staff for recommending solutions for more effective systems. 

The project involvement of the solution architect starts when the requirements are being developed by the computer systems analyst. Thereafter, their involvement continues throughout the rest of the project. The task of development is organized by them, motivating and guiding the development time during the systems development life cycle. Ultimately, their main responsibility is regarding the vision underlying the solution and how to execute that vision. 

A solution architect may also have to look after programming, testing, and integration of software systems and devices. They use processes that usually involve the selection of technology that is suitable for a problem. They also need to maintain a balance between enterprise concerns and architectural concerns. Most of the solution architects have years of experience in software development, which equips them with tools that can help them be more productive and effective. 

The main focus of a solution architect is on:

  • The use of technology for finding a solution to business problems
  • Which platform, framework or tech-stack should be used for the creation of a solution? 
  • The appearance of the application, what modules to use and the interaction between those modules. 
  • Scaling for future and its maintenance
  • Determining the risk associated with third-party platforms or frameworks
  • Finding solutions to business problems

The difference between an enterprise architect, a solution architect and a technical architect

Enterprise architects are responsible for building complex enterprise ecosystems and solving high-level strategic problems. The strategic directions of business architecture are defined by enterprise architecture. It provides an understanding of the technical facilities that are needed for supporting the architecture. 

The gap between technology solutions and business problems are bridged by solution architecture. The entire process is quite complex and it includes several sub-processes. It includes:

  • Finding which tech solution is the best for the solution of current business problems
  • Description of the characteristics, structure, behavior and other such software aspects to stakeholders of the project
  • Definition of the features, requirements, and phases of solution
  • Provision of specifications for defining, managing and delivering the solution. 

Technical architects, on the other hand, are primarily responsible for software architecture and engineering problems. 

A solution architect describes the use of different components of technology, information and business architecture for a specific solution. They address business problems by focusing on details and solution technologies. Hence, solution architecture serves as a channel between technical architecture and enterprise architecture. All these have to be combined effectively by companies for ideal solutions. 

Primary Processes Covered by Solution Architecture

With a solution architecture that is well-built, teams can develop products within the required time and budget constraints. It also ensures the solution of the problem is exactly what it needs to be. The tasks carried out by solution architects include:

Envisioning solutions according to the corporate environment: Generally, companies already have an information context, integration requirements, and operating systems. The solution architect has to make sure the new system fits the environment that already exists in the system. To do this, they need to understand how different parts of a business model work together, including operating systems, application architecture and processes. Through an understanding of these processes, they will be able to design a solution best fit for the environment.

Meeting stakeholders’ requirements: A particularly challenging aspect of software product development is to meet the requirements of stakeholders. A product usually has many technical and non-technical stakeholders. The aim of a solution architecture is to make sure all their requirements are taken into consideration. Stakeholders need to be informed about the processes, budgeting, and costs of product development on a regular basis. A solution architect performs this task by translating the technical details of the project into a language that non-technical stakeholders and management can understand.

Taking project constraints into account: There are always certain limitations or constraints associated with a project, including:

  • technology
  • scope
  • risks 
  • cost 
  • time
  • quality
  • resources    

For example, the technologies used for building a product should suit the requirements of its modules. The software documentation defines the scope of a project, which includes its goals, features, functions, and tasks. There is also a budget allocated for every project.
Aspects like these are project constraints and they have their own limitations. A solution architect needs to understand all the constraints and compare them for making managerial and technological decisions as per the project goals.

Selecting the technology stack for the project: A vital task performed by solutions architects is to select the right technologies for the development of products. The strategy of technical architecture depends directly on the technology stack that is chosen. Several different practices exist with regards to platforms, tools and programming languages. The function of a solution architect is finding which of these practices are most suitable for the project. It is a complicated task that requires assessing and comparing technology.

Complying to the non-functional requirements: There are non-functional requirements as well that a software project has to meet. These requirements describing the system characteristics are called quality attributes. Non-functional requirements can differ according to the complexity of the product. The common requirements include security, maintainability, performance, usability, reliability, and scalability of a product. All these non-functional requirements are analyzed by the solution architect for ensuring product engineering meets these requirements. 

Main Roles and Duties of a Solution Architect

  • Conducting architectural evaluation, analysis, and design of enterprise-wide systems
  • Stimulating appropriate design discipline and design tools like IBM Rational
  • Ensuring delivery of robust system solutions by the application architecture team to the architect business
  • Developing, enhancing and maintaining established process and procedure of service design for assuring appropriate and robust service design
  • Work with the enterprise architect for making sure the architecture and strategic blueprints are complied with
  • Forming part of a high-performance solution architecture team that supports the developmental effort of a business-oriented project
  • Planning, designing and executing complex company level solution configuration
  • Preparation and presentation of a test plan, lab reports, technical presentations and analyst briefings for covering different solution areas
  • Be responsible for the best current practices and suggestions
  • Collaboration with the IT development team for ensuring suitable translation of architectural solution into robust and effective implementation
  • Making sure configuration management continues the way it should
  • Identification of customer requirements, analysis of alternatives and conducting product recommendations associated with platform, software and network configurations
  • Work with sales department for performing demonstration and conversing requirements
  • Initiate contact with the client to provide a complete team effort

Primary responsibilities:

  • Understanding the needs of the company for defining system specifications
  • Planning and designing the technology solution structure
  • Communication system requirements to the software development team
  • Evaluation and choosing suitable hardware or software and suggesting methods for integration
  • Overseeing assigned programs and guiding the team members
  • Providing assistance when technical problems arise
  • Making sure the agreed infrastructure and architecture are implemented
  • Addressing the technical concerns, suggestions, and ideas
  • Monitoring systems to make sure they meet business goals as well as user requirements

Skills Required to become a Solution Architect

The role of a solution architect is a technical one and involves the translation of functional requirements into robust solutions. Individuals looking to get a job as a solution architect must possess AWS solutions architect certification and have a relevant degree along with certain skills, including:

  • Technical literacy: A high level of technical literacy is required to become a solution architect. It allows them to figure out how a particular solution fits with the current structure of the organization. They also need to assist the development of requirements and specifications
  • Analytical assessment: Solution architects are required to examine the current system of the client, which involves extreme analysis. They also need to analyze to determine the overall scope and requirements of the project
  • Managing schedule: Right time management skills are required for determining milestones and schedules for development and ensuring timely completion of deliverables
  • Leading the team: Solution architects need to know how to motivate and lead since they directly oversee development teams throughout the development lifecycles of projects
  • Communication skills: Excellent verbal and written communication skills are also required since the role involves communication with clients, external vendors and team members
  • Solving problems: The system limitations or client specification can change during development. Solution architects need to use their problem-solving skills for changing directions quickly as per the updated limitations or specifications.

When is Solution Architecture Needed by a Company?

Technology consulting organizations can introduce solution architecture to the corporate structure if the integration process of the software system is not systematic. A solution architect is not required for all the projects. Solution architecture won’t be required if a single proven tech module is being implemented. However, it is advisable to consider solution architecture services when the projects grow to be more complicated, entailing different risks and processes. A solution architect is needed when:

  • It is unknown which solution is the best fit for the company ecosystem: It is important that there exists a link between a particular project and enterprise architecture. Solution architectures make sure company environment standards are met by the solution
  • A digital transformation project is being run: Projects involving digital transformation require businesses to reevaluate what they deliver to customers or how they deliver it. It cannot be done without linking business and technological tasks, which is what a solution architect does
  • There are a lot of risks involved: In projects that involve different technological risks, uncertain requirements, implementation of multiple products or unapproved underlying technologies, it is necessary to have a solution architect
  • A future product has to be presented to investors: In this case, solution architects help suggest suitable technologies for matching production requirements. They also communicate in clear and understandable business terms
  • Communications between engineers and stakeholders have to be set up: There can be a communication gap between a non-technical and technical specialist. Solution architects help bridge that gap
  • The project involves multiple teams: Larger projects require someone for managing the designers, business or technical architect teams for producing quality outcomes. 

To sum it all up, solution architecture forms the underpinning of all IT projects, regardless of whether the company actually adopts this practice or not. Deliberate introduction of solution architecture allows the building of the framework that aligns with skills, resources, and technology of defined business goals. 

Conventionally, mid-size and small companies do not practice solution architecture. The problems related to solution architecture are delegated across different roles with the product and development team. It is a good option for small projects that have predictable outcomes. However, a specialist will definitely be required if the enterprise architecture itself is complex with multiple software products being introduced into the ecosystem. A solution architect is a specialist for such needs.

Solutions Architects (SAs, as they are known at AWS) are responsible for managing an organization’s cloud computing architecture. They have in-depth knowledge of the architectural principles and services used to develop technical cloud strategy, assist with cloud migration efforts, review workload architectures, and provide guidance on how to address high-risk issues.

At AWS, we decided early (in 2009) to build significant depth and expertise in this area, and use that to assist our customers in building secure, reliable, cost efficient, high performance, and operationally sound applications on AWS that simply couldn’t exist on premises. We formalized these architectural best practices into a framework we call the AWS Well Architected Framework.

An SA is the keeper of the AWS Well Architected Framework pillars, ensuring customers are following best practices, guidance, and recommendations to develop cloud solutions that are secure, resilient, efficient, and managed with operational excellence. To do this, SAs need a mix of business, technical, and people skills, as well as an understanding of the always-evolving, technical training that may benefit their team.

What are the key skills required to be a successful SA? Read on to learn what employers look for – and professionals can build – to capitalize on the momentum and business potential of the cloud today.

Flexibility and eagerness to learn

An SA must be able to work in a wide variety of scenarios and be open to learn the unique requirements of each project. No two projects or customers will be the same, so continuously learning and willingness to experiment can help both beginning and seasoned cloud architects provide the best guidance to their organization. An early start to any day might begin with researching new services and features and tuning into trusted blogs and discussion boards. With a curious mind-set, cloud architects can be better equipped to seek out new approaches to problem solving.

Time management

Cloud architecture professionals must possess strong time management skills. Their days are varied and can include customer meetings to discuss problems and needs, and designing architectural frameworks for those needs. There is no typical day: they could be in meetings, traveling to onsite meetings with a customer, writing scripts, working on migrations, keeping up with new AWS features via online training, or troubleshooting. As such, SAs are mindful to plan their days, prioritize their time on tasks, and understand how to maximize small pockets of time.

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Communication skills and business acumen

There are many stakeholders and participants along the cloud journey, from those who pay the bill, to the security team, to the technical team, to those helping to make decisions about cloud vendors. SAs are encouraged to ask for a seat at the decision-making table, and be prepared to communicate their design to any stakeholder. Successful SAs know how to communicate to audiences with little or no technical knowledge, while aligning their recommendations to business imperatives and the bottom-line.

Decisiveness

As noted, the SA is the person stakeholders turn to for guidance about cloud problems they are facing. The ability to provide a firm, clear perspective with confidence provides both reassurance that the business is in good hands, but also that the cloud solutions you’ve recommended are secure, resilient, cost efficient, and managed with operational excellence. Decisiveness does not necessarily mean dominant or overriding. SAs can provide guidance from a calm, leading place of domain authority.

Industry technical credentials

Of course, an SA must also possess the necessary technical skills to serve as the foundation for cloud architecture planning and management, including basic programming, software development and continuous integration, continuous deployment (CICD), database, networking, security skills, modern application architecture skills, and more.

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