Building a Scalable Architecture with AWS, Terraform, and Kubernetes

Building a Scalable Architecture with AWS, Terraform, and Kubernetes

Julia Lamenza on 23-10-2023 | 5 min read

In today's rapidly evolving technology landscape, businesses are increasingly adopting cloud computing solutions to meet their infrastructure needs. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has emerged as a leading cloud platform, offering a wide range of services that empower organizations to build, deploy, and scale applications with ease. To efficiently manage and automate AWS infrastructure, Terraform has gained popularity as an infrastructure-as-code (IAC) tool. In this article, we will explore how to create a scalable reference architecture using AWS and Terraform while also emphasizing the importance of microservices in containers orchestrated with Kubernetes.

The Importance of Reference Architectures

Reference architectures provide a blueprint for designing and deploying infrastructure and applications on the cloud. They serve as proven templates that incorporate best practices, ensuring reliability, scalability, and security. By following a reference architecture, organizations can accelerate their cloud adoption journey while reducing the risk of costly mistakes.

Why Terraform?

Terraform is an open-source IAC tool developed by HashiCorp. It allows you to define and provision infrastructure using a declarative configuration language. Terraform’s strengths include:

Infrastructure as Code (IAC): Terraform enables you to codify your infrastructure, making it versionable, repeatable, and shareable.

Multi-Cloud Support: While our focus is on AWS, Terraform supports multiple cloud providers, making it versatile for hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Resource Graph: Terraform creates a dependency graph of resources, ensuring that they are provisioned in the correct order.

State Management: Terraform maintains the state of the infrastructure, making it easier to manage and update resources over time.

Leveraging Microservices in Containers with Kubernetes

In modern cloud architectures, the adoption of microservices has become crucial. Microservices are small, independently deployable units of an application, each responsible for a specific function. They provide several advantages, including:

Scalability: Microservices can be independently scaled to meet changing workloads, optimizing resource utilization.

Flexibility: Developers can choose the most suitable programming languages and technologies for each microservice, promoting innovation and agility.

Fault Isolation: If one microservice fails, it doesn’t necessarily impact the entire application, enhancing fault tolerance.

Continuous Deployment: Microservices enable continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), allowing for rapid software updates.

To further enhance the management and scalability of microservices, containerization is widely adopted. Containers package applications and their dependencies into a consistent runtime environment, ensuring consistency across different stages of development and deployment.

Kubernetes, an open-source container orchestration platform, plays a pivotal role in managing containerized microservices. It offers:

Automated Scaling: Kubernetes can automatically scale the number of container instances based on demand, ensuring optimal resource utilization.

Load Balancing: Kubernetes provides built-in load balancing for distributing traffic across microservices.

Self-Healing: If a container or microservice fails, Kubernetes can automatically restart or replace it, maintaining application availability.

Rolling Updates: Kubernetes facilitates rolling updates, allowing new versions of microservices to be deployed without service interruption.

By combining AWS, Terraform, microservices in containers, and Kubernetes, organizations can create a highly scalable, resilient, and manageable architecture that aligns with modern cloud-native practices.

The Approach to Architecture at AWS

In traditional on-premises environments, organizations often rely on centralized technology architecture teams. These teams act as overseers, ensuring that product and feature teams adhere to best practices. This centralized approach typically comprises roles like Technical Architect (focused on infrastructure), Solutions Architect (focused on software), Data Architect, Networking Architect, and Security Architect. Often, these teams follow frameworks such as TOGAF or the Zachman Framework as part of their enterprise architecture strategy.

At Amazon Web Services (AWS), this can take on a different approach. We favor the distribution of architectural capabilities across teams rather than centralizing them. This approach allows for decision-making authority to be dispersed, which can introduce risks, such as ensuring that teams meet internal standards. To mitigate these risks, we employ two key strategies:

  1. Enabling Teams: We have established practices that empower each team to possess architectural capabilities. We also assign experts who help teams raise their standards. This distributed approach aligns with Amazon’s leadership principles, fostering a customer-centric culture where all roles work backward from the customer’s needs.
  2. Implementing Mechanisms: Automated checks are put in place to ensure that teams adhere to standards. These mechanisms help maintain consistency and quality across the organization.

This approach means that we expect every AWS team to be proficient in creating architectures and adhering to best practices. To facilitate this, we provide access to a virtual community (as AWS Partners) we can review designs and assist teams in understanding AWS best practices. This community of principal engineers plays a pivotal role in making best practices visible and accessible.

AWS best practices are derived from our extensive experience operating thousands of systems at internet scale. We rely on data to define best practices, supplemented by insights from subject matter experts like principal engineers. As new best practices emerge, the principal engineering community collaborates to ensure teams adopt them. 

By embracing a model that promotes a community of principal engineers and distributed ownership of architecture, we believe that a Well-Architected enterprise architecture can organically evolve to meet customer needs. Technology leaders, including CTOs and development managers, can leverage Well-Architected reviews to gain a deeper understanding of technology portfolio risks. This approach enables the identification of common themes across teams, which can be addressed through mechanisms, training, or collaborative sessions where principal engineers share insights on specific areas with multiple teams.


Building a scalable reference architecture on AWS using Terraform and incorporating microservices in containers orchestrated with Kubernetes empowers you to harness the full potential of cloud computing while ensuring reliability, security, and cost-effectiveness. Terraform’s IAC capabilities make it easier to manage your infrastructure as code, facilitating collaboration and agility in your organization.

Remember that AWS offers a wide range of services beyond what we’ve covered here. To create a comprehensive reference architecture tailored to your specific needs, you can count on us to help you achieve it.We can help you to follow best practices and leverage the power of AWS, Terraform, microservices, containers, and Kubernetes, and together we  can create a resilient and scalable infrastructure that sets the foundation for successful cloud-based applications and services.

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