5 Things You Need to Know to Draw Better AWS Diagrams


Pascal Bonheur


7 min

Creating nice AWS (Amazon Web Services) diagrams is quite a complex task. Sure you can create small diagrams with a few basic components like an EC2 Instance, a few S3 Buckets and a VPC. However, when it comes to creating a diagram of your complete AWS account, it becomes more complex. Multiple factors can affect the complexity of your AWS diagrams.

  • Who is going to use the diagram?
    • A network specialist will probably be interested in seeing VPC and ACL. A Storage specialist will be more interested in S3 Buckets
  • How do you display many components?
    • You want to minimize the number of crossing arrows and optimize the position of the shapes
  • Does your diagram match what is truly deployed in your AWS Account?
    • Your AWS cloud architecture is continually changing

Here are a few hints to draw wonderful AWS diagrams and impress your boss!

1. Keep Dependent AWS Resources Close to Each Other

This tip is quite obvious and most of the time it is a natural way of creating diagrams. For example, you will place the Elastic Load Balancer near the EC2 instance which is also needed for the S3 storage bucket. Typically, you also create layered diagrams. One layer containing all the Elastic Load Balancers and a separate layer for your Networking components like VPC and route 53.

The diagram above is easy to read because it respects the following best practices.

    • Layered AWS diagrams
      1. The first layer has the Elastic Load Balancers because the load balancer is the first component hit by user requests
      2. The networking components in the diagram with the VPC and Network Interfaces
      3. You draw the Compute Instances
      4. On the last layer, the storage is displayed
    • Components that are related are grouped together.
      • As you can see, storages related to the Compute instance are kept close to each other. It decreases the number of crossing arrows as illustrated below

2. Add Data to the Shapes to Make your Diagrams More Relevant

Having a nice AWS architecture diagram gives you a good visualization of what you have in your Accounts and where the dependencies are. You will also avoid having to jump to the documentation as soon as you want to see more details. That is why you should leverage data when possible.

Most of the well-known diagramming tools will give you the option to add data to your shape. Here is an example of screenshots of Draw.io and Visio diagrams that show how to add data.

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3. Create Multiple AWS Diagrams with Different Groupings

It is important to adapt your drawings to your audience. The best way to achieve this is to find different ways to group your shapes and play with the level of details you display. For example, if you draw a diagram for your Network specialist, you should probably include Networking details.

If you are an Application Specialist and you want to display your components (including some related to VPC), you should draw something like this.

4. Work with Powerful Diagram Tools

For ease, it is always better to work as “classic” AWS diagrams tool that are well known and that employees already use. Below are some advantages of using “classic” diagrams.

    • You do not need an extra knowledge as you already know the tool
    • Diagraming tools are really focused on diagrams and have plenty of powerful features like shapes data, layering, exporting and conditional formatting.
    • You don’t need extra license as people in your company already use those classic tools
    • The diagram that you generate are easily shareable as they are using well know diagrams standards

5. Keep Your AWS Diagrams up to Date

Since your AWS infrastructure is continually changing, keeping your diagrams up to date becomes a very difficult task. That is where a tool like Cloudockit comes into play: it will automatically generate your AWS diagrams.

Currently, Cloudockit can only generate new diagrams, however, we are currently working on giving you the option to update your existing diagrams. This means you will be able to create a diagram with Cloudockit, adapt it the way you want and add extra shapes as needed. Then, we will update the diagram with new components and new detected links.

AWS Stencils

You need to use consistent and up-to-date stencils to draw diagrams not only for AWS but also for your other environments like Hyper-V, VMware. Consistent diagrams are also important for other cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. For that reason, we have chosen to make our Cloudockit stencil free for download. We hope this will help you draw 2D and 3D diagrams that make sense across all your IT Systems.

If you want to make sure your diagrams are well understood by anyone working in the AWS playfield, ensure that you are using the real AWS stencils, not a stencil that you have created and you think is nicer than AWS official ones. AWS has recently released a new set of icons that you can download it here: AWS Diagrams Tool

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