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6 architectural diagramming tools for cloud infrastructure

Communicating a vision for cloud computing requires meaningful diagrams of logical, physical, and every layer in between. Here are tools that will help make them.
Architecture drawing and tools

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Throughout our lives, we use diagrams to break down concepts to learn and communicate them to others. We diagram sentences, we learn about the body through diagrams, we create diagrams to illustrate the steps of a process or a game. These visual aids augment spoken and written instruction to help cement ideas in our minds. They are particularly useful in the world of IT architecture.

[ You might also be interested in reading 14 software architecture design patterns to know. ]

But when communication tools come to mind, an organization often jumps first to the trusty slide deck. Slide presentations can help convey the overall goal for evolving architectures one project at a time, all while managing the key stakeholders through the deck's glossy storytelling. But slides meet their limits when it comes to mapping the many logical structures that make up cloud infrastructure and its many network topologies, security zones, CI/CD pipelines, and service dependencies.

Detailed mappings like these are not just nice to have. It is a necessary to provide a broader context for understanding dependencies across complex systems and to help actualize a vision for evolving architectures. Diagrams that spare no detail can answer important questions about compatibility, interoperability, and other key "-ilities" that architects are trusted to think through.

In cases where every detail matters and you need a bigger canvas to express it, a more specialized architecture diagramming software comes in handy.

Here are six such tools to create and share your architecture diagrams, no matter the topic.

[ Learn how IT modernization can help alleviate technical debt. ]

Image interface with sample diagram and icon menu on left side (formerly is a free online architecture diagramming software. It is based on the open source project by the same name and made available under the Apache 2.0 license. provides users with a quick way to start diagramming software, hardware, or other types of IT infrastructure. It also has a wide collection of useful templates out of the box, including software, network, and business objects for everything from threat modeling for Security Architects to a full set of Kubernetes-specific shapes to show off your cloud infrastructure.

[ Learn how to build a flexible foundation for your organization. Download An architect's guide to multicloud infrastructure. ]

The "Click to connect and clone" option makes building out repetitive shapes a breeze, and the wide range of ways to import and export make for a great tool for quick drafts or deep design work. also offers the option to export as a URL, making an image publicly available in an instant.

Most impressively, can be saved as simple text files, making backups and sharing incredibly straightforward.

Portfolio Architecture Center

Architecture Examples project menu of icons and diagram elements

What would it look like to use, but with the logical and conceptual structure of cloud-native infrastructure architecture built-in? That's the question the Portfolio Architecture Center aims to answer. This collection of curated iconography offers pre-defined "stacks" for concepts like CI/CD pipelines, automated testing, name services, containerized applications, microservices, and much more.

The project is based on (, and is freely available online. The most convenient feature of this project is that the diagrams are available as text files you can upload and remix yourself. Check it out further by launching an editor or downloading templates for projects from the project README on GitLab.

[ A complimentary guide from Red Hat: The automation architect's handbook. ] 


Lucidcharts diagram example of Kubernetes deployment

While widely used for mind mapping and other non-technical architecture designs, Lucidchart has a number of technology-focused architecture diagram options available in its library. A quick search will find everything from database diagramming using UML notation to Kubernetes deployments like the one above with a pre-defined template using GCP cloud architecture.

Lucidchart provides a particularly smooth diagraming experience in a freemium model. Take a tour to see all the available options.


Gliffy interface showing multiple icons for functions and networks

Gliffy is another modern online solution for architecture diagrams that cater to software engineers. It has similar icons to choose from when compared to Lucidcharts or, but I was particularly appreciative of its sleek two-dimensional images. It may have one of the more complete libraries for cloud architects with icons for container orchestration systems and specific icons for Azure, GCP, and AWS architecture diagrams to map out your entire hybrid cloud architecture.

[ Do you know how to explain orchestration in plain English. ]


Visio interface including templates and computer hardware icons
Image by kasunrpkm

Considered the de facto standard for diagrams of all kinds, Microsoft Visio continues to be a popular choice for enterprise architects across all industries. It has both operating system-native installation options and a Visio for the web option, though it requires an account to launch.

Visio offers a set of open templates focused on process or UML diagrams here.

[ Check out Red Hat's Portfolio Architecture Center for a wide variety of reference architectures you can use. ]


Omnigraffle diagrams editor interface including icons and menu

Many Mac users would think me remiss if I didn't mention OmniGraffle. It provides an architecture diagramming software that looks and feels native to the operating systems and has taken design seriously since its release in 2001. Adoption may be limited, as it is a macOS-only purchase, but it is an architectural diagramming software well-loved by many.

Bonus: Kubernetes architecture icons for your slides

Kubernetes diagram of persistent storage in a service
A diagram of persistent storage in Kubernetes

No matter what you use for a tool, the Kubernetes project provides an unofficial set of icons to create diagrams of Kubernetes architectures like this example example. The icons are available in the Kubernetes community repository. Download them and use them everywhere Kubernetes architecture is designed.

[ Free cheat sheet: Kubernetes glossary. ]


Whether you are an architect of clouds, storage, or applications, images are the way by which you share your ideas and vision. These architectural diagrams of complex systems reflect multiple views of the complex reality of IT infrastructure. All of the tools listed here will give you a great way to start designing images that tell the story of system architecture.

In my experience, the best experience and price for diagram software comes from and its open source extensions. The Portfolio Architecture project, built on, offers a great selection of examples of complex systems users can diagram with relative ease.

Updated by editor in October 2022 to update information and links for the Portfolio Architecture project and remove other outdated links.

Topics:   Tools   Diagramming  
Author’s photo

Matthew Broberg

Matt has a background in storage architecture, virtualization, and adoption of DevOps practices through companies small and large. More about me

Navigate the shifting technology landscape. Read An architect's guide to multicloud infrastructure.


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