Introduction to Cloud Native
This article was written by Savan Kharod. Scroll down for the author’s bio and photo.
User experience is the pinnacle of cloud technology. With cloud data centers handling 94 percent of all workloads, cloud optimization is vital. Users need fast, agile, scalable, and stable solutions over the long term. But how do you build these solutions? This is where cloud-native technology comes in.
Cloud native computing provides the foundation for building, designing, running, and managing applications in the cloud. It enables you to efficiently build, deploy, and scale your applications in a modern, dynamic, and multicloud environment.
In this article, you’ll learn about cloud-native computing and why it matters.
What is cloud-native technology?
Cloud-native technology helps build and run scalable applications to simplify cloud-based workloads, enable maximum efficiency, and enhance user experience. CI/CD-enabled DevOps processes, microservices architecture-based coding, and containerized hosting are just a few examples of cloud-native technologies.
According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), you should opt for cloud native because it makes a loosely coupled system resilient, manageable, and observable. Additionally, cloud-native techniques, combined with the right automation, allow engineers to simplify any changes without severely impacting the underlying architecture.
The pillars of cloud-native computing
Cloud native computing leverages cloud services, like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to enable dynamic and agile application development while taking a modular approach to building, running, and updating software across a range of cloud-based services.
In the following sections, you’ll look at the six main pillars of cloud-native computing and learn how to plan and build cloud-native applications.
The hardware and software components, such as storage, servers, APIs, networking, virtualization software, and orchestration tools, form the foundation of a cloud computing ecosystem.
Cloud-native applications leverage the cloud service model and use platform as a service (PaaS) for compute infrastructure and managed services. They treat this infrastructure as disposable because it can be deployed in minutes and resized, scaled, or destroyed through automation as needed.
If you’re a developer, you may have heard of the Pets vs. Cattle concept. Cloud-native systems use the cattle concept. They keep running as infrastructure scales in or out, regardless of the machines they’re running on.
Modern design comprises the principles and practices developers follow to create modern cloud environments. How well you design your cloud native applications and what their architecture looks like often becomes the starting point when creating apps for modern cloud environments.
In this case, it’s advisable to follow the Twelve-Factor App methodology. The Twelve-Factor App methodology is a widely accepted approach, with principles and best practices for building cloud-based applications.
Microservices architecture is a software architecture pattern that breaks down monolithic applications into a distributed set of small, independent services that can interact with each other to build a cloud native application.
Cloud-native systems use microservices to build modern applications because they’re independent services that can be deployed automatically. Another reason for adopting microservices over a monolithic architecture is that each microservice can perform a specific business function within the application.
Containers package application code, its dependencies, and runtime into a binary container image. Containers are a great enabler for cloud-native software. In fact, the CNCF considers microservices containerization the first step in the cloud-native trail map.
Containerization is the process of packaging the code, its dependencies, and the runtime into a binary file called a container image. Images are stored in a container registry, which acts as an image repository or library. A registry can reside on your growth machine, data center, or public cloud.
With containers, you unify the microservice and its dependencies into a single package and isolate it from the underlying infrastructure. Containers provide portability and guarantee consistency across environments — one of the reasons why cloud-native software implies containers.
Backing services are the additional resources and services that support cloud-native systems. Cloud native ecosystems require support services for storage, security, analytics, streaming, messaging, distribution, and so on.
Cloud-native applications rely heavily on backing services because they simplify moving applications from one stage to another. For example, suppose you’re moving a microservice from QA to a staging environment. In that case, you simply need to update the microservice configuration to point to the backing services in the staging and push the settings into your container through an environment variable.
Automation enables scaling, repairing, and deploying cloud-native architecture without human intervention. Infrastructure automation is easier in the cloud because repetitive actions can be coded into a script triggered in response to defined conditions.
You can use many infrastructure as code (IaC) tools, like Azure Resource Manager, Terraform, and the Azure CLI, to annotate the required cloud infrastructure.
Features of cloud native applications
Cloud native applications are more responsive and agile because they’re built for a rapidly changing multicloud environment. Following are some of their key features:
Cloud native architecture uses and disposes of resources as needed. In other words, it’s as good as IaC. IaC injects automation into resource handling and management, offering high scalability, elasticity, and availability. This also extends to cloud-native architectures.
As previously mentioned, cloud native development follows a bottom-up development approach, starting with the smallest unit of an application: the microservices. Making the code more modular makes it easier to test, debug, and update without affecting other components. Such construction indicates that cloud-native building blocks exist as finite, independent, and isolated elements.
Cloud native applications can support multiple devices and users without sacrificing performance, efficiency, or cost. Because the architecture is based on cloud technologies, a cloud-native system has all the features of a cloud setup and is highly scalable. Depending on the traffic requirements, you can effectively scale your application up or down. This high scalability ultimately improves your business’s velocity by allowing you to scale your storage and processing power without limitations.
Value-added cloud services
Depending on the use case, cloud native applications may also require support services, like storage and monitoring. These supporting services can be provided as a value-added service in the cloud, making it easier to expand an application’s scope to better align with business needs.
Polyglot programming is a language-agnostic development style that gives developers the freedom to make choices based on their comfort or preference. Polyglot clouds balance development needs and allow organizations to switch between cloud service providers for greater efficiency.
A small, dedicated team can easily build and deploy cloud native apps. Unlike the traditional technology-dependent architecture, you don’t need a separate frontend and backend team.
Pros and cons of going cloud native
Cloud native development not only makes a developer’s job easier but also helps in creating user-friendly applications. Some advantages of a native shift to the cloud include the following:
Cloud native applications can be developed independently of each other. This customization simplifies managing and deploying applications.
Cloud native applications are programming language independent, making them portable and interoperable across multiple environments.
Continuous improvement and continuous delivery (CI/CD) govern cloud-native development and make the resulting applications highly upgradeable.
Cloud native solutions inherit the scalability, elasticity, and flexibility of cloud technologies.
Cloud native ecosystems can be made into a multi-tenant model by virtualizing development platforms and sharing resources. Multi-tenancy facilitates efficient use of resources and minimizes underutilization or waste typically associated with a single-tenant model.
Cloud native architecture’s multi-tenancy and distributed nature ensure that an application is always available. During a catastrophic outage, the traffic can be redirected through available resources to mitigate downtime.
Cloud native environment resiliency and reliability in response to security threats and breaches, aside from outages and technical glitches, are more commendable.
Cloud native applications can scale across multiple servers, consume less storage space, and be more easily cached for improved performance because they’re stateless entities.
Cloud native infrastructure offers automation in many forms, such as infrastructure or DevOps methodology that increases productivity and optimizes resource utilization.
Cloud native applications are much cheaper because businesses only pay for the services they need.
Because cloud native architecture is derived from cloud technology, it also inherits some of its limitations, including the following:
Going from the lift-and-shift approach to migrating your apps to the cloud doesn’t work for cloud native development. Rather, an application needs to be redesigned or a native application needs to be created for it to work. Moving data to the cloud without redesigning the app doesn’t help in this case.
Splitting a monolithic application into smaller, self-sustaining microservices can be complex because you need to deploy, monitor, and maintain potentially hundreds of microservices.
Adopting cloud native may appeal to many businesses, but it may not be for everyone. Organizations need to pay special attention to their specific business needs to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of a cloud native architecture. For instance, if you run your application on monolithic architecture and focus on improving your application’s response time, you should fix and improve your existing architecture rather than moving the entire architecture to the cloud.
Having a decentralized nature in a cloud native ecosystem can contribute to an application’s operational complexities (like misconfiguration and security issues).
Benefits of cloud native development
So why should you consider cloud native development? Following are a few of the ways it can benefit your organization:
Faster time to market
About 70 percent of IT professionals, developers, and development managers believe cloud native development reduces time to market. It enables companies to release products (and subsequent updates) quickly and effectively to maintain a competitive advantage.
Reduce vendor lock-in
As the world increasingly relies on cloud technologies, service providers are notorious for increasing costs or adding fine print that hurts profitability. However, cloud native architectures let organizations choose and switch providers if they wish to do so.
Eighty percent of businesses agree that maintaining infrastructure can be quite a drain on company budgets. However, only 70 percent of the data center is used. Cloud native computing helps organizations make optimal use of resources without wasteful spending.
Greater business resilience
Cloud native solutions are more responsive to infrastructure outages because container orchestrators step in to respond to problems automatically. By minimizing downtime, organizations can maintain a high resilience to unprecedented disruptions. Of course, if you have a problem with your application code, containers can’t make up for that.
Rich customer experience
Companies aren’t the only beneficiaries of the cloud native ecosystem. The automatic release of updates, security fixes, and enhancements improves the customer experience, which in turn increases customer loyalty.
Room for growth
With cloud native development, companies find it easier to work with or integrate products and services from other companies. Such mutually beneficial partnerships lead to long-term, sustainable growth.
To make life easier for you and users, you need to keep up with technological advances and adapt to ongoing trends.
Cloud native development is an appropriate and strategic medium to leverage such growth-oriented development. Because migrating to the cloud or building in the cloud can be an ambitious cultural shift, you need a development team to guide you through the process.
When it comes to cloud native development, access to the right APIs and tool sets for real-time monitoring can make all the difference, and InfluxDB can help. InfluxDB is a platform for building and running time series applications. It monitors metrics and events to get real-time visibility into your application.
About the author
Savan Kharod is a growth marketer (and a tech enthusiast) helping businesses drive success using Content Marketing & SEO. He has worked with some well-known brands in CX and Project Management Space. Reach out to him on LinkedIn for a free discovery call.