The cloud-native technologies driven by containers and Kubernetes continue to grow significantly. Ever since the advent of the cloud-native concept, these new methodologies have been empowering organizations, both big and small, to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.
2020 witnessed the rise of multi-cloud driven Kubernetes followed by large M&A deals in the space, and with 92% of organizations worldwide already deploying at least one cloud-based service, the future of software development definitely lies within native cloud technologies.
What is Native Cloud?
The concept of native cloud technologies goes beyond the mere running of existing apps on a chosen cloud provider, as it encompasses multi-faceted aspects of software development, including design, implementation, deployment, and app operation. The native cloud approach tackles the processes of building and running applications in such a way that all the benefits of the cloud computing model are reaped in an optimal manner.
This scalable computing model deploys open-source software stacks to make the software development environment more streamlined, flexible, functional, and cost-effective by using the following:
- Containerization - a system in which each segment (including processes, applications, etc) is packaged in its own dedicated container for increased transparency, improved reproducibility, minimized downtime, and better resource isolation.
- Dynamic Orchestration - involves active management of containers so each is optimized for improved resource utilization.
- Microservices - the concept whereby applications are segmented into separate sub-services for increased app maintainability and overall agility.
What are Containers?
Containers are used for operating system virtualization, wherein a single container is typically deployed to run software processes, microservices, or larger applications. Containers encompass all the libraries, necessary executables, binary code, servers, and configuration files, with the purpose to have a decentralized executable package. App developers use them to run virtualized systems and isolate the app from its environment.
The fact that the container is highly portable, and the application itself independent of its environment, enables a plethora of benefits, especially as you can run the same container on your development, production, and test system. Horizontal scaling is another huge advantage as it allows you to start/stop and add/remove multiple instances depending on the current user demand.
Why Enterprises Should Adopt Native Cloud Technologies
Large companies can benefit greatly by using cloud-native apps and technologies. Apps that are developed and deployed within fast-paced environments offer high scalability, agility, hardware decoupling, improved resilience, as well as increased portability.
Enterprises that utilize cloud-native app development are able to worry less about the cost optimization of their IT processes and infrastructures, and therefore focus more on tangible development procedures and business growth. The current business landscape is quite competitive and oversaturated, so being capable of rapidly building and delivering quality applications in accordance with customer needs enables companies to achieve long-term success within their target market.
Enabled Resilience and Flexibility
Unlike legacy on-prem architectures, where failures can cause massive downtimes, cloud-native infrastructures mitigate the risk of hiccups should a certain component of your systems fail. Native cloud technologies are designed to prevent your services from suffering, which enables building highly resilient cloud architectures capable of staying online and functional regardless of potential infrastructure-based issues.
Greater flexibility is achieved through the possibility of using multiple cloud environments. Enterprises are able to design apps that can run smoothly on any cloud platform, public and private alike, without having to be modified. This allows for vendor lock-in mitigation, which means that app development teams have an opportunity to run their services and apps across various platforms and choose those that make the most sense from the business standpoint.
Optimize Operations and Align Goals with Business Needs
By deploying native cloud technologies, coupled with the automation of their IT operations, large companies have the opportunity to achieve highly agile and lean workflows and therefore focus more on business-oriented tasks and priorities. Operations are more efficient, as the risk of human error-induced failures is eliminated, leaving more time, room, and resources for staff to remove the focus from manual admin tasks and adjust their workflow according to market demands and business-focused needs. As live patching and upgrading are automated across all stack levels, potential downtime is removed from the equation and there’s no need for ops experts whose expertise is not exactly budget-friendly.
Building Cloud-Native Apps vs. Building Monolithic Apps
Building monolithic apps using legacy systems is a pretty straightforward app development cycle:
build → test → deploy → troubleshoot → scale
However, this approach involves numerous challenges that tend to emerge later on when the app continues to evolve. With each new iteration in this legacy environment, the development process tends to enter what is called the “fear cycle” where the app becomes overwhelmingly complex and each change brings unnecessary (and often costly) side effects. The entire process starts involving tricky, time- and resource-consuming implementations. Crashes induced by a single unstable component are often inevitable and architectural erosion ensues.
The cloud-native approach is a perfect remedy for these rigid environments, which is why companies are adopting this much more pragmatic methodology en masse, allowing the application to be broken down across numerous isolated microservices. Each microservice is a stand-alone component that encapsulates its own code, data, and dependencies, as it is deployed within a separate software container managed by a container orchestrator.
(Image Source: Microsoft)
There are no large relational databases because each service operates within its own type-flexible datastore (type varies based on the data type a particular service needs). In the image above, you can see that certain services depend on NoSQL databases, some depend on a relational database, and one stores its state in a distributed cache. The traffic goes through an API Gateway service that directs it to the core back-end services. This environment enables each microservice to be deployed, upgraded, scaled and restarted without affecting other services in the same application, allowing for an automated system where you can make frequent updates to live applications without impacting users.
When it comes to security threats, cloud-native architectures offer new, reliable, and transformative ways to minimize cyber risks that enterprises often face. This is achieved through the following three principles:
- Faster repairment of vulnerable software (you can perform it as soon as updates are available)
- More frequent server and app repaving from a known-good state
- Easier and more frequent rotation of user credentials
These native cloud architecture principles and features enable you to leverage all the advantages in terms of scalability, availability, and resiliency.
Quick Tips for Adopting Cloud-Native Applications
To Buy or to Build a Platform?
Open-source automation and container-based architectures allow teams to create their own platforms, but this DIY environment tends to hinder the actual app development process, as it entails tasks like deployment, component selection, integration, continuing maintenance, etc. Make sure you choose the optimal solution according to your unique needs, workloads, workflows, and business goals.
Decide Which Workloads Should Go Cloud-Native
Despite all the advantages of these modern systems, converting all your applications to native cloud technologies is often a suboptimal solution. Be sure that your IT specialists and business professionals work together on a strategy that will optimize the overall workflow by deciding which projects and workloads should have priority status. The best way to do this for each application is to determine the:
- technical feasibility
- strategic importance
We suggest enterprises start with smaller, low-risk apps that are not frequently synced, are not highly distributed, and don’t use heavy loads of user data. Be sure to take into account all the dependencies and services that a given app contains prior to making the move, as certain app components may depend on outbound factors like databases and/or email service platforms. It is also recommended to check if all app components are able to operate on both cloud-native and legacy technologies. This way you can mitigate potential breakdowns and hiccups.
Embrace Collaboration and Adopt the Cloud-Native Mindset Across All Teams
Going cloud-native successfully should involve collaboration across all your teams, from developers and DevOps to NetOps and SecOps teams, and they should all be synced and on the same page during all the stages of the process. Streamlined collaboration and open communication across all the necessary departments are prerequisites to an enterprise’s effective adoption of native cloud technologies. Rarely can a company do this with just a developer and the DevOps team, especially if you want a secure and high-performing cloud-native app?
Native Cloud Trends to Watch in 2021/2022
More Clarity & Standardization is Expected with the Rise in M&A
As the number of projects and tech innovations based on cloud-native concepts rises, so does the need for more clarity and standardization. Large tech enterprises are already on the lookout for these solutions and are ready to re-equip product roadmaps in order to stay ahead of the curve or just keep up.
Management Over Developers
As cloud-native adoption is much more than a mere “lift and shift” practice and doesn’t just involve purely dev-related skill sets, it is predicted that management will have a much bigger role in adopting cloud-native infrastructures and app development processes than previously thought - even in terms of actual code writing and leveraging all the advantages of cloud-native architectures and methodologies.
Enterprises Will Continue to be Divided Between Automation and Configuration
Although we are currently witnessing the emergence of numerous new concepts, frameworks, and architectures based on cloud-native services with a goal to minimize developers’ burdens in terms of scaling, configuring, and maintaining the systems themselves, enterprises are still torn between automation and leaving certain levels of control and maintenance to devs.