Companies in almost every industry, from manufacturing to transportation to retail, are supporting their digital transformation by migrating to cloud-based infrastructure. The shift from on-premises software to cloud services is a revolutionary change for application development and deployment, especially software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications
But using the cloud alone is not enough. You need to leverage cloud-native applications to benefit from the improved agility, availability, scalability, and overall performance they provide.
Cloud native architecture has become the standard for modern software development. But with that popularity comes uncertainty. What does it really mean to be a cloud-native application? The definition of "cloud native" is as varied as the number of cloud-native applications running today. However, there are some standard, well-understood principles that are valuable when building cloud-native applications.
Cloud native meaning
Cloud-native applications are software systems built with the dynamic, scalable, and highly available attributes of the cloud as the guiding principles. The cloud native application architecture is a response to the challenges that software developers face when using traditional software development methods. Cloud native applications specify the following requirements:
Dynamic resource allocation using the cloud
This means that the footprint of an application will vary depending on the current demand on it, and the resources consumed will be adjusted to match the resources needed at the current point in time.
Leverage a service or microservice architecture
Using microservices makes it easy to scale the size and complexity of your application in a manageable manner.
Using containers allows services to be quickly and easily deployed in different environments without having to worry about complex dependency management issues.
Orchestrate services using Kubernetes
Kubernetes is the de facto standard for container orchestration and management, starting containers, setting up communication between containers, monitoring failures, restarting containers as needed, and resizing applications to the needs of the current use case. Kubernetes works closely with the cloud to create dynamically sized applications and services.
Store and manage data in databases and other data services managed in the cloud
Cloud optimized data services automatically scale to meet application needs and make large amounts of data readily available, which is a standard requirement for cloud-native applications.
Use modern development and operations workflows
This includes DevOps, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), Git source management, and similar processes and programs.
In addition, many cloud-native applications are designed to be cloud-independent, or at least make sense to migrate to a new cloud provider. In some cases, cloud-native applications work in hybrid or multi-cloud environments.
Why use a cloud native architecture?
Cloud-native application development and operations processes create modern, best-in-class applications because they emphasize key aspects of the modern application experience:
Many IT resources can be wasted on manual and repetitive tasks. This includes tasks such as deployment management, running test suites, and adding, modifying, upgrading, and deactivating hardware. Automating these tasks can save organizations a lot of time and money and bring great benefits to the enterprise. When you build applications using cloud native principles, the process of automating the development and operations environment comes naturally.
Agility is the ability to quickly recognize and respond to change. This is a critical skill in the modern business environment. Organizations that build and run cloud-native applications operate more flexibly and respond faster and more effectively to changing business and technology conditions. Much of this comes from the dynamic nature of cloud native architecture.
As the business grows, so do the resource requirements of the application. Usage spikes, such as those that occur during your busiest days, can wreak havoc on traditional application infrastructures. A highly dynamic cloud infrastructure allows applications to scale in a more automated and manageable manner. But this cloud dynamism doesn't come for free. Your application must be built to allow for proper utilization of dynamic resource allocation. Cloud-native applications are designed for this dynamic resource.
Availability is a measure of the percentage of time your application is available to customers, not the percentage of time it is unavailable due to application outages, maintenance, or upgrade processes. Low availability often becomes a serious customer satisfaction problem. Maintaining high availability is critical to customer satisfaction and business growth.
When an application failure occurs, you must be able to resolve the problem and get back up and running quickly. The more automated the recovery, the faster your application can return to normal operations, and the less disruptive the problem will be to your employees, customers, and business as a whole. Automatic recovery helps ensure that you maintain a high level of service for your customers.
While you can't predict when failures will occur, you can prepare applications for them. By using fault-tolerant design and failover mechanisms in your applications and application infrastructure, you can significantly improve resilience and thus availability. Cloud-native architecture encourages and leverages automatic resilience in modern applications.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD)
CI/CD is a software delivery process that automates build, testing, and deployment, allowing faster and more reliable migration of software from development systems to real-time production systems.
In addition, a good CI/CD deployment policy will deploy changes to the application without bringing it down. This improves business agility, software quality, and customer responsiveness.
Without CI/CD, some companies may wait weeks or even months between deploying new software versions. With high-quality CI/CD systems, cloud-native applications can be deployed daily, hourly, or even faster. Companies such as Amazon have been known to make changes to their retail apps at a rate of hundreds or thousands of updates per hour (by one measure, Amazon deploys software every 1.6 seconds).
This is only possible if you use a cloud-native application with a reliable, automated CI/CD process and do not need to close the application to complete the deployment.
There are many benefits to migrating to a cloud-native architecture. Cloud-native applications leverage automation, agility, scalability, and automatic resilience. It also helps you achieve continuous delivery and persistence. These benefits can be applied to any type of business.
You can use cloud native principles and techniques to improve your software and increase your business efficiency. Most importantly, cloud-native architecture can improve your agility and help your enterprise stay competitive in our rapidly evolving economy.