From manufacturing to transportation to retail, companies in virtually every industry are supporting their digital transformations by moving to a cloud-based infrastructure. The shift from on-premises software to cloud services has revolutionized the application development and deployment process, especially software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. But using the cloud is often not enough. You must use cloud-native applications to take advantage of the improved flexibility, availability, scalability, and overall performance they provide.
Cloud native architectures have become the standard for modern software development. But along with that popularity has come uncertainty. What exactly does it mean that an application is cloud native? The definitions of “cloud native” are as varied as the number of cloud native applications running today. But there are some basic, easy-to-understand principles that are valuable when building a cloud-native application.
The meaning of cloud native
Cloud native applications are software systems built with the dynamic, scalable and highly available properties of the cloud as guiding principles. The cloud-native application architecture is a response to the challenges software developers face when working with legacy approaches to software development. Cloud native applications specific:
- Use dynamic resource allocation in the cloud. This means that the footprint of the application will vary in size depending on the demands currently placed on it, and the resources consumed will be adapted to the resources needed at that time.
- Using service or microservice architectures. By using microservices, the size and complexity of applications can be scaled easily and in manageable ways.
- are containerized. By using containers, services can be quickly and easily deployed in different environments without complicated dependency management concerns.
- Orchestrate services with Kubernetes. Kubernetes, the de-facto standard for orchestrating and managing containers, launches containers, establishes communication between containers, checks for errors, restarts containers when necessary, and resizes the application as required for current usage scenarios. Kubernetes works closely with the cloud to create dynamic-sized applications and services.
- Store and manage data in cloud-managed databases and other data services. Cloud-optimized data services that automatically scale to meet application needs and make massive amounts of data readily available are standard requirements for cloud-native applications.
- Use modern development and editing workflows. This includes devops, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), Git source code management, and similar processes and procedures.
In addition, many, but not all, cloud-native applications are designed to be cloud-agnostic, or at least to reasonably migrate to new cloud providers. In some cases, cloud native applications operate in hybrid cloud or multicloud environments.
Why use cloud native architectures?
Cloud-native application development and operational processes and procedures create modern, best-of-breed applications because they emphasize critical aspects of the modern application experience:
Automation. A lot of 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 retiring hardware. Automating these tasks saves organizations a lot of time and money, providing a huge benefit for companies of all sizes. When you build applications using cloud-native principles, the process of automating your development and operations environments comes naturally.
Maneuverability. Agility is the ability to quickly recognize and respond to changes. This is a crucial skill in the modern business landscape. Organizations that build and operate cloud-native applications are more agile, responding faster and more effectively to changing business and technology conditions. Much of this stems from the dynamic nature of cloud-native architectures.
scalability. As your business grows, so do your application’s resource requirements. Peak usage, such as on your busiest days, can wreak havoc on traditional application infrastructures. A highly dynamic cloud infrastructure enables applications to scale in a more automated and manageable way. But this cloud dynamic doesn’t come for free. Your application must be built in such a way that dynamic resource allocation can be used correctly. Cloud-native applications are designed for these dynamic resources.
Availability. Availability is a measure of the percentage of time that your application is available for customer use, rather than being unavailable due to an application outage, maintenance, or upgrade procedures. Low availability usually becomes a serious problem for customer satisfaction. Maintaining high availability is critical to customer satisfaction and thus to business growth.
Automatic Resilience. When application errors and malfunctions occur, you should be able to solve the problems and quickly return to normal operation. The more automated the recovery, the sooner your application can return to normal operation and the less disruptive the problem will be to your staff, your customers, and your business as a whole. Automated recovery ensures you maintain a high level of service for your customers.
Although you cannot predict when errors will occur, you can prepare your application accordingly. By leveraging fault-tolerant designs and failover mechanisms in both your application and application infrastructure, you can significantly improve your resiliency and thus your availability. Cloud-native architectures drive and leverage automatic resiliency in modern applications.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). CI/CD is a software delivery process that automates build, testing, and deployment, enabling faster and more reliable transitions from development systems to live production systems. In addition, a good CI/CD deployment strategy ensures application changes are implemented without application downtime. This increases business agility, software quality and customer responsiveness.
Without a CI/CD, some companies can wait weeks or even months between implementations of new software versions. With a high-performance CI/CD system, cloud-native applications can be deployed daily, hourly, or even faster. Companies like Amazon are known to make changes to their shopping application at the rate of hundreds or thousands of updates per hour (by one measure, Amazon deploys software every 1.6 seconds). This is only possible when using cloud-native applications and having robust, automated CI/CD processes that do not require the application to be pulled down to complete the deployment.
There are many benefits to migrating to a cloud-native architecture. A cloud-native application uses automation, flexibility, scalability and automatic resiliency. It can also help you achieve continuous delivery and sustainability. These benefits can be applied to any type of business. You can use cloud-native principles and techniques to improve your software and make your business more efficient. Most importantly, cloud-native architecture can improve your agility, helping your business stay competitive in our rapidly changing economy.
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