Cloud Native: What is it?
For quite a while now, cloud native has been one of the hottest topics in software development. Some developers just call it hype that will lose traction and disappear after some time. For others, it’s the future of software development. Whatever tomorrow brings, cloud native is currently one of the biggest trends in the software industry. Additionally, it has already changed the way we think about developing, deploying, and operating software products.
What is Cloud Native?
Cloud native is a modern approach to building and running software applications that exploit the flexibility, scalability, and resilience of cloud computing. Cloud native encompasses the various tools and techniques used by software developers today to build applications for the public cloud, as opposed to traditional architectures suited to an on-premises data center.
The cloud native approach to building and running software was pioneered by a group of companies commonly referred to as “born in the cloud” — such as streaming giants Netflix and Spotify, ride-hailing company Uber, and accommodation booking platform Airbnb. The cloud native approach has since been adopted by other companies looking for similar digital agility and disruptive competitive advantage.
Cloud native app development typically includes marrying microservices, cloud platforms, containers, Kubernetes, immutable infrastructure, declarative APIs, and continuous delivery technology with techniques like DevOps and agile methodology.
Why do businesses use it?
The traditional application development cycle (e.g., the waterfall model) often creates delays throughout the process. But the cloud environment has empowered application developers to work synergistically, from analysis to implementation and testing to maintenance.
For businesses and developers, the advantage is not only faster development time but a significant reduction in costs. Provisioning a staging environment in the cloud is simple to set up and, compared to on-premises environments, inexpensive. The cloud environment can provide a suite of automated tools to speed up timely debugging or code integrity resolution, while also allowing simultaneous testing on multiple devices. Updates and ongoing maintenance are deployed in the background.
How is cloud native used?
You don’t have to look very far for several examples of modern cloud native applications. Even laptop computers are now offered as little more than a terminal and an Internet connection, making file storage and applications almost completely virtual.
Browser-based email and productivity applications are great examples of cloud native apps. More and more users have migrated away from proprietary desktop apps for word processing or spreadsheets; even well-known software packages are now accessed entirely from a browser.
For developers and IT professionals, migration has been even more beneficial. Modern cloud architecture opens up their capabilities considerably, letting many of the processes be offloaded to the cloud. AI-assisted analytics and tools free up local resources and make maintenance much easier.
Whether it’s finishing up a spreadsheet, checking email, developing and testing applications (or even taking a break and gaming online), cloud native applications are empowering users and businesses in new ways every day.
What are the benefits of cloud native?
Legacy applications are stored on a user’s hard drive, but in the past ten years, leaps in mobile, computing, and cloud technologies have rapidly evolved to the point that it’s easier for both the developers and the users to migrate to cloud native applications. From little more than a web browser, the user’s hardware effectively becomes an input/output device and allows for many CPU-intensive processes to happen in the cloud. Some cloud applications do not even necessarily require an always-on Internet connection.
It’s estimated that 90% of application development is already happening in the cloud. Given the benefits of lower cost, faster development and deployment, and the suite of online tools, cloud application environments aren’t the future—they’re already here.
The cloud native movement has brought new challenges for developers, ops teams, and organizations as a whole. Cloud native challenges include managing multiple versions of software across different cloud providers, scaling applications up and down quickly, and making sure all components work together seamlessly.
- Managing complexity: as more services and components are added to the mix
- Dealing with ephemeral infrastructure: which can make debugging and troubleshooting difficult
- Ensuring efficient use of resources: the pay-as-you-go model of the cloud can quickly get expensive
The key to cloud native development is to use tools like Kubernetes, Docker, and Terraform to automate deployment, configuration management, and infrastructure provisioning. Organizations need to be aware of these challenges and have the necessary strategies and solutions in place to address them as they arise.
By allowing organizations to take full advantage of distributed, service-based application hosting environments, cloud native leads to better outcomes for businesses, developers, and users alike. Not every application needs to be cloud native, but in general, cloud native is the way to go when building new applications or overhauling legacy apps.