5 Things to Know Before Adopting Cloud Native
This is the first of a four-part series.
Cloud native adoption isn’t something that can be done with a lift-and-shift migration. There’s much to learn and consider before taking the leap to ensure the cloud native environment can help with business and technical needs. For those who are early in their modernization journeys, this can mean learning the various cloud native terms, benefits, pitfalls and about how cloud native observability is essential to success.
To help, we’ve created a four-part primer around “getting started with cloud native.” These articles are designed to educate and help outline the what and why of cloud native architecture.
This first article covers the basic elements of cloud native, its differences from legacy architectures and its connection to the DevOps methodology.
A Look at Cloud Native and Its Necessity for Business Today
A reliable cloud native environment is essential for the survival of enterprises today. Moving to a modern microservices and container-based architecture promises speed, efficiency, availability and the ability to innovate faster — key advantages enterprises need to compete in a world where a new generation of born-in-the-cloud companies are luring away customers hungry for new features, fast transactions and always-on service.
Add in economic uncertainty and the competitive stakes for enterprises soar: A simple search delay on an online retailer’s site could lose a loyal customer and coveted revenue to a more innovative and reliable competitor.
With encroaching competition from nimble organizations, an uncertain global economy and savvy, demanding customers, it’s more important than ever to transition to a modern, cloud native technology stack and best practices that can deliver:
- A highly available and more reliable service. Cloud native best practices enable you to build a more resilient product and service.
- More flexibility and interoperability. Cloud native environments are not only more portable, but they also provide the ability to scale up and down dynamically and on demand.
- Speed and more efficiency. Engineers can iterate faster to handle increased customer expectations.
But buyer beware, cloud native is challenging. The benefits of adopting cloud native technologies are impossible to ignore and Gartner predicts that 90% of companies will be cloud native by 2027. But there are also challenges that come with the shift from a traditional to a modern environment: If the transition to cloud native lacks proper planning and tools, enterprises risk unprecedented data volume, increased costs, downtime, reduced engineering productivity, and, yes, customer dissatisfaction.
What Is Cloud Native?
The challenge most organizations face is how to have the flexibility to rapidly develop and deploy new applications to meet fast-changing business requirements. Increasingly, cloud native is the architecture of choice to build and deploy new applications. A cloud native approach offers benefits to both the business and developers.
In contrast to monolithic application development, cloud native applications or services are loosely coupled with explicitly described dependencies. As a result:
- Applications and processes run in software containers as isolated units.
- Independent services and resources are managed by central orchestration processes to improve resource usage and reduce maintenance costs.
- Businesses get a highly dynamic system that is composed of independent processes that work together to provide business value.
Fundamentally, a cloud native architecture makes use of microservices and containers that leverage public or private cloud platforms as the preferred deployment infrastructure.
- Microservices provide the loosely coupled application architecture, which enables deployment in highly distributed patterns. Additionally, microservices support a growing ecosystem of solutions that can complement or extend a cloud platform.
- Containers are important because developing, deploying and maintaining applications requires a lot of ongoing work. Containers offer a way for processes and applications to be bundled and run. They are portable and easy to scale. They can be used throughout an application’s life cycle, from development to test to production. They also allow large applications to be broken into smaller components and presented to other applications as microservices.
- Kubernetes (also called K8s) is the most popular open source platform used to orchestrate containers. Once engineers configure their desired infrastructure state, Kubernetes then uses automation to sync said state to its platform. Organizations can run Kubernetes with containers on bare metal, virtual machines, public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.
The Cloud Native and DevOps Connection
Cloud native is the intersection of two kinds of changes. One is a software and technical architecture around microservices and containers, and the other is an organizational change known as DevOps. DevOps is a practice that breaks down the silos between development teams and central IT operations teams where the engineers who write the software are also responsible for operating it. This is critical in a cloud native era, as distributed systems are so complex the operations must be run by the teams who built them.
With cloud native and DevOps, small teams work on discrete projects, which can easily be rolled up into the composite app. They can work faster without all of the hassles of operating as part of a larger team. Amazon Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos felt that this small team approach was such a benefit he popularized the concept of the two-pizza team, which is the number of people that can be fed by two pizzas. As the theory goes, the smaller the team, the better the collaboration between members. And such collaboration is critical because software releases are done at a much faster pace than ever before.
Together, cloud native and DevOps allow organizations to rapidly create and frequently update applications to meet ever-changing business opportunities. They help cater to stakeholders and a user base that expects (and demands) apps to be high availability, responsive and incorporate the newest technologies as they emerge.
The Monolithic Architecture Had Its Time and Place
We just discussed how a microservices architecture is a structured manner for deploying a collection of distributed yet interdependent services in an organization. They are game-changing compared to some past application development methodologies, allowing development teams to work independently and at a cloud native scale.
In comparison, with a monolithic architecture, all elements of an application are tightly integrated. A simple change to one, say, the need to support a new frontend, requires making that change and then recompiling the entire application. There are typically three advantages to this architecture:
- Simple to develop: Many development tools support monolithic application creation.
- Simple to deploy: Deploy a single file or directory to your runtime.
- Simple to scale: Scaling the application is easily done by running multiple copies behind some sort of load balancer.
The Monolithic Model
The monolithic model is more traditional and certainly has some pros, but it will slow down enterprises needing to scale and compete in a world where the name of the game is fast, reliable, innovative application development. Here are some of the main issues organizations have when using a monolithic model:
- Scalability – Individual components aren’t easily scalable.
- Flexibility – A monolith is constrained by the technologies already used in the system and is often not portable to new environments (across clouds).
- Reliability – Module errors can affect an application’s availability. Module errors can affect an application’s availability.
- Deployment – The entire monolith needs to be redeployed when there are changes.
- Development speed – Development is more complex and slower when a large, monolithic application is involved.
A Final Word about Cloud Native
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that speed and agility are the foundation of success for digitally transformed organizations. Organizations that can meet the rapidly evolving demands of their lines of business, customers and internal users will be able to successfully navigate tough times.
Using a cloud native architecture helps ensure new applications can be created quickly and existing applications can be promptly updated to incorporate new technologies or as requirements change over time.
In the next installment, we’ll be discussing the benefits of cloud native architecture and how it can empower modern business.