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What is Cloud Native? Application architecture

What is Cloud Native? Application architecture

In literal terms, a business being digitally sound majorly means that the venture has adopted the Cloud. Now, if you use the cloud or are migrating to the cloud, ‘Cloud Native’ is the most-used term. You (or your technical aid/team) might have used it with multiple resources like networks, servers, and software/SaaS solutions in recent times. But do you understand it fully?

In this post, we have a chance to get familiar with the basic cloud native meaning and its functions in the real world. Let’s explore together.

Learning Objectives

Cloud Native - An Overview

Before we explain the basic meaning, let’s make one thing clear; ‘Cloud-Native’ has diverse meanings for different people. For instance, when Netflix coined this term nearly 10 years ago, it referred to cloud technologies.

As cloud adoption swelled, the term’s usage broadened, and it included apps & software deployed on the cloud. As per CNCF, an accredited resource, the term means an application/software development strategy enabling organizations to design enterprise solutions over the cloud so that they could operate from any where.

Applications developed in either cloud type are counted in this category. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve used a private, public, or hybrid cloud. Most commonly, this approach is used for the development of resources like Containers, service-meshes, APIs, and other similar immutable infrastructures.  

Using this approach, developers are capable of bringing loosely-coupled systems together using automation. This way, cloud native application development tends to result in fewer errors and demands less toil.

For businesses, the cloud-native approach aims at improved speed and agility while businesses are commencing their digitization journey.  

What Are Cloud Native Applications?

These apps feature fully independent and functional microservices paired together to form fully-fledged apps. Unlike conventional software solutions, their data is not stored locally and can be accessed remotely anytime.

Cloud Native Applications
Cloud Native Applications

Why Do they Matter?

Seeing the surged likability that businesses have developed for cloud-native solutions, one might wonder why they are so crucial. Well, we all know that it promotes agility, portability, and resilience. But is that it?  

No. It’s more than this. 

Let’s explain the importance of cloud-native apps for a business.

  • Huge cost saving

As compared to on-site or on-premise apps, management, development, and troubleshooting of cloud-native solutions is way too pocket-friendly. Businesses can easily save huge operational costs as cloud-native apps are offered as pre-built resources that are fully managed by the service provider.

  • Continuous service delivery & productivity  

Cloud-native apps are designed to remain functional. As the cloud is not a location-specific resource, businesses can access the tools, features, and essential solutions from anywhere and at any time. It leads to around-the-clock availability of services that further supports improved team productivity.

  • Better flexibility

Cloud-native solutions are built so flexible that they allow businesses to choose the cloud of their choice. They can run the app on public, private, or hybrid clouds. This flexibility enables businesses so much so that they can adopt resources that are going to deliver the best possible results.  

  • Easy usage

Cloud-native SaaS solutions have a very friendly user interface and a ‘getting started with the process. Not much installation and set-up are required to use such an app. Most of these solutions come as a plug-and-play tool and are ready to assist you after a simple login process.

This way, it sets businesses free from the need for conducting training or having tedious set-up processes. Organizations can start using such apps instantly.

  • Automated IT operations

From uploading a file to creating insightful reports, cloud-native apps introduce automation in every possible workflow. Automating core IT operations results in trimmed failure risk, few human errors, and fewer possibilities of loopholes.

Automation of security patches and software/version updates is a game changer here as teams don’t have to track these two crucial workflows and yet experience improved security.

That was just a glimpse of the broader picture. Organizations that have replaced legacy systems with cloud-native solutions have claimed to experience perfection on every possible front.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)

CNCF has a critical role to play in developments related to cloud-native. It’s a globally recognized open-source organization promoting the adoption of cloud-native apps and technologies.

It came into being in 2015. Back then, it operated as a vendor-neutral platform to access Kubernetes. As we all know, Kubernetes is a key resource for building containerized applications. It supports application scalability without asking for more resources. Let’s not shift our focus to Kubernetes.

CNCF now supports Prometheus, along with Kubernetes, and provides ample cloud-native computing resources that anyone can use to accelerate their cloud journey.

It hosts a wide range of cloud-native components that businesses can easily use while building a cloud-native app.

Developers, vendors, and end-users, dealing with cloud-native technologies are part of CNCF and take an active part in arranging conferences and workshops. It’s a part of the Linux Foundation and is a growing community with more than 48K global contributors.

Cloud-Native Architecture

Before we begin this discussion, let’s understand what it’s not. It’s not monolithic, it is too time consumed. This old-school approach demanded the production and testing of new features and then introducing them to the concerned application/system.

This way, production tends to be very tedious and time-consuming as various teams must be on their toes. Any miscommunication – between all these teams – directly impacted the solution’s performance. The worst situation is that development teams were restricted. They only have to use specific tools.

All these hassles demanded a new web/software/app development approach that is flexible, continuous, and scalable. This is how cloud-native came into being. 

At a very basic level, cloud native architecture is a mix of various code/feature components used to develop cloud-native apps and solutions. Here is a list of its most common elements:

  • Microservices, Docker & Kubernetes

All three have different meanings and contribute majorly to cloud native development. Let us explain each of them quickly:

Microservices refer to fully independent small applications/services/software components that, when combined, form a complete solution.  It’s worth noting that each micro-service has a dedicated function. They are mainly used to design complex and tedious apps as it makes things simple by letting developers release features at different levels progressively.

As far as Docker for cloud native services is concerned, it helps greatly in microservices operation. Docker containers let experts enable microservices on diverse containers so that they can work independently.

K8s is one of the most preferred ways to containerize microservices, making things way too better.

Perhaps the most famous cloud-native architecture component, API is crucial as it enables applications to interact/communicate with each other. It integrates different loosely-coupled microservices so that a comprehensive app is formed. APIs instruct microservices on which data to process and what results to expect.

It’s a software layer deployed on the cloud, which is mainly used to establish constant communication between various microservices deployed during the creation of a cloud-native solution/app. This is also used to add any further capabilities to the apps without new code creation.

  • Container Orchestration

One can’t expect to run a smooth cloud-native infrastructure without this practice as it simplifies the procedure of handling containers that microservices are using excessively. Orchestrators like Docker Swarm or k8s are included in the cloud oriented/native architecture as they keep containers under control.

  • Automate Deployments

The promised speed and agility of cloud-native apps are achieved because of IaC or Infrastructure as Code that brings automation in app deployment and platform provisioning. The automation flows continuously in the deployment in multiple development stages.  

By continuous, we don’t mean working on code building without a break. It meant introducing updates as soon as the code’s single line (or more) was changed.

  • Monitoring

When containers & microservices are used abundantly in cloud-native infrastructure, extensive monitoring is a must for the continuous management of these two. In addition to these two, monitoring solutions are extensively used in managing the huge databases that cloud-native apps maintain.  

Ideally, and according to CNCF, Prometheus is the preferred monitoring tool to use for cloud-native. It effectively handles the monitoring of container-based microservices and web/software apps.  

  • Cultural Changes

While one is seeking perfection in the cloud-native solutions, considering the company culture is a must as it impacts the overall development process. It’s wise to keep the internal team updated about the cross-functional procedures that sound like an ideal fit for your company culture.

Cloud-Native Architecture

Cloud Native and DevOps

The cloud-native approach has a close relation with DevOps that we will try to understand next. As we all know it, the cloud-native approach is based on resources like containers, service mesh, and microservices and generally involves the development of full-functional small sections and then combining them to develop a fully-functional app.

Now, as DevOps sound is very much similar to this, some might link cloud-native to DevOps. First, let’s understand what DevOps is. It’s a software creation approach instructing developers to develop small codes, test them, and then use them in production.

Development and operations continue simultaneously. Just like cloud-native, this approach also uses containers and IaC. Does that mean DevOps should always be cloud native or vice versa?

Practically speaking, no DevOps should not be directly linked to cloud-native always. However, considering the benefits of both these two, it’s wise to use them together.

Cloud-native DevOps with Kubernetes is a new concept that has recently.

At the very basic level, this indicates a modern approach that businesses need high cloud adoption velocity and can adopt while having high scalability. While you do so, here are a few most concerning concepts to be aware of.

It is already a part of the cloud-native approach and DevOps. With Kubernetes, achieving it is easy as speed increases and entry barriers are trimmed down. This approach enables businesses to update changes all day long.

Doing so pays off well in the long run as codes are most recent and updated. In addition, the approach ensures that changes are easily reverted. Activation of a continuous delivery pipeline is necessary for cloud-native DevOps development as it makes source code modification at the very basic production level.  

In addition, getting rid of unwanted changes is possible. When it comes to testing, continuous delivery has a great role to play. Without being overburdened, distinct tests for a small customer section can be created. Now, this makes testing less risky. Suppose a test goes wrong, developers always have a chance to undo the applied changes and attain the previous stage.

Now, this has great significance in cloud native security as well. When testing is taking place along with development, the odds of corrupted code usage are very poor. Bugs and errors are fixed before codes are even used.

  • Continuous integration

This practice is at the core of cloud-native DevOps as it promotes code change integrations when multiple teams are at work. Frequently updated codes are easily merged with an application using this approach.

A huge chunk of total development time consumed goes to managing the servers. Serverless is an approach that overcomes the same. This modern strategy is used widely in cloud native DevOps as it enables developers to design and run codes without worrying about servers’ health.

What Is Cloud Native Stack?

As you deal in cloud-native solution development, an understanding of cloud-native stack is a must. It’s basically an explanation of cloud-native technologies. Now, which cloud technologies? 

Well, it involves technologies used for developing, managing, and running cloud-native applications. Here is a quick explanation of the layers that make a cloud-native stack.

  • The infrastructure layer – the very first layer or the core of the stack – features OS, network, storage, and various other cloud-native computing resources that any 3rd party cloud service provider proffers.
  • Provisioning layer is the one that features configuration-specific details, technologies, and allocations of cloud ecosystems.
  • The 3rd layer is the runtime layer, and it consists of technologies that are crucial for container functioning. It generally features resources like container runtime, cloud data storage, and networking abilities.
  • The orchestration & management layer is the 4th layer and is accountable for bringing multiple cloud components so that they all work as a unified resource. Just as traditional computing has OS, cloud computing has orchestration and management. Tools like Kubernetes are its key parts.
  • Lastly, we have an app development layer that features technologies related to the solution’s deployment.

What Is Cloud Computing?

This term is used for software architecture that is generally hosted on an external data center. Interested users have to pay a subscription cost to avail of this service. 

In this approach, businesses enjoy cloud apps as plug-and-play tools. No deployment, maintenance, and troubleshooting hassles are there to deal with.  

Cloud Native Apps vs. Traditional Enterprise Apps  

To fully comprehend the meaning of cloud-native apps, it’s important to compare them closely with traditional apps and understand where it excels. Here is a quick rundown of the key differences between these two apps.

Cloud Native vs. Traditional Enterprise

Key PointsCloud Native AppsTraditional Enterprise Apps 
NatureThe cloud-native apps have predictable nature. They are built on a standard framework that has a predictable manner. Based on the infrastructure used, one can predict how the development will occur. These apps are unpredictable.  As infrastructure tools and approaches tend to change, no one can predict the outcome. The development will take too much time to complete. 
OS Dependency Cloud-native apps are not OS-dependent. Developers are allowed to get rid of infrastructure dependencies and enjoy OS abstraction. Traditional enterprise apps are OS-dependent. Development also has great dependency on hardware, OS, and storage.
Capacity These apps will have just the right capacity size as infrastructure provisioning and configuration is automated. Traditionally built apps are mostly oversized in terms of capacity.  They tend to have surplus features that make things complex only. 
Architecture nature The cloud-native apps are based on a collaborative architecture that ensures multiple microservices are connected with each other.The architecture here is disconnected. 
Deployment approach Continuous delivery is what works best with cloud-native apps. Codes are continuously updated and modified to make sure new capabilities are integrated. Traditional enterprise apps follow a waterfall development approach. One can move to another stage only when the previous stage is successfully completed. 
Recovery Generally, cloud-native apps have high recovery as container runtime and container orchestration empower them with a highly viable overlay. Such apps have slow recovery mechanisms.
Cloud Native Apps vs. Traditional  
Cloud Native Apps vs. Traditional

What Are the Benefits Of A Cloud Native?

The adoption of a cloud-native approach makes things better on various fronts. For instance:

  • Organizations tend to achieve on-demand scalability. As codes are continuously changed and modified, developers have endless scaling possibilities. The best part is that cloud-native approaches’ in-built scalability won’t ask for new resources and infrastructure. It will perform desired results from the already deployed resources.
  • There is no need to experience vendor lock-in. You are not forced to use what is offered. Cloud-native has impeccable multi-cloud tooling integration that allows you to decide what to use and what not to. You can pick tools & technologies according to the current demands.
  • Easy migration from one environment to another is assured.  
  • If you find that your existing public cloud isn't sufficient, you can shift to a private or hybrid cloud without investing huge efforts to migrate cloud-native databases and resources, as they will migrate automatically.
  • Reduced time-to-market is one of more key benefits of this methodology. You will have instant access to all the desired resources and can use them without being involved in the tedious set-up. This will improve your development process’s pace significantly.

Cloud Native Challenges

Despite offering multiple benefits, this approach is never unsoiled. As you make a move to adopt this practice, you must be aware of the key challenges that are tucked along with cloud-native.

  • Figuring out which tool and technology are perfect

With abundant resources, it’s very tough for businesses to decide which cloud-native tool and technology is just the right pick for you. This bugs nearly 52% of cloud-native users presently. As the success of the approach majorly relays upon the quality of tools & technologies used, one can’t become lenient and make a random move.

  • A Super-complex Architecture.

Let’s admit it! Cloud-native has a very complex architecture as it involves breaking down monolithic applications into various compact services. This could be too much to handle for many.

  • Keeping up the infrastructure updated

Cloud infrastructure revolves around containers and Kubernetes. Their orchestrators are a huge challenge here. The cloud infrastructure demands full container orchestration on every microservices. This is a great deal to achieve.

While all these challenges seem overwhelming, they are easy to tame with proper planning and management. Have a team ready to fix the issues and always plan ahead. Understand what your organization's demands are and then only adopt cloud-native deployment.

With these things in mind, we are sure that you can have a smooth transition from traditional to modern cloud-native app ecosystems, which is the need of the hour currently.

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