Being cloud-native has become the new mantra for enterprises looking to digitally transform themselves. Cloud adoption is a priority for executives as it poses huge benefits that range from cost-saving to building-at-scale. IDC estimates that cloud spending will see a spike by 2021, reaching a whopping $530 billion mark.
The question is, should you, as an enterprise, just give in to the hype and take out your wad of cash to move to the cloud? Or do you need to understand first what it really means for your business?
Today, we take a deeper look into the cloud-native architecture and what it means for enterprises.
First things first, not every company that uses the cloud is cloud-native. A company may only host a specific workload in the cloud or deal with a certain kind of use case on the cloud, but that doesn’t make them cloud-native. A company may take their existing applications and host them on the cloud and even then it doesn’t make them cloud-native (this scenario is commonly referred to as a ‘lift-and-shift’).
So if not these things then what exactly does it mean to be cloud-native?
Even though there is no one-size-fits-all definition, but being cloud-native means your applications are born into the cloud and are practically living and breathing on it. In a cloud-native architecture, your application’s development, deployment, management, and distribution will all be on the cloud. It is an end-to-end cloud architecture that leverages modern cloud technologies, decouples hardware from your applications, and promises high availability with minimum risk of failure.
It’s a collection of technologies, policies, and practices that all play together to make the magic known as ‘cloud-native’ happen.
At the core of it, a cloud-native architecture will always consist of the following:
Microservices architecture is a way of building applications to be highly distributed and very loosely coupled. The most important benefit of following a microservices architecture is that it gives developers the freedom to build new components for evolving business needs without compromising other areas of the application.
One of the most critical components of a cloud-native architecture is the high availability of applications. This ensures that applications maintain a high degree of uptime and can be instantly available again in case of hardware failure at a node.
Kubernetes and containers
Containers are the building blocks of cloud-native applications. They are lightweight, incredibly fast, and come with their dependencies so they are compatible everywhere. Kubernetes is a scheduler for containers and it makes sure that their deployment, scaling, and operations work perfectly on clusters.
Practices like CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) make it easier to deliver new features to users by automating laborious testing and deployment procedures.
DevOps & DevSecOps
The DevOps culture binds in holy matrimony the development, security, and operations side of building software. This helps automate software to be built, tested, and deployed faster and offers more reliability by minimizing the window for human-errors.
These are some of the most important working components of the cloud-native architecture.
Now that we have a general idea of what a cloud-native environment offers, let’s take a look at the benefits it brings to businesses.
Faster and Leaner Applications
Cloud-native applications are faster, leaner, and much more agile. This is made possible by a number of factors:
- Automation of the build-test-deploy cycle allows applications to evolve with minimum risk of breaking or falling prone to human errors. The wonders of automation let you bring new features to users much more quickly, ensuring that you meet customer expectations as they surface.
- Microservices also play a critical role in making your enterprise leaner and faster. In the traditional, monolithic applications, changes in one part of the application had to be replicated to other parts of the application in order to work. This put the applications at high-risk of failure and made enterprises more cautious of releasing new features/changes. With microservices, this fear is eliminated and developers can work on new features without the risk of affecting other parts of the application — ultimately allowing enterprises to perform better and offer new releases to users more frequently.
High availability and quick swiftness of Kubernetes-powered containers allow cloud-native applications to be extremely reliable as compared to their former counterparts. Since applications are loosely coupled in cloud-native applications, breaking of a single feature doesn’t bring the whole app down. This allows enterprises to have an incredibly high uptime with minimal risk of any downtime. Even in the case of a failure, you can isolate the affected part to resolve errors and let the users carry on with the rest of the application.
This gives enterprises a peace of mind that you can’t really put a price on.
Freedom from Vendor Lock-ins
Vendor lock-ins are a nightmare for any enterprise. This puts too much control in the hands of vendors and strips you of the freedom to take decision fueled purely by the best interests of your company.
A cloud-native environment allows you to break free from legacy vendor lock-ins since it thrives on portability. Since it is independent of the hardware and OS that you run it on, you have the freedom to host it as your business needs demand. Most enterprises leverage a combination of on-premises and public clouds to power their cloud-native applications.
Being cloud-native gives you the ability to save costs in the long-term by minimizing resource-utilization, operation overheads, and increasing efficiency of your engineers. It allows you to build and deploy at scale so you can maximize opportunities for customer acquisition and engagement. In the long-term, your bottom line is going to love you for going cloud-native, and so will your stakeholders.
Whether or not you should go cloud-native depends entirely on how you see your business progressing in the future. If you are a forward-looking enterprise that hates being disrupted by new startups, the choice is clear: you should become cloud-native. Because in the new world, it’s not ‘the big eat the small’ but ‘the fast eat the slow’. And if don’t want to be eaten, this would be a good place to start.
If your business can tolerate the never-ending nuances of monolithic applications and your clients don’t care for new features, then you should carry on as it is.