How Going Cloud-Native Can Benefit Your Business
What is cloud-native? Some key concepts
‘Cloud-native’ is a broad term used to describe an approach to building and running applications that utilises the benefits of the cloud computing delivery model.
Apps that are built using the cloud-native approach are designed to run in the flexible and distributed environment provided by the public cloud. This is facilitated by the containerised nature of the open source software stack, with each part of the app packaged in its own container and dynamically orchestrated. This makes applications much more agile and gives developers a lot more control over scheduling, managing and repairing the individual components of an app, without causing unnecessary disruption to services.
A key concept related to cloud-native development is that of microservices architectures vs. monolith architectures. A traditional monolithic app architecture may appear to offer more central control, however, its main drawback is that whenever new features are developed or tested, it 1) takes a lot of effort and resources to deploy these changes, and 2) if something goes wrong, which it often does in development, it can put the functionality of the entire app at risk, rather than just the component that is being updated or tested.
Shifting to a microservices architecture allows dev teams to develop and deliver features much faster to their customers, without risking the entire app breaking down due to a misplaced semicolon in the code.
Another key concept related to cloud-native is that of container orchestration. Once you have a large number of microservices running in separate Docker containers, you naturally require a method of coordinating those microservices in an effective manner so that the end user has the illusion of using a seamless, one-piece application. This is where using an orchestrator (also known as a ‘cluster manager’) is essential, whether you choose Google’s Kubernetes, Docker Swarm or any other orchestrator on the market.
The key benefits of cloud-native for your business
Cloud-native can have many direct and indirect benefits for your business, including, but not limited to the following:
- It enables faster product iteration
Traditional, monolithic developmental models require extensive planning and resources in order to implement changes or test new features. Thanks to its flexibility and containerised, distributed nature, cloud-native allows for rapid iteration to products that can then be put in front of live customers and elicit feedback. The tighter the feedback loop, the easier it is for dev teams to improve products and ultimately have happier customers and a healthier bottom line for the business.
It allows for deployment to be automated
DevOps stands out from other software development approaches such as waterfall (where development follows a sequential step by step order) by deploying a continuously automated flow of features.
This means that software changes and new features are regularly being rolled out, through automated continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline (CICD). Again, this is facilitated by applications running in containers and being orchestrated in Kubernetes or Docker Swarm (for example).
It is very cheap, with easy access available to new tools and services
A great feature of the cloud is that you only pay for what you use, and have little to no upfront costs. That said, once your operation starts to scale, cloud providers are able to provide excellent economies of scale, meaning that you are able to access state of the art infrastructure and technology at a fraction of the cost if you were to try and deploy all of these in your own data centre.
It is very transparent and facilitates version and quality control
One of the things that differentiates the cloud from on-premises solutions is that by default, the cloud stores everything that happens as events. This not only allows for greater transparency in development, version control and QA, it also allows for some great automated ‘if-this-then-that’ workflows.
By making events globally available (even outside of the containers they are being created in), cloud architecture allows multiple teams to benefit easily from breakthroughs/innovations made by another team, regardless of where they are in the world. This is massively helpful and productive when done on a global scale for multi-territory organisations.
It allows for greater cross-team collaboration
Thanks to the transparency, customer insights and rapid iteration that it offers, cloud-native can often help form better connections between IT/tech departments and the C-suite of an organisation. IT departments often have to fight an image of being a cost-centre rather than a profit driver for a business, and often have to invest a lot of time and effort to get approval for certain projects from the C-suite, wasting time which could have otherwise been used to deploy further changes and improve the offering to the company’s customers.
However, with the benefits of rapid iteration based on customer feedback becoming more and more evident to non-IT stakeholders in a business, CIOs and dev teams are becoming an integral part of the high level decision making process.
Of course, going cloud-native may not be the top priority for your organisation right now. However, it certainly is something worth considering, particularly if your organisation invests a lot of time and resources into developing customer facing applications.