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According to Exploding Topics, the cloud applications market is worth more than $150 billion, and 60% of the world’s corporate data is stored in the cloud. As cloud computing adoption grows, we see more integration of cloud development in the market. Many reasons are behind this, including endless cloud capabilities that bring better scalability, flexibility, cost savings, and adoption of advanced technologies.
But when it comes to cloud development, companies try to figure out which cloud platform will be more efficient, maintainable, and ultimately more profitable: cloud native or cloud agnostic. While both approaches offer developers impressive cloud-based capabilities, their management and design differ. This article sheds light on the differences between cloud-native vs. cloud-agnostic development and their pros and cons to help you choose the right solution.
What is cloud-native development?
Cloud-native development is a software development approach that uses cloud computing capabilities to build, deploy, and manage apps. The cloud-native architecture allows developers to build apps tailored to a specific cloud environment, whether it is public, private, or hybrid. Typically, companies use third-party cloud providers like AWS or Azure by leveraging their inherent features and plugins. It allows developers to focus on app development instead of complicated backend configurations.
One key feature of cloud-native development is that it is based on microservice architecture. The microservice architecture distributes resources efficiently among services. These microservices work independently and take fewer computing resources, making cloud-native apps more flexible and adaptable to any changes.
At its core, cloud-native development combines advanced technologies and DevOps practices to create highly scalable, flexible, and resilient solutions. Among the key components of cloud-native development are:
It is a deployment model in which servers are never modified after deployment. When an update or modification is needed, a new server is built from a common image and is provisioned to replace the old one. This infrastructure leverages automation and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) practices to achieve increased consistency, reliability, scalability, and a more predictable deployment process while reducing issues related to immutable architecture.
Microservices are independent components that communicate with each other through well-defined APIs. Cloud-native apps are designed as a set of small, independent services, each responsible for a specific business function. Using microservices, developers can modify an application while it continues to run even if one container fails.
Containers are lightweight and portable software components containing code and its dependencies (libraries, frameworks). They provide a consistent and isolated environment of the underlying operating system and hardware for running apps. They enable seamless deployment across various environments. Containers are essential in containerization, allowing cloud-native applications to be packaged, deployed, and scaled efficiently.
An application program interface (API) allows apps to exchange information. In the context of cloud-native apps, APIs enable seamless integration and interaction between various microservices, allowing them to work together smoothly. Moreover, APIs promote interoperability, enabling apps to leverage third-party services or integrate with external systems.
A service mesh is an infrastructure layer for handling communication, management, and monitoring between microservices in a cloud-native app. It provides a range of functionalities to enhance the interaction between services, including traffic management, security, observability, and resilience.
DevOps, short for development and operations, is a set of practices and principles that help improve collaboration and communication between software development teams and IT operations. The main goal is to streamline the software delivery lifecycle, enhance the quality of software releases, and enable continuous, reliable delivery of apps.
Microservices Best Practices for Enhanced App Performance
For a long time, software applications ran on a monolithic architecture, and everyone was happy about it. But then, microservices emerged and….
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/ CD)
Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are DevOps practices that help developers deliver code changes more frequently and reliably. CI focuses on the continuous integration of code changes and the creation of deployable artifacts, whereas CD automates the deployment process, allowing for the seamless and reliable delivery of apps anywhere. Together, they enhance speed, reduce manual effort, and ensure that apps are always in a deployable state.
Serverless computing is a cloud-native model where developers can build and run apps without managing underlying infrastructure. In a serverless architecture, the cloud provider automatically manages server provisioning, maintenance, and scaling, letting developers focus on coding.
The above components and practices make it easy for developers to build scalable cloud-native solutions that can be updated quickly, meeting changing customer needs. But there are even more reasons why this cloud development approach is so popular.
Pros and cons of cloud-native development
Adopting cloud-native development comes with many pros that align with modern software development demands. Here are some of them:
- Increased efficiency: cloud-native development supports DevOps practices that provide developers with automated tools to help them build scalable apps more rapidly.
- Reduced operation cost: by adopting a cloud-native approach, companies do not need to invest in buying and maintaining expensive physical infrastructure, reducing long-term operational costs;
- Automation: cloud-native development automates various processes, such as testing, deployment, and infrastructure provisioning, which results in fewer errors, improved efficiency, and a consistent development process;
- Scalability: cloud-native apps are designed to scale easily based on demand, which allow them to handle varying workloads seamlessly;
- Resilience: with microservices architecture, apps can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently, enabling easy updates and fault tolerance and minimizing the impact on the overall system;
- Fast time-to-market: cloud-native development accelerates time-to-market by facilitating rapid development, deployment, and updates, thus helping organizations stay competitive.
Cons of the cloud-native approach include:
- Complexity: apps can be more challenging to develop and manage as the microservices architecture is more complex by nature;
- Cost: while apps can reduce operational costs in the long run, they also require substantial upfront investments in infrastructure, employee training, and specialized tools;
- Vendor lock-in: cloud-native apps are difficult to port to other platforms/providers as they are built using custom tools and services specific to a particular cloud provider;
- Security: these apps are more vulnerable to threats due to their microservice architecture. Also, they are often built with open-source software, which may lead to security issues as well;
- Cultural shift: adapting to cloud-native processes requires changing organizational culture, bringing new development methodologies, collaboration models, and continuous improvement practices.
To overcome these challenges, you will need to carefully plan and monitor your operations and adhere to the best development practices. Now, let’s move on to the alternative cloud software development option.
What is cloud-agnostic development?
Cloud-agnostic development refers to a software approach that works with any cloud platform. In other words, it involves designing applications and services that can migrate seamlessly between cloud platforms or on-premises and cloud without disruption. Based on that, organizations can seamlessly migrate from one platform (Azure, AWS, Google Cloud) to another based on their specific business needs, pricing, performance, and other factors.
The cloud-agnostic approach aims to support seamless portability regardless of the operating system/ It also aims to limit disruptions to workloads during migration and to reduce the risk of app downtime and cost. Companies benefit from this approach for several reasons, listed below.
Pros and cons of cloud-agnostic development
Cloud-agnostic development provides such key benefits as:
- Reduced vendor lock-in: rather than being dependent on a single cloud provider, companies can integrate tools, services, and technologies more easily, allowing them to adapt as their needs change;
- Reduced cost: as cloud-agnostic does not rely on the vendor, organizations can select the cloud provider pricing that is most appropriate for them, resulting in cost savings;
- Flexibility: companies can choose from multiple cloud service providers to meet their specific needs, budgets, or performance requirements;
- Scalability: application and service providers that are cloud-agnostic can move between cloud platforms, allowing them to scale up quickly when needed;
- Consistent performance: businesses benefit from consistent performance (speed and scale) through increased features and options, regardless of the platform or infrastructure they use;
- Risk management: rather than relying on a single cloud provider, companies can efficiently and promptly address issues when one of the cloud platforms is down.
At the same time, cloud-agnostic has its cons, including:
- Limited integration with services: cloud-agnostic platforms tend to integrate with multiple cloud providers, making it difficult to fully use the unique features and services offered by a single provider;
- Increased management overhead: cloud-agnostic platform can be more complicated and resource-heavy, which may take more time and effort to configure, maintain, and troubleshoot;
- Potential performance impact: workloads optimized for a specific cloud provider may perform less efficiently when deployed in a cloud-agnostic environment. To ensure platform compatibility, you might sacrifice the performance.
- Lack of support: cloud providers offer specialized support for their services, which a cloud-agnostic approach may miss;
- Security and compliance: as each cloud provider has its own security tools and compliance certifications, it can be challenging to ensure a consistent level of security;
- Compatibility issues: may require frequent updates and adjustments to maintain compatibility with multiple cloud platforms.
Organizations need to weigh these drawbacks against the benefits to determine the suitability of a cloud-agnostic strategy based on their priorities.
Cloud-agnostic vs. cloud-native: which is better?
The best way to figure out whether cloud-native or cloud-agnostic is better for your business is to understand their differences. In the table below, we compare the cloud-native approach vs. cloud-agnostic ones based on key aspects:
|Faster for specific cloud providers due to direct integration with native services
|Longer due to the need for abstraction layers and compatibility checks
|Increased performance because each component works on a small segment
|Variable performance depending on the capabilities of cloud providers
|Limited flexibility across different cloud providers due to tight integration with native services
|High to seamlessly migrate and operate on various cloud platforms
|Challenging to migrate to another cloud provider
|Easy to migrate between cloud providers
|Close integration with services and features of a specific cloud provider
|Eliminates vendor lock-in and dependency on their specific features
|Depends on the resilience features of the selected cloud provider
|Offers resilience through the ability to switch between cloud providers in case of issues
|Time to market
|Faster due to pre-built templates, tools, and infrastructure that is ready to use
|Longer due to additional compatibility and abstraction consideration
|Offers pay-as-you-go models based on their licensing and storage needs
|Offers potential cost savings via different options of cloud providers
|Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb
|Snowflake, HashiCorp, PagerDuty
Potential benefits and risks of combining both approaches
According to Faction, 92% of organizations have a multi-cloud strategy in place or underway, and 82% of large enterprises have adopted a hybrid cloud infrastructure. These numbers show that enterprises tend to adopt multi-cloud strategies – a mix of cloud environments and providers. This approach allows organizations to build, operate, access, and secure their apps across multiple clouds.
Combining cloud-native and cloud-agnostic approaches can offer powerful capabilities by reducing each other’s limitations. For example, cloud-native apps may lack portability, while a cloud-agnostic system can improve this issue. The expansive features of a cloud-agnostic provide flexibility for tailoring cloud-native tools to specific needs and scaling them according to business conditions.
However, combining these two approaches can be tricky. One of the main challenges is complexity. Cloud-agnostic solutions can provide more flexibility but are more difficult to configure and manage than cloud-native ones. Another issue is security risks. When moving data and services between cloud providers, cloud-agnostic can pose additional security risks. Despite this, organizations can avoid possible problems by implementing a hybrid approach. This means some components of an application can be built using a cloud-native approach and others a cloud-agnostic one.
Thus, before combining both approaches into your workflows, it is essential to in-depth consider their challenges and your own business capabilities.
Cloud-native and cloud-agnostic solution is a compromise between the capabilities of a single provider and multiple ones. Cloud-native solutions are preferred by companies that need advanced capabilities within their own cloud platform. Cloud-native apps are based on microservices that scale based on business needs. If one component fails, the whole system will continue to function. While cloud-native architecture provides agility, it also comes with risks of vendor lock-in and platform limitations.
On the other hand, cloud-agnostic solutions are best for companies that want more control over costs and can adjust spending if necessary. In their architecture, apps run on any cloud provider independently of a particular cloud platform toolkit. Instead, they integrate with a mix of open-source and vendor-provided tools. However, it may be limited in its functionality and add complexity to system design, maintenance, and security. Ultimately, businesses must decide what type of solution to build – cloud-agnostic vs. cloud-native – based on budget constraints, time, scalability, and architecture requirements.