A Cloud-Native Application: What is it?
To remain successful in the fast-changing software market, many companies favor cloud-native application development instead of the traditional development approach. Using cloud computing techniques, Kubernetes and Docker, and DevOps practices, companies are able to build and deliver high-quality products more quickly. Cloud-native development allows companies to abstract from many layers of infrastructure by giving them a competitive advantage and helping improve business processes.
We've prepared information about the main features of a cloud-native application, its development requirements, and the benefits that cloud-native solutions bring to companies.
What is a cloud-native application?
A cloud-native application is a software designed for cloud computing architecture. Cloud-native development includes the concepts of DevOps, continuous delivery, microservices, and containers, so applications that are run and hosted in the cloud benefit from it. The main characteristic of cloud-native development is the use of a microservice architecture.
The microservice architecture breaks down an application into smaller parts (microservices) and efficiently allocates resources between each microservice. This approach makes native apps flexible and adaptable to cloud architecture, allowing companies to create new products faster and respond instantly to customer demands. Cloud development changes the priority from "where applications are hosted" to "how they are developed."
The main features of a cloud-native application
To adopt the cloud-native approach, you must understand how processes and architecture contribute to the project's objectives. Cloud-native development consists of the following key features:
- APIs: the API defines the interaction of microservices. Well-designed APIs simplify maintenance and security and allow microservices to exchange data in a flexible manner;
- Containers: are used to deploy and manage software in a cloud. A container packages all the dependencies (files, libraries) along with a software component and runs it in an isolated environment;
- Dynamic orchestration: orchestration tools are used to automatically manage containers, provide load balancing, schedule automatic container updates, restart after an internal failure, and initialize and deploy containers to the server cluster node;
- Flexible DevOps processes: cloud-native microservices go through an independent lifecycle and are managed through flexible DevOps processes. Multiple continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines work to automatically test, secure, deploy and manage a cloud-native app;
- Observability: proper monitoring of the application's operations allows you to detect app deviations in real-time automatically.
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Cloud-native architecture: what does it look like?
Cloud-native architecture is a design methodology that uses cloud services (e.g. AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) to develop and host applications, including a modular approach to create, run and update software using a set of cloud microservices. The cloud-native architecture allows abstracting all IT levels (networks, servers, data centers) to create an application in the form of loosely coupled services that interact through APIs and perform as a single function.
The microservices architecture allows developers to work independently on any service and to use different programming languages for various microservices. With a central repository (the role of a version control system), developers can work on various parts of the code simultaneously and update certain functions without disrupting the whole software. A microservice approach helps a development team focus on the module (microservice) and build a robust, scalable application.
How to build a cloud-native application?
A cloud-native application runs on public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructures and is often developed using an agile approach based on DevOps practices with twelve-factor application principles. Cloud applications are built as a set of microservices that run in containers such as Docker. Docker, in turn, is orchestrated by Kubernetes and is managed and deployed with the help of DevOps and Git CI workflows.
Docker is an open-source solution that deploys and manages application containers by virtualizing a computer's operating system (OS). This way, multiple containers can use the same operating system without contention. Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that facilitates declarative configuration and automation. The use of Kubernetes and Docker allows developers to speed up application deployment and release.
The use of the 12-factor methodology is one way to ease the process of creating applications in the cloud for the developer. The Twelve-Factor Application is a methodology for creating web apps in the form of services called web applications or software-as-a-service (SaaS). The methodology involves 12 factors (code base, dependencies, configuration, etc.) that ensure applications' maintainability, portability, and resilience when deployed on the Internet.
What are the benefits of cloud-native apps?
Cloud-native architecture and flexible DevOps practices bring companies many benefits, such as:
- Faster SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle): to serve customers faster, companies use DevOps to transform software delivery pipelines through automation, thus accelerating the creation of robust products. Deployment is done online and the latest updates of the software get right into the cloud where the app is deployed and running.
- Ease of management: automation for feature deployment and application updates helps developers keep track of all microservices and components as they are updated;
- Reduced cost and time: computing and storage resources can be scaled as needed and in the most efficient manner. Cloud-based apps can be set up and running quickly, and containers can be used to increase the number of only highly demanded microservice instances running on a host, thus saving time, resources, and money;
- Independent scalability: each microservice is logically isolated and can scale independently from other services. And if some application components need to be performed faster than others, cloud architecture allows you to do so;
- Reliability: a failure that occurs in one microservice does not affect the operation of neighboring services because cloud-native apps use containers, which ensure reliability through isolation;
- Fast recovery: restarting the application is fast thanks to dynamic orchestration, which manages container allocation. It also minimizes downtime to ensure it doesn't hurt user retention rates.
Difference between cloud-native and traditional apps
When it comes to the web app or mobile app development, organizations should compare traditional and cloud development strategies. Traditional applications run on mainframes as monoliths. These applications are typically built using a waterfall methodology and are heavily tied to hardware and operational software. Further development of such applications usually takes longer and costs much more. Moreover, traditional development and native-cloud development differ in:
The choice to develop a cloud-native application is becoming a trend that can provide high-quality products, efficiency, and security for your future business. According to the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) report 2022, 73% of companies are currently developing cloud-native applications based on a microservice architecture. Predictions are that cloud-native apps could be the future of software design.
Q: What is meant by a cloud-native application?
A: As defined above, a cloud-native application is software designed for cloud computing architecture. As cloud-native apps are built using DevOps, continuous delivery, microservices, and containers, they take advantage of the cloud's capabilities. The main feature of cloud-native apps is the use of microservice architecture.
Microservice architecture divides an application into smaller parts (microservices) and allocates resources efficiently between them. As a result of this approach, companies are able to develop flexible native apps faster and respond to customer demands more efficiently. As well, keep in mind that cloud development changes the priority from "where applications are hosted" to "how they are developed."
Q: What is cloud-native application architecture?
A: As a recap, cloud-native architecture is a design methodology that uses cloud services (e.g. AWS, Google Cloud) to develop and host applications to create, run and update software using a set of cloud microservices. The cloud-native architecture allows abstracting all IT levels (networks, servers, data centers) to create an application as loosely coupled services that interact with each other through APIs and perform a single function.
With microservice architecture, developers can work independently on any service and use different programming languages. With a central repository (the role of a version control system), developers can work on various parts of the code simultaneously and update certain functions without disrupting the software. By using microservices, the development team can develop robust and flexible applications quickly.
Q: Which practices are used while building a cloud-native application?
A: Each company approaches development differently based on its business objectives. During the native app lifecycle, a company should consider how the app will be built, how performance is measured, and how continuous improvement will be implemented. Nevertheless, some of the best practices (but not all) for cloud-native apps can include:
- Streamline the release pipeline: use continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) to automate the release of high-quality code efficiently and as quickly as possible;
- Avoid vendor lock-in: make sure your application isn't dependent on a vendor's service or feature to work. Likewise, avoid PaaS services that allow developers to build and deploy apps only to specific clouds or environments;
- Provision resources with IaC (Infrastructure as Code): use IaC to provision resources in a safe, repeatable way, and build applications without the need to write code manually (or custom scripts). With IaC, developers can track changes in a source repository;
- Monitor documentation: many teams build cloud-native apps without having a clear view of what other teams are doing. Thus, developers can track any changes and look at how each team contributes to development through document monitoring;
- Use serverless tools: serverless technologies provide automatic scaling, built-in high availability, and pay-per-use billing models, which allow companies to run code, manage data, and integrate applications with no need to provision or manage servers;
- Increase observability: companies can establish good observability in their environments by using serverless tools and processes. It will allow companies to explore what is happening flexibly and figure out the root cause of issues they may not have predicted;
- Ensure a robust approach to security: organizations must implement security policies from the start and adapt security to cloud-native apps. For example, utilize DevSecOps, use a defense-in-depth strategy, include security in cloud-native development workflows, and automate and orchestrate threat mitigation (and many others).
Q: What are the characteristics of a cloud-native application?
A: Among the key characteristics of cloud-native applications are:
- Containers: are a common option for deploying and managing software in the cloud. A container packages all the dependencies (files, libraries) along with a software component and runs it in an isolated environment;
- Dynamic orchestration: using orchestration tools, containers can be managed automatically, load balanced, scheduled for automatic updates, restarted after an internal failure, and deployed to cluster servers;
- Flexible DevOps processes: cloud-native microservices run through an independent lifecycle and are managed through flexible DevOps processes. Multiple continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines work to automatically test, secure, deploy and manage a native app;
- APIs: the API defines the interaction of microservices. Well-designed APIs simplify maintenance and security and allow microservices to exchange data flexibly;
- Microservice architecture: microservices separate an application into independent services (modules) that communicate via APIs. In each service, specific business goals are supported by its data;
- Observability: proper monitoring of the application's operations allows you to detect app deviations in real-time automatically.
Therefore, leveraging microservices, containers, and dynamic orchestration with agile development and DevOps allows organizations to build applications optimized for cloud environments and with rapid, automated application updates.