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, DevOps practices, and approaches such as microservices, companies can build and deliver high-quality products faster. Abstraction from many levels of infrastructure in cloud-native development can give companies a competitive advantage and improve business processes.
We've prepared information about the main features of cloud-native applications and requirements for their development, as well as the benefits that cloud-native solutions bring to companies.
What is a cloud-native application?
A cloud-native application is software designed for cloud computing architecture. Cloud-native development includes the concepts of DevOps, continuous delivery, microservices, and containers, so applications run and hosted in the cloud take advantage of cloud computing. The main characteristic of cloud-native development is the use of a microservice architecture.
Microservices architecture breaks down applications into smaller parts (microservices) and efficiently allocates resources between each microservice. This approach makes a cloud-native application flexible and adaptable to the 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
Before implementing the cloud-native approach, you need to understand what processes and architecture features contribute to the project’s goals. Here are the key features of cloud-native development:
- APIs: the API defines the interaction of microservices. Well-designed APIs simplify maintenance, security and allow microservices to exchange data flexibly;
- 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: orchestration tools are used to automatically manage containers, providing load balancing, scheduling automatic container updates, restarting after an internal failure, and initializing and deploying containers to the server cluster node;
- Flexible DevOps processes: cloud-native application 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 the cloud-native application;
- Observability: proper application operational monitoring allows to recognise application deviations automatically in real-time.
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. 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.
Microservices architecture allows developers to work independently on any services and even 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 software. The microservice approach helps the development team focus on the module (microservice) and develop a robust, scalable application.
How to build a cloud-native application?
Cloud native applications run on public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructures and are most 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, orchestrated by Kubernetes, managed, and deployed using 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). Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation. Using Kubernetes and Docker allows developers to speed up application deployment and release.
Development of applications using the 12-factor methodology is one way to ease the process of creating cloud-native applications for the developer. The Twelve-Factor Application is a methodology for creating software applications 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 the maintainability, portability and resilience of applications when deployed on the internet.
What are the benefits of cloud-native apps?
Cloud-native architecture and flexible DevOps practices during applications development give companies many benefits, including:
- Faster SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle): to serve customers faster, companies use DevOps to transform software delivery pipelines through automation, accelerating the creation of a robust product; 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: compute and storage resources can be scaled as needed and optimally. Cloud-based applications can be set up and running quickly, and containers can be used to dynamically increase the number of only highly demanded microservice instances running on a host, saving time, resources, and money;
- Independent scalability: each microservice is logically isolated and can scale independently of 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 neighbouring services because cloud applications use containers, which ensures reliability through isolation;
- Fast recovery: restarting the application is fast thanks to dynamic orchestration, which manages container allocation. It also minimizes downtime to make sure it doesn't hurt user retention rates.
Difference between cloud-native and traditional apps
When companies choose an approach to application development, they should consider the difference between traditional and cloud development. Traditional applications are usually monoliths running in a mainframe environment. The applications are typically built using a waterfall methodology and are heavily tied to the hardware and operational software. Further development of such applications usually takes longer and costs much more. More differences between traditional development and native-cloud development includе:
The choice to develop cloud-native applications 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 solutions could be the future of software development.