The Next Generation of Cloud Apps: Cloud Native

When organisations make the move to the cloud, they are typically looking for more than just offloading the cost of server maintenance to a large corporation. Typically, they want to reap the benefits of not being tied to specific hardware that they’re leasing, and they want the flexibility and adaptability that the cloud provides.

To fully reap the benefits of a cloud strategy, you need to do more than simply copy over existing processes to a server hosted by a cloud provider. As you’re making the shift to digitise old analogue processes, you want to do so in a way that makes you more prepared to keep up with the future pace of change. That means a cloud native architecture.

While the name may seem like a bit of a buzzword, cloud native architecture really means learning from the past decade of deploying applications in the cloud. Cloud native architecture is the set of best practices that have emerged from the DevOps community now that applications are being developed with the cloud in mind. And cloud native puts you in a better position to adapt moving forward.

Better Design

So what best practices have emerged out of the global move to the cloud? For starters, it means designing applications so that nothing is tied down to the individual server it’s running on. Instead of storing application data on a local hard drive, it’s stored in a cloud storage service. Instead of putting in hours to build a server from the ground up, use a containerization service like Docker, or a cloud server image like Amazon’s AMI.

The key insight is that you don’t want to be tied down to any one particular piece of cloud hardware. Cloud native design emphasizes that hardware in the cloud is short-lived. The ultimate expression of this philosophy is the new wave of serverless design, where your application code doesn’t live on a server at all, even a temporary one. Instead, only when an end user starts to interact with the application does the code get assigned a server to run on. From there, it only runs until it’s no longer needed, then it’s back to the ether.

Why all this trouble to make the hardware disappear? It turns out there are a lot of benefits to not being tied down to a specific cloud instance.

A Cheaper Cloud

Perhaps the most important benefit is the cost savings. A major selling point for cloud applications has always been that it’s cheaper. In the cloud, you only pay for the hardware you use, and only when you’re using it. Architecting your application to use as little hardware as possible for as short a time as possible only makes sense.

Those cost savings make an impact on your monthly bill, but there are other cost savings to consider as well. One of the biggest hidden costs of the cloud is vendor lock-in. You can achieve some cost savings by moving to the cloud but lose out on opportunity cost if another vendor starts offering a service for cheaper. If you move to the cloud but keep a single-server application design, you foreclose the possibility of those savings. On the other hand, a cloud native design allows you to pick and choose which services to use with which vendors. If Amazon has a cheaper storage option, but Google cloud offers a cheaper price on high-performance servers, you can combine them and maximise your savings!

Developing Cloud Expertise

One final argument for cloud native is simply that it’s the way the winds are blowing. As I mentioned at the start, cloud native is not a set of rules written in stone. Instead, it’s a set of common lessons that have been learned by all teams that go through the gauntlet of deploying a cloud application.

Why emphasize that cloud hardware is ephemeral? Because at any time your provider could give you 2 hours notice that the server is being turned off for security maintenance. Why position your app to work with different cloud providers? Because when Microsoft halves their storage price your CTO might ask how hard it would be to use them instead to gain some padding in the budget.

As the stampede to the cloud shows no sign of slowing down, these lessons become more valuable. Building a cloud native app means going with the momentum rather than trying to fight it. Cloud deployment skills are taking over university curriculums and CV space, becoming cheaper in the process while single server maintenance becomes rarer and more expensive.

Work With The Best

Experience goes a long way in cloud design. It can mean huge cost savings, by choosing the correct cloud providers for the job. It can mean huge speedups as you digitize your organization. And it can mean your design is set up for the next ten years of cloud growth. To find out how we can put our experience in cloud native design to work for you, check out our cloud native services.