What Are Cloud-Native Applications?

  • What Are Cloud-Native Applications?

    What Are Cloud-Native Applications?

    There’s been a lot of talk lately about cloud-native applications among software engineers, tech recruiters, and just about everyone else in development operations. In all honesty, it’s a somewhat buzzy phrase that’s been thrown around a lot these days—particularly in many candidate résumés and cover letters we’ve seen.

    With that in mind, let’s take a minute to talk about the concept and why companies should care.

    Just What Are Cloud-Native Applications?

    Just as the name suggests, native cloud applications are software apps designed specifically for cloud computing architecture. Unlike traditional applications developed for on-premise systems and ported to the cloud after, cloud-native apps are born in the cloud, and in the cloud they live.

    For those uninitiated in software development, it’s important to note the significance of this trend. In many ways, cloud is the future of computing—and cloud-native applications embrace that to great effect.

    What’s So Great About the cloud?

    Cloud-native has gained such traction over the past few years that specific organizations, such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, have popped up to create better alignment among cloud computing’s constituent components (say that three times fast).

    But why do so many companies care? Is there something wrong with tried-and-true on-premise application development?

    Not at all. But in a world where affordable cloud hosting services like AWS or Microsoft Azure exist, businesses are becoming increasingly incentivized to opt for cloud architecture from the very beginning of project development.

    The Benefits of Cloud Computing

    When compared to applications hosted within on-premise infrastructure, cloud-based applications are more flexible, scalable, and responsive. The ubiquitous nature of the cloud offers nearly limitless computing power on demand—a benefit that both software developers and businesses quickly tapped into.

    Broadly, this flexibility lets businesses better adapt to the changing norms and demands of their customers. The open source nature of cloud computing makes it easy to reorient software infrastructure to better align with a customer’s desires, and thus, stay competitive in a business world where continuous innovation is more necessity than luxury.

    Designed Specifically for the Cloud

    This brings us back to cloud-native applications. Cloud-native apps reap the benefits of cloud computing in new ways that ported app infrastructure can’t match.

    The key distinction here is how the software is designed. On-premise applications are designed as monoliths that live in a centralized system.

    Cloud architecture, on the other hand, involves distributed servers and databases that exist across numerous touchpoints. And while this type of distribution supports the flexibility and lower IT costs inherent to cloud services, it also requires a different set of development frameworks that must work together. This is typically done through “microservices” that involve app creation as a distributed collection of services, similar in form to the cloud itself.

    Naturally, this native approach is preferable to the unnatural practice of porting on-premise systems to the cloud. It also offers clear benefits to businesses, particularly for product launches when time is a factor.

    Consider the words of James McGlennon, Executive VP and CIO of Liberty Mutual Insurance Group:

    “One of the things we’ve learned is that if you can’t get it to market more quickly, there is no doubt that the market will have changed and no matter how well you’ve engineered it or built it or deployed it or trained your folks, it’s not going to be quite right because it’s just a little too late.”

    Going Native Is the Future

    What’s the bottom line?

    Cloud computing offers obvious benefits for development operations—and cloud-native applications accelerate these benefits further still.

    With cloud hosting service providers building out their offerings and more companies moving to distributed systems, it’s clear that cloud-native is the easiest way for companies to adapt to a future of cloud-based engineering. In fact, expect it’s only a matter of time before cloud computing becomes the norm—and businesses who get on board now will have a clear advantage over those who wait.

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