Better Technologies, Better Results

The Future of Software Development: Cloud Native Applications

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The concept of the cloud was introduced in the 1960s as an offshore pool of infrastructure pool that could be used on a pay-as-you-go model. It is called a cloud because to the end-user the location of the devices in the backend would be irrelevant and he/she would just be paying to use the service remotely. 

For the past decade now it has been quite the hot topic of debate as to if it will live up to its hype and change the way we function and we may finally be coming to know the answer to that question.

COVID-19 has figuratively twisted the arms of businesses to work remotely in homes so now companies have to find new ways to invest because the on-premises infrastructure does not seem to be much of use right now. IT enterprises are now outsourcing work to vendors or are using subscription services to get their work done.

This has also resulted in a drastic migration of consumers to cloud services. It was predicted that nearly 32% of enterprises would be using cloud-based applications or services by 2020. Gartner, on the other hand, predicts that there will be a 28% shift in key IT enterprise markets by the year 2022.

Also, there have been reasonable cost-based advantages that have allowed for cloud-native technology penetration in almost all categories of mobile applications these days. Let us explore this is in a little depth.

A quick introduction to cloud

Before we deep dive into how cloud-native tech is sweeping the IT industry off its feet, let us understand what it is.

Cloud computing is, in simple terms, the delivery of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage and processing power, typically over the internet and on a pay-as-you-go model.

Cloud-native means everything that is developed and run on the cloud. Such developed applications help companies make infrastructure more flexible, architecture more malleable and help handle disruptive challenges as well. 

Why go cloud-native?

Well, the answer to that is quite simple really. It enables organizations to optimize costs and also reduce the risk of infrastructure concentration which may paralyze operations in a situation like the one we have on our hands currently. 

For a growing business, increasing infrastructure costs are a problem coupled with the fact that this can hamper the rate of growth directly for them. With the cloud, scaling up quickly is never a problem as all the resources are already available for developers to use.

It also minimizes risk in terms of failures as its replacement of faulty code is easy and recovery for damages does not pose a big problem.

“By 2023, the leading cloud service providers will have a distributed ATM-like presence to serve a subset of their services”

One of the significant advantages of going on the cloud comes in the form of reduced vendor lock-in or reduced vendor dependency. 

The ability to migrate or the application portability is another factor that makes the cloud a lucrative solution to the existing infrastructure-related problems.

Four major components of cloud-native application architecture

The below four components are the foundation of cloud computing architecture:

Microservice Architecture

In this component, application development revolves around the creation of a unique application that hosts a small portfolio of services. These are known as microservices. The idea is that each of the microservices acts independently and if needed communicates with the other services through HTTP/lightweight protocols. The combinatorics which can be used to develop and deploy is the USP of architecture. It is stated that by 2021, we can observe up to 80% of app development on such cloud platforms using microservices. 

DevOps Processes

Microservices and containers (which is another type of infrastructure) rely upon the concept of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD). This is also exactly what makes the DevOps processes, making it fundamental to cloud-native technology. DevOps ecosystem ensures that app development is always an ongoing cycle.

Container-based infrastructure

Compartmentalization of apps is possible in this type of infrastructure. Apps can be contained in small and & lightweight environments that enable the sharing of kernels. You can isolate the app into a virtual environment and understand its performance. There are various container engines in the market that help you manage and automatically deploy containerized applications.

API-Based Communication

To observe and understand functionalities, microservices rely on APIs with protocols such as REST or representation state transfer. Binary protocols are the go-to thing if you are looking for communication with internal services for optimum performance. The idea behind such designs is that they do not enable direct linking, shared memory models or direct datastore reads.

Native-cloud vs on-premises applications

  1. Development language: Since in the case of cloud applications the major focus is on web-centric so languages such as Python, .Net, PHP and JavaScript are preferred whereas in the case of on-prem apps C, C++ or C# are used.
  2. Design: On-premises applications typically have a monolithic design which can be their drawback as it works as a whole application rather than in divisions whereas with cloud apps you have a certain degree of compartmentalization of operations due to the introduction of microservices.
  3. Downtime: Typically, for an on-premises application the downtime can be very high if the server goes out. Whereas for the cloud provider, if they face an outage then their servers at a different location will pick up the load for the application.
  4. Speed and scalability: Cloud-native apps can meet the everchanging load with swiftness and scale to handle spikes using extra resources whereas the same is not possible for on-premises applications.

Advantages and challenges to cloud-native migration

Every coin has two sides to it and hence here are some of the reasons why you would want to and why you might not want to migrate.

Advantages:

  1. Adaptability: As discussed earlier, businesses that are experiencing faster rates of growth require more investment in infrastructure. Also, the dynamic nature of the application usage can be an issue in terms of on-premises infrastructure. These are problems that can easily be solved using cloud applications. They can always gather more resources to meet the peaks and troughs and deliver consistently up on the same.
  2. Performance metrics and management: Oversight and auditing of these native applications can be optimized with various tools. You can both monitor microservices as well as debug them using these tools.
  3. Reliability: Reliability is another pro on the list. Cloud-native applications can be made tolerant to faults using microservice architectures. Over time they can even possess the ability to self-heal from types of setbacks. 

Now challenges

  1. Data Security: This is perhaps one of the most critical questions that come up with cloud computing. A few companies may be reluctant to host sensitive data in a service that might also be in use by their rivals. Also, moving to the same SaaS application takes out the competitive edge that a business may have over its rivals. Data security-related problems can be resolved by outsourcing to vendors or utilizing applications that are certified and can keep data secure. Tools such as Intel SGX, IBM Certificate Manager, and IBM Key Protect are some tools that may help in this area.
  2. Migration issues: One of the common challenges to cloud service providers is that the APIs involved for one cloud provider may not work for a different provider. These APIs may also fail to operate in the local environment due to their exclusive nature.
  3. Integration with the service:  Many times, the cloud-native application can be made of multiple services. This can be a challenge for developers as they may find difficulty connecting them. Reducing the number of services involved can help developers to avoid increased complexity and reduce the integration challenge. Experienced cloud-native app developers looking to create applications that are free of such problems.

Conclusion

Currently, in 2022, the work-from-home scenario calls for exactly what the cloud-native technology has to offer. Challenges of data security have now increased, and seamless operations require a fundamental digital transformation. Using the container infrastructure, cloud applications can minimize the load for on-premises infrastructure without lapses in security. 

With cloud applications, you also need not change from workload on the servers while shifting from one server to the other. 

Future applications will also have a stringent focus on remote collaborations for higher productivity. 

All the factors discussed in this article highlight how slowly and steadily cloud-native technology has been penetrating the IT market and why amidst this pandemic, that transition may become accelerated. 

“CIOs looking to prepare their organization to thrive in the upcoming turns must take a differentiated approach to cloud computing,” says Gregor Petri, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “It will be essential for CIOs to develop a formal strategy that helps to put individual cloud decisions in the context of the enterprise’s strategic goals.”

This is becoming one of the fastest-growing segments for IT spending. Post this cloud-native revolution, we can hopefully look forward to new and improved applications as well as service provider options to work with.

About the author

Nandita Mishra

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