Cloud-native is a modern way to develop software

by Mike Sweetman
15 April 2020

Cloud-native computing defines a special approach to software development in the cloud. This approach takes full advantage of cloud computing by using the open-source software stack to deploy microservice applications. Cloud-native applications are initially created as a composition of microservices. These microservices are then hosted and run in Docker containers. And then containers are organized in Kubernetes and managed and deployed using DevOps workflows. The advantage of using Docker containers is the ability to pack all the software you need to run in one executable package. The container runs in a virtualized environment that isolates the application from its environment. Cloud-native computing makes it possible by avoiding having to adapt to the previous generation of software, but instead create the right application in the network using the most modern tools and techniques. The application runs as quickly as possible and uses the capabilities of the cloud system very efficiently, saving resources and budget. 

What is Cloud-native computing?

In the understanding of experts from the CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) cloud-native applications and their accompanying infrastructure are endowed with the following properties:

  • The ability to operate in a cloud system, i.e. application/system lifecycle management with external tools.
  • The ability to monitor the operation of applications, i.e. the presence of mechanisms for obtaining the current state and performance.
  • Elasticity in the cloud system, allowing you to increase and decrease in size within the available resources and depending on the changing load.
  • Fault tolerance, guaranteeing fast automatic recovery in case of fails in the cloud system.
  • Quick deployments, iterations, and configuration changes in the cloud system.

An application that is developed in accordance with the concept of cloud-native will have the following features or some of them:

  1. Packaged as lightweight containers.
  2. Developed with best-of-breed languages and frameworks.
  3. Designed as loosely coupled microservices.
  4. Centered around APIs for interaction and collaboration.
  5. Architected with a clean separation of stateless and stateful services.
  6. Isolated from the server and operating system dependencies.
  7. Deployed on self-service, elastic, cloud infrastructure.
  8. Managed through agile DevOps processes.
  9. Automated capabilities.
  10. Defined, policy-driven resource allocation.

The next image shows cloud-native approaches from Microsoft that explain the advantages of such a methodology.

cloud-native approaches from Microsoft
Image source

Why Cloud-Native Applications Matter

Saving the resources of cloud systems is one of the important tasks in the operation of information systems. The cloud-native application strategy saves cloud resources, and on the other hand, helps to build the right architecture and use the best list of components to make the application function properly. 

The cloud-native landscape itself is a rather extensive catalog of products that are not limited to CNCF projects or even free licenses, although most of them relate to Open Source. For the convenience of users, they are divided into categories:

  • Application development: databases and data warehouses, source code management, application modeling/definition, continuous integration, and delivery.
  • Orchestration and management: planning/orchestration, interaction and discovery of services, service management.
  • Execution environment: cloud storage, runtime for containers, cloud network solutions.
  • Provisioning: tooling and management for hosts, infrastructure automation, container registries, image security, key management.
  • Platforms: Kubernetes certified distributions, Kubernetes certified platforms, uncertified Kubernetes, PaaS implementations and container services.
  • Monitoring and analysis: monitoring, logging, tracing, serverless.
  • Clouds: public and private.
  • Kubernetes Certified Service Providers.

 

Please take a look at the variety of cloud-native tools and cloud solutions here

Continuous Delivery

A very important step in the development of cloud-native applications is CI/CD. For this, it is necessary to set up continuous integration and delivery (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) so that changes in the source code automatically turn into a container assembled with them, are tested and deployed to staging, and then to production. This involves setting up automated rollouts, rollbacks, and unit and regression testing.

Microservices

Cloud-native applications are developed as loosely coupled microservices. Microservices are an architectural approach to application development. The application is presented as a set of small services. Each service implements a specific business task, can work in its own process and exchange data via HTTP API (REST) messages. Each microservice can be deployed, updated, scaled, or restarted independently of other application services. Therefore, applications can often be updated without interruption. Microservice architecture also has disadvantages. Such a distributed system requires a more careful management approach, but this can be managed by keeping microservices independent from each other. 

Containers

Another important step for cloud-native applications is containerization. Usually, this process is implemented using Docker. You can pack applications into containers and their dependencies (libraries, configuration files, etc.) of any size. Then it is recommended that existing functions of cloud-native applications be split into parts, and the new functionality should be implemented as microservices.

An important stage is an orchestration. Choosing a solution for orchestration is now not a difficult process since Kubernetes is the market leader, and certified distributions are recommended as its distributions.

Elasticity

Automatic scaling is an important parameter for the cloud-native approach. Automated cloud scaling tools eliminate infrastructure downtime. This prevents human failures r since all processes occur automatically to increase system performance if necessary. It is important that one set of scaling rules applies to any deployment scale. Unlike traditional virtualization, full cloud architecture is designed to automate the whole system, not servers. This makes cloud-native infrastructure reliable and resilient.

Statelessness

By definition, cloud infrastructure is loosely coupled. This means that applications are not tied to the infrastructure, and therefore their application development should not have internal states. A cloud-based native application saves its state in a database or in other external objects or files. Therefore, application instances can be created and deleted, and the application can continue to work from its previous step. Loosely coupled applications should function just like that without storing important data in their internal infrastructure. The lack of binding to a specific instance allows the application to work in a distributed infrastructure. Support for the state of the application is provided by continuous storage systems, regardless of the number of instances involved in cloud-native applications.

Multitenancy

Cloud-native applications work very well in a virtualized space and share resources with other applications. This applies to both public cloud systems and private ones.

With this approach, a single instance of an application running on a cloud serves many clients and organizations. Multi-tenancy is separate from multi-instance architecture, where separate software instances are created for each client. In a multitenancy architecture, software applications work simultaneously with multiple configurations and data sets of multiple clients. At the same time, each client works with its own instance of the virtual application, seeing only its configuration and its data set. As a result, we get a greater opportunity to serve more customers with a single application and a more efficient operation of the cloud infrastructure.

The challenges of cloud-native applications

The main challenge of cloud-native applications is that the attempt to transfer old on-premises applications to the cloud usually ends badly. Trying to migrate existing applications to the cloud, especially monolithic legacy applications, is not a good idea. Monolithic applications will not take advantage of the basic cloud capabilities if developers simply move the old architecture to the new realities of cloud-native infrastructure.

There are two possible scenarios for the development: either to place new cloud applications in modern cloud-native architecture or to take existing monolithic applications and gradually break them into microservices, using reengineering or isolating a separate functionality in compliance with the requirements of modern cloud realities.

In addition, it is very important to apply new methods for managing the development process of cloud-native applications. To develop such projects, you can use agile development methods and scrum is the best suited for these processes of creating cloud-native applications. This is due to the fact that such projects are easily divided into teams, and are quite well arranged for subtasks within the framework of microservices and allow changing the plan practically without damage to the project if the situation requires it. Such requirements as multivariate testing, fast iteration and close interaction across organizational boundaries in the DevOps model will allow you to produce a workable and high-quality product.

If you strictly follow the requirements of working with infrastructure services, automation/orchestration, virtualization and containerization, the architecture of microservices and observability, then in principle you will be successful with cloud-native applications. There will be nothing complicated if you methodically approach this issue, as many successful companies have already done.

Conclusion

The transition to sustainable cloud-based application development methodologies is evolving every year. Cloud-native applications and the development of appropriate methodology and tools allow you to make huge savings in computing resources in the clouds. 

As a result of this approach, the stability of the operation of information systems built using cloud-native systems is increased. The use of universal tools and containerization systems allows customers to move from one cloud system to another. If necessary, customers can use a private cloud with virtually no restructuring of applications that correspond to cloud-native. Reducing the load on cloud systems and simplifying the architecture using microservices, customers significantly reduce the project budget. Our experts have experience working with cloud-native and will help you solve the problems of creating information systems and applications adhering to these modern requirements.

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