Mastering Cloud-Native Applications

Exploring the Benefits, Differences, and Strategies for Modern Application Development

Cloud-native and mobile-first applications are the de facto standard, there aren’t so many scenarios where a common application would be developed outside of these parameters. These applications are designed to take full advantage of the cloud’s scalability, flexibility, and reliability, enabling organisations to build and deploy applications faster and more efficiently than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore cloud-native applications, how they differ from traditional applications, and what benefits they offer.

What are Cloud-Native Applications?

Cloud-native applications are designed and built specifically for deployment in the cloud. These applications are typically composed of loosely coupled microservices that can be deployed and scaled independently, allowing for greater flexibility and agility. Cloud-native applications are also designed to utilise cloud infrastructure, including containers, (such as Kubernetes), and other cloud-native technologies and coding languages like Flutter.

Another way of looking at this is, taking an existing application and migrating it to a cloud platform would be considered a hosted application, rather than cloud-native because it wasn’t built to take advantage of cloud technologies and tools.

How are Cloud-Native Applications Different from Traditional Applications?

Traditional applications are typically monolithic, meaning that all of the application’s components are tightly coupled and run on a single server / virtual machine. Some can be split over a few servers, such as separating the application and database. This makes it challenging to scale individual components independently or to update parts of the application without disrupting other components.

In contrast, cloud-native applications are designed to be modular and loosely coupled, with each component running in its own container. This allows for much greater flexibility and scalability, as individual components can be scaled up or down without affecting other application parts. Often, cloud-native applications will utilise APIs for internal communications between component parts, some kind of DevOps and GitHub library for controlling and publishing updates, which tend to be more frequent and focused.

Cloud-native applications are also designed to be highly resilient, with automated failover and self-healing capabilities built to ensure that the application remains available even in the event of a failure.

What Benefits Do Cloud-Native Applications Offer?

Cloud-native applications offer a number of benefits to businesses, including:

1. Greater agility:

Cloud-native applications can be developed and deployed much faster than traditional applications, thanks to their modular design and use of cloud-native technologies. This allows businesses to respond more quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs.

Furthermore, it allows businesses to quickly set up Proofs-of-Concept and trials for potential new customers, this can be done very quickly compared to a traditional approach, and with far lower cost implications.

2. Improved scalability:

Cloud-native applications can be scaled up or down quickly and easily, allowing businesses to handle spikes in demand without investing in additional hardware or infrastructure. Scale can be regionalised better as well and aspects of cloud technologies can support auto-scaling.

3. Increased reliability:

Cloud-native applications are designed to be highly resilient, with automated failover and self-healing capabilities built in. This reduces the risk of downtime or service disruptions and ensures that the application remains available even in the event of failure.

4. Lower costs:

Cloud-native applications can be deployed using containerization and other cloud-native technologies, significantly reducing infrastructure and operational costs. This is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses that may not have the resources to invest in expensive hardware or infrastructure. We have seen first hand how legacy hosted applications, which are costing £3-4k per tenant to run per month, can be run as a multi-tenancy cloud-native application for £7-8k per month, supporting 100’s of customers with 100’s of users.

How Can Businesses Begin Building Cloud-Native Applications?

Building cloud-native applications requires a shift in mindset and technology. Here are a few steps that businesses can take to begin building cloud-native applications:

1. Start with understanding the what and the why:

In a similar way to designing a mobile application, it’s important to follow a process that identifies the problems you are trying to solve, for who, and importantly, how you will do it. This analysis needs to include a review of the skillsets of your existing coding capabilities as these might be focused on your legacy application development and support. This is an area where working with an external 3rd party can provide the greatest level of insight.

2. Adopt a microservices architecture:

Cloud-native applications are typically composed of loosely coupled microservices that can be deployed and scaled independently. Adopting a microservices architecture is the first step in building cloud-native applications.

3. Embrace containerisation:

Containers are a key technology in cloud-native applications, allowing applications to run consistently across different environments. Businesses should review the use of containerisation and explore container orchestration tools like Kubernetes. This should be done with an understanding of the full cost-benefit picture, as whilst containerisation can seem compelling its not always the right approach.

4. Automate everything:

Cloud-native applications require a high degree of automation to ensure that they remain scalable and resilient. Businesses should automate as much of the application lifecycle as possible, including testing, deployment, and monitoring. The general rule is; if it can be automated, then automate. Consideration needs to be given specifically to cyber-security and event monitoring with application performance alerts.

5. Invest in training and education:

Building cloud-native applications requires new skills and technologies. Businesses should invest in training and education for their developers and IT staff to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and expertise. Additionally, it’s important to embrace external expertise and find development organisations that can provide the assistance you need.

6. Rebuild your business as a SaaS provider:

If you are serious about building cloud-native applications to either support internal employees or external customers, you need to start thinking, acting and being a SaaS provider. This means reviewing your internal support systems and processes. This includes everything from business modelling and product feature sets, order fulfilment, delivery, configuration, hand-over, billing, support, proactive monitoring, security, compliance, data integrity and certification.

The timescales and expectations that were acceptable when ordering a traditional application are vastly different to a cloud-native one. Including your additional responsibilities for being a SaaS provider.

To Sum Up

Cloud-native applications are the future of application development and deployment. By adopting a microservices architecture, embracing containerization, automating everything, and investing in training and education, businesses can begin building cloud-native applications that are more agile, scalable, reliable, and cost-effective than traditional applications. With the right tools and mindset, businesses can take full advantage of the cloud’s capabilities and build applications that meet the needs of their customers and their business. 

Cirro offers cloud native application development based on your requirements and challenges. We design and build tailored solutions that deliver the outcomes you need.

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