Cloud technologies are in most areas of human activity, and even people far from the IT world are familiar with several services using this architecture. However, the penetration of cloud technologies into our lives does not end with the storage of information in Google or the use of the store.
Business, industry, medicine – these and other vital areas also use cloud-based solutions. In our article, we will tell you what this tool consists of; we will deal with the types of these technologies and consider their benefits and applications in detail.
The concept of cloud technologies
The essence of cloud technologies is that with their help, it is possible to provide extensive ubiquitous access to any configuration of computing resources. This refers to servers, networks, applications, storage, etc. All this can be easily and quickly taken into use or released. Management is simple, and direct contact with the provider is not required.
Simply put, cloud technologies are technologies that allow users to access computer resources online.
A simple example can explain the work of cloud technologies: not so long ago, computers everywhere had Microsoft Outlook (an email client) designed to read email.
Now its location is a remote server. You can use the program from any device; you need to pre-authorize it in the browser (outlook.live.com/owa/). Of course, cloud technologies are used widely and in various areas, but only a single generalized example is given here.
What does Cloud Native mean?
Cloud Native applications use modern infrastructure components to facilitate rapid, scalable deployment. A “cloud” system is created using several independent attributes. It will have a high level of automation and dependency separation resulting in excellent resistance to change through code releases and environment updates.
Most commentators associate cloud technologies not only with technical qualities but also with the methods of work and thinking of the implementing organization. Cloud-enabled organizations will actively use the cloud for their entire stack, seeing it as a differentiating feature of their offering. This is in contrast to vendors who know the cloud simply as the data center where their services run.
There is no one way to use cloud technologies. The terminology is flexible and based on qualitative characteristics. Native cloud systems are typically based on microservices deployed with a container orchestrator, using auto-deployment flows to move code through a pipeline. The actual implementation remains with each organization.
This model allows you to quickly introduce new changes without losing control. Developers commit the changes, save them to a repository, and let their CI pipeline deploy the latest production release. Automation reduces the risk of errors and gives developers more room to focus on writing new code.
As a result, faster development cycles increase productivity by delivering more features to users in less time. This promotes customer satisfaction and engagement by creating an image of an ever-evolving codebase where bugs are fixed as soon as they are discovered.
However, the cloud environment doesn’t quite “let the machine do all the work.” Another critical principle is observability, the notion that systems should display their internal state to be easily accessible to operational teams.
Effective monitoring, tracking, and logging allow you to see when problems occur. The observed system displays the information needed to solve problems. You use the reflective power of your infrastructure to uncover the lifecycle of requests, from your network to individual services and back.
An essential characteristic of cloud systems is strong decoupling. This goes hand in hand with the microservices model. Services should be autonomous without hard dependency on each other. This increases resilience and makes it easier to replace parts of your stack in the future.
Each functional block becomes its microservice that interacts with others through well-defined APIs. This allows you to separate individual parts of your system, helping developers focus on their specific area and enabling you to enforce tighter security measures around critical services in a production environment. Your authentication service can benefit from more isolation than your general-purpose web containers.
Separating services makes them more scalable, so your system is better able to respond to changes in user demand. If media coverage causes a surge in user registrations, you can quickly add more instances of your registration service backend to handle the additional traffic. The usual approach with a monolithic application in a virtual machine or server without an OS cannot be adapted in this way.
What other features do cloud-native applications have?
Designed using best-in-class languages and environments
With a granular approach to microservice development, each cloud application service is developed using the language and environment best suited to its functionality. Services use various languages, runtimes, and frameworks.
Focused around APIs for interaction and collaboration
Cloud services use lightweight APIs based on protocols such as REST, gRPC, or NATS. REST is the lowest common denominator to provide APIs via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). To improve performance, gRPC is commonly used for internal communication between services. NATS has publish-subscribe features that enable asynchronous communication within an application.
An architecture with a clear separation of stateless and stateful services
Persistent and reliable services follow a different pattern of higher availability and resiliency. Stateless services exist independently of stateful services.
Independent of the server and operating system
Cloud applications are not tied to a specific operating system or individual computer. They operate at a higher level of abstraction. The only exception is when the microservice needs particular capabilities, including solid-state drives (SSDs) and graphics processing units (GPUs).
Cloud applications can be highly automated.
They fit well with the concept of infrastructure as code. A certain level of automation is also required to manage these large and complex applications.
Pros cloud-native technologies
Cloud as a competitive advantage
Cloud-native is when the cloud is used not to save IT resources but as a business development tool. In the age of software, successful companies can quickly develop and deliver applications to customer requests.
Focus on stability
When outdated IT infrastructure goes down, services can suffer. In the cloud environment, developers pay special attention to the architecture to ensure it is resilient. Clouds help design systems that stay online regardless of failures in any environment.
Public cloud providers offer impressive features at a reasonable price. But many companies are not ready to stop at one infrastructure. With a cloud-enabled platform, businesses can develop applications that work equally well in the public and private clouds. Development teams launch applications and services that are more profitable for companies without being tied to one cloud provider.
Optimization of IT processes for business needs
By automating IT operations, business units can become small, goal-driven teams that respond to current business priorities. The risks of failures due to human errors are reduced, routine tasks requiring the administrator’s attention are automated, and employees can concentrate on the process. Automatic patches and real-time updates at all levels of the stack reduce downtime, eliminating the need for specialists in processes that require manual intervention.
Cloud applications allow you to quickly create and bring products to market and test hypotheses. At the same time, implementing an idea can take several days and even hours instead of several months.
Benefits of developing native cloud solutions
General benefits of moving to native cloud solutions:
- On-demand computing and storage provisioning
- Reusable modular software components, services, and APIs
- DevOps Friendly – Microservice architectures are great for setting up continuous integration and continuous integration/ongoing deployment processes, among other things
- Cross-platform portability with the ability to move between public and private clouds or between on-premises and hybrid clouds
- Flexible, scalable, and extensible software application architectures can evolve with the business.
Business Benefits of cloud-native technologies
Moving to the cloud often significantly impacts the organization as a whole. Improved scalability can lower costs, increase uptime, and keep infrastructure ahead of users. All this results in a more competitive platform, flexible enough to respond to market changes.
Legacy systems may not have established deployment procedures, instead relying on periodically rolling out the latest production environment changes. This makes it impossible to respond quickly to customer concerns. In the cloud system, you can respond to tickets as they come in. The code is usually shipped immediately after the merge, allowing you to make improvements in minutes, not days.
Cloud systems can also be more attractive to developers, making it easier to hire the best people. Using technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes in production demonstrates a commitment to modern workflows that make day-to-day development less demanding. The ability to access highly skilled engineers usually results in better products being built in less time, creating a self-sustaining cycle that triggers growth in the organization.
Cloud Native and DevOps
Native cloud systems are often the result of good DevOps practice. While DevOps describes the interaction between development and operations teams, cloud environments focus on the outcome of this interaction and its impact on the business.
The DevOps cycle maintains a tight process between planning, building, testing, release, and monitoring. This speeds up development by clearly defining the sequence of events in the lifecycle of a new feature. Adhering to DevOps principles increases the likelihood of a system becoming an effective cloud citizen.
The two tend to emerge from each other. If you consciously practice one of the terms, you are probably already enjoying the benefits of the other. Cloud systems are automatically deployed at a regular frequency; using DevOps tools like CI/CD pipelines is a logical way to implement fast development flows.
Cons cloud-native technologies
Don’t move everything to the cloud.
Businesses and IT professionals must jointly prioritize legacy and new challenges, assessing each case’s technical feasibility, strategic importance, and ROI of migrating to the cloud.
Don’t experiment too much with the tools.
Developers need to agree on how and on what they write. When using the cloud, developers will likely need more discipline to follow the 12 Application Development Principles and standardize their platform and development services. So you want to use new technologies and templates for each new application. But advanced teams deliberately limit their choice to focus on developing innovative software rather than reinventing basic things anew.
It is better to buy rather than develop.
Many companies are considering building their cloud platform by combining open-source automation software and container technologies. But it soon turns out that this requires more components than expected since not all of them can work together. This delays the start of work on the applications themselves. Another factor is added – the need to support the working platform. When using a ready-made cloud platform, you can immediately focus on building applications without thinking about process organization and infrastructure.
What about “Cloud-enabled?”
A cloud-enabled system will operate using the cloud infrastructure but cannot be wholly separated and modular. If you have a legacy monolith, it’s usually relatively easy to package it as a Docker container and run it in the cloud. This offers some immediate benefits, including the prospect of automated deployment and a degree of scalability.
However, the application layer is still a monolith. It will take a period of refactoring to split the stack into separate microservices that can scale separately. A containerized monolith cannot provide the same level of resiliency as a system designed and built for the cloud.
Using the cloud in the system is the first step towards becoming a “citizen” of the natural cloud. It may be followed by a “cloud” approach, where the application primarily runs in the cloud with a high degree of separation of services. There may still be some binding relationships between components or feedback to the legacy infrastructure. After they are eliminated, the architecture can be called “native to the cloud.”
A native cloud system is a system that leverages everything the cloud has to offer to accelerate development, automate deployment, and improve resiliency and visibility. This results from organizational investment in modern tools and methods to enable teams to release code faster and add value to the business.
Moving to the cloud doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on the size of your system, it may be appropriate to choose a “cloud-enabled” or “cloud-based” approach first. Gradually evolving your architecture allows you to pick the low-hanging fruit and monitor the impact of individual changes, giving you an idea of whether your efforts are paying off.