Momentum Technology & Architecture

The 5 Advantages of Cloud-native Platforms

Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes



by Patrick Hilpisch

Stairway in the sea leading to cloud

Agile, efficient, future-proof – these are buzzwords that will get the hearts of any DevOps team racing. Fact is, without cloud-native development and building platforms designed in and for the cloud, the resting pulse among developers and users will hardly increase. Innovation and advancement is hard to imagine without cloud-native technologies.

What is Cloud-native?

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defines cloud-native as a technology that enables organizations to run scalable applications in a modern and dynamic cloud environment. This environment can be a public, private or hybrid on-premises cloud solution. A cloud-native application is thereby a collection of different, independent technology services such as containers, service meshes, microservices and declarative APIs.

These technological building blocks create agile software solutions that are developed and operated entirely in the cloud. Cloud-native thus describes the form in which applications are created and deployed, not the place of creation. However, the decisive factor in the cloud-native approach is not only the technology. It is also about the associated added value in user experience and value creation. And, in a broader sense, it is about an organizational and also cultural shift in dealing with digital business models.

Utilizing potential

If an application is set up from scratch today, the cloud-native approach should be a given. Even if it is initially used on-premises. This is the only way to enable a later switch to the cloud. And only there the benefits of cloud computing can be fully utilized. But what about existing systems that were still coded according to “normal” standards? The question of whether a change to a cloud-native platform is required presents itself above all in the case of:

  • the definite need for application modernization, for example due to the “end of life” of a previous central application
  • software that is no longer up to date and increased cost pressure on legacy systems
  • the new orientation/expansion of the digital business model, i.e., the need for fresh, innovative apps and user-friendly UX
  • the desire for more scope for innovation, scaling, performance, security and automation

Lift and Shift as an Alternative?

One alternative here is to move the entire system to the cloud, known as “lift and shift.” In this migration method, the existing on-premises application is “lifted” to the cloud with no or minimal customizations. In other words, as little as possible is changed to the code, functionality or design. This is usually fast, cost-effective and straightforward. This sounds promising at first. But this kind of relocation is not really sustainable or future-proof.

Various compromises have to be made on the central advantages of native cloud technology. For example, scalability, security, performance and the control of costs incurred sometimes suffer under the lift and shift approach. The full potential of existing and upcoming cloud benefits can only be exploited poorly or with complex and cost-intensive adjustments (code refactoring). In perspective, the decision for an application with cloud-native code is therefore the right one in the majority of cases.

Mosaic of clouds

The cloud-native architecture – more than the sum of its parts

It is obvious that applications specifically coded for the cloud can also be perfectly integrated into cloud environments and perform well. But why is the coding effort or the additional costs for a cloud-native platform worth it compared to lift and shift?

1. The Convenient Infrastructure

The cloud provides a global infrastructure with an ever-expanding set of tools and application capabilities. So, by moving to cloud-native software, companies move into a highly connected and equipped “new home” for their systems and data. Application interfaces, automation, scaling and monitoring are virtually ready for immediate use. Complexity and costs of the platform are reduced. The manpower for corresponding development is freed up and is available for the target-oriented further development of the platform.

At the same time, the use of cloud standards and tools simplifies the management of the system. Both in terms of maintenance and operation. Adaptations are faster and easier to manage due to the standards used.

2. The Microservices Architecture

The basic building blocks of a cloud-native architecture are small, loosely coupled services – the microservices. As independent, individually maintainable services, they work together to provide the overall functionality of the system. Unlike classic monolithic systems, which are built as one large block. Each microservice has exactly one functionality and application programming interface (API) and is clearly separated from the others.

Containers, e.g. Docker, ensure that the microservices run stably, are portable and can be scaled as needed. Development teams can therefore work on and further develop “their” microservices independently of each other and without impacting other system-relevant services. The portability of containerized microservices ensures that an organization is not overly dependent on a particular cloud provider.  Downtimes for bug fixing as with classic systems no longer exist here. Deployments run more structured and faster. This building block principle ensures an agile, flexible and stable basic architecture. The new application can be enriched with further modules via APIs.

3. Reliability

A cloud-native application combines three important characteristics: it is flexible, scalable and, above all, secure. The advantages of the infrastructure and architecture put the system on stable footing in terms of reliability. New requirements can be implemented quickly, and different business cases can be tested without any problems.

The software as a whole remains untouched when changes are made; code changes are only made to the services that really need to be adapted/improved (value add). This also makes development and testing much easier. Continuous Delivery keeps the platform up to date and agile. In this way, the requirements of a constantly changing market and new customer demands can be met.

The massive scalability in the cloud is also an advantage here. The system grows and changes with its tasks. If certain services are needed more or less in the company, this is possible without any problems. There are no additional costs for hardware expansions or unused resources.

4. Security

A big question mark still overshadows any engagement with the cloud: How secure is my data? Cloud-native systems rely on “Security by Design“. This means that security mechanisms are already thought of and integrated when the application is built. Collaboration between cybersecurity and cloud specialists enables innovative and forward-looking security foundations and regular exchanges on new potential sources of danger.

This includes concepts such as Intelligent Threat Detection. In addition, security standards for the cloud with complex security architectures provide peace of mind regarding cyberattacks and data loss. Legal requirements, compliance and governance can be implemented easily and securely. Cloud-native content platforms are also the future for government institutions and FinTech companies due to this solid and evolving security foundation.

5. Costs

Cloud-native applications are not tied to hardware or operating systems. A cloud platform is therefore freely selectable and can be easily changed if necessary (cost optimization through provider change). The automatic management of application containers by Kubernetes saves further expenses for companies. Automation minimizes potential errors due to inadequate operation or configuration.

The use of microservices in software development facilitates continuous integration and continuous deployment, reducing the development lifecycle and the risk of human error through automated processes. Fewer errors, less effort, lower costs. At the same time, a container orchestrator can automatically schedule and allocate resources as needed to increase efficiency.

Other cost savers include:

  1. the demand-oriented, quickly adaptable scaling of the system
  2. the targeted use of open source technologies
  3. the expansion of self-healing infrastructures in the cloud
  4. the possibility of continuous delivery
  5. the elimination of own server and hardware resources

Man with feet on desk in the clouds

Conclusion

Cloud-native applications thus ensure that:

  • it is possible to react very quickly to (market-driven or internal) change requirements
  • the application is always up to date through continuous delivery. There are no lengthy roadmaps to the next version.
  • there are no downtimes during further development
  • customer requests can be implemented quickly and easily
  • collaboration between developers and administrators runs more smoothly
  • automated IT operations are made possible through cloud automation
  • IT resources are better controlled
  • costs are reduced

Accenture calls cloud-native computing the latest wave of digital disruption. According to IDC, 80% of application development will take place on cloud platforms by the end of 2021. It is not yet possible to predict when 100% will be reached here. What is clear, however, is that companies can definitely dispel concerns about the scalability, security and future viability of cloud-native platforms. It is not only worthwhile for them in monetary and process terms. Another small reward is the sparkle in the eyes of their developers and the satisfaction of their customers.