What Exactly Is a Cloud-Native Application?

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What Exactly Is a Cloud-Native Application?

What makes cloud-native applications so exceptional, and why are developers obsessed with them?

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Born to be...cloud-native?

What is a cloud-native application in the context of cloud computing? And do “cloud-based” and “cloud-native” refer to the very same type of architecture?

Does cloud-native development mean using a specific set of methodologies and tools or simply hosting, running and managing your app in a specific environment?

You may also enjoy:  Why the World is Shifting Towards a Cloud-Native Approach

Let's try to define, in plain English, what cloud-native apps are and the key principles of the cloud-native development process, and bust some of the myths and confusions around cloud-native technologies and the cloud-native architecture. 

“Cloud-Native”: What It Means & Key Patterns

A cloud-native technology enables you to build and to run your scalable app in a dynamic environment: a public, private, or hybrid cloud. 

To give you just a few examples of specific techniques supporting the “cloud-native” approach, they include immutable infrastructure, containers, service meshes, declarative APIs. 

What they do precisely is enable loosely coupled systems. This way, you get to ship new features faster, with less effort, more predictably, and with zero impact on the end user's experience.

What Is a Cloud-Native Application?

The most concise definition possible would be that it's an application developed using cloud-based technologies, fully hosted and managed in the cloud.

Do you sense the underlying difference between a “cloud-based” and a “cloud-native” application?

While the first one might be an older app re-architected to run properly on a cloud operating system, the second one has been hosted in the cloud from the very beginning.

It runs in cloud end-to-end, meaning that it has been written, tested, and deployed in the cloud, using technologies and services that are cloud-based and not just rehosted, subsequently, to a cloud computing environment. 

Now, if we were to highlight the traits that set them apart from traditional applications, I would sum them up in three points:

  • They're built with agility and high flexibility in mind, which translates into better security, top performance, and improved customer experience;
  • High speed at which you can run new features, apply changes and, overall, customize your app;
  • There's no monolithic software codebase that they depend on; instead, they're built in a modular manner, leveraging multiple infrastructures and cloud computing frameworks.

The Three Defining Characteristics of a Cloud-Native App

In other words, how can you identify a cloud-native application?

Let me trim down the long list of traits to the most specific ones:

  • They're not limited to certain public cloud infrastructures
  • They scale better since they tap into the cloud platform's elasticity
  • They're built using a set of cloud-specific dev ops methodologies, technologies, and architectural approaches: lightweight container environments, infrastructure as code, microservices, orchestration 

7 Reasons to Develop a Cloud-Native App

If you think that the above-mentioned characteristics don't stand as strong enough reasons for you to opt for cloud-native development, here are some more convincing ones:

Managing Your Infrastructure Gets Easier

Let serverless handle it for you! 

With serverless platforms like AWS Lambda and Azure Functions, operations like configuring your networking, provisioning cloud instances and making sure there's enough storage will get automatically taken care of.

All there's left for you to do is upload your code as functions.

Cloud-Native Apps Are Resilient to Failures

It's that “ideal” app that ships with built-in self-healing.

Therefore, expect it to handle outages automatically, to be inherently fault-tolerant. If trouble strikes, your cloud-native app processing will move from one data center to another promptly and discreetly.

In short: the end user's experience won't get affected and you don't need to worry about downtime costs.

You Can Release Your Apps Faster

Since it supports DevOps processes — streamlining key operations like build, test, deployment automation and collaboration — your cloud-native app will speed up the whole software delivery process. 

Lower Costs

And the four key reasons behind the reduction of costs are:

  • Containers: containerizing your app will enable you to manage it easier and safer
  • Cloud-Native Tools, which lead to a certain standardization of the tooling
  • The Open-Source Model
  • Serverless Computing, which supports a pay-per-use model and enhances flexibility in pricing 

Your App Scales Automatically to Accommodate Your Growing Needs

One of the main attributes of a cloud-native app's architecture is auto-scaling.

Basically, your app will scale, by default, to handle your future business needs. And this reflects in the costs, as well: you'll get charged only for the computing resources that you'll use.

You App Supports Auto-Provisioning

Just imagine: your business-critical app will run non-eventful, using an on-demand allocation of services right from the app.

It will automatically tap into self-service and programmatic provisioning, so you don't need to manually provide them with the resources they need to run smoothly.

You'll Provide a Better Customer Experience

And it's quite predictable that, since the cloud-native principles revolve around a fast shipment of new features and continuous iteration, you'll provide a better end-user experience. 

Further Reading

Cloud-Native Apps: The Why, the What, and the How

Why ''Less'' Is More is the Secret to Cloud-Native Computing

cloud attributes, cloud computing, cloud native, cloud native applications, resilience

Published at DZone with permission of Adrian Ababei . See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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