Cloud Native is an approach that aims to ensure that applications are designed and developed for the cloud computing architecture. The cloud-native applications consistently use the services provided by the cloud and are based on microservices.
The term cloud native is used in connection with applications specially designed and developed for cloud computing. The abbreviation NCA (Native Cloud Application) is often used for this type of application.
The aim of Cloud Native is to use the special features of the cloud computing architecture to the advantage of the applications and to fully exploit the possibilities of distributed cloud platforms. The cloud computing framework is made up of a large number of individual microservices that provide the functions and services required for the applications.
The microservices are loosely coupled and can be operated on different servers and at different locations. Often they work completely independently of each other and only provide a single specific function. Even when planning cloud-native applications, developers must take into account that the application is not executed locally and that distributed redundancy mechanisms must be provided.
NCAs are not tied to specific hardware or specific operating systems. They can be easily scaled and can be made available to users via the cloud immediately after programming is complete. The basic approach of Cloud Native involves a distributed system of microservices that is packaged in containers. The individual microservices can be executed dynamically on the various nodes and servers of the underlying cloud environment. The cloud-native approach mainly cares about how applications are developed and deployed, not where they operate. Use in private or hybrid cloud environments is also supported by cloud-native applications in addition to the public cloud platforms. Thanks to the NCAs, ideas and solutions can be brought to market and to users more quickly.
The main advantages of the cloud-native approach
The cloud-native approach offers many advantages for the development, operation and delivery of applications. It allows companies a high degree of flexibility and agility. The applications are decoupled from specific hardware and specific operating systems and can be ported to any cloud platform. Thanks to a faster reaction to market and customer requirements, there are significant competitive advantages. The availability of applications and services also increases thanks to the cloud-native approach. Regardless of whether specific hardware or a local IT infrastructure is available, the cloud-native application can be provided at any location.
Thanks to the cloud native approach, the applications run without major adjustments on different private or public cloud environments from different service providers. This enables organizations to choose the cloud environment and provider to achieve the best value for money. At the same time, companies are not tied to a specific provider and are free to choose their future partners and service providers. Another advantage results from the high degree of automation in the provision of cloud-native applications. The risk of human operating and configuration errors can be reduced and the availability of services or applications increases.
The typical characteristics of cloud-native applications
Cloud-native applications have a number of typical characteristics. The applications behave predictably and are highly automated. At the same time, there is a high degree of abstraction with regard to hardware and operating systems. Applications are independent of the underlying infrastructure. Compared to applications that are operated on on-premises equipment or in conventional server environments, the performance provided is precisely adapted to current requirements and not overdimensioned. Resources are allocated dynamically and in real time according to the requirements of the applications. Adjustments or changes to the applications are available to users immediately after the code has been implemented.
There is no need to roll out individual updates with any associated downtime for the service. Another typical feature is the microservice architecture with its loosely coupled services. If necessary, small, independent development teams are responsible for these in a flexible manner and without affecting other services. Cloud-native applications are characterized, among other things, by the fact that there is a high degree of automated scaling. Not servers, computing power, networks or storage capacity, but the applications and their microservices themselves. In the event of a service or infrastructure failure, flexible, distributed recovery mechanisms take effect. Microservices and containers: fundamental parts of the cloud-native approach
The cloud-native approach follows the concept of developing and deploying applications that are based on a collection of individual small services. These services are called microservices and are one of the essential components of the cloud-native model. Each microservice works for itself on any environment at any location and provides a specific function. Communication takes place via an API or messaging protocols.
A microservices can be deployed, scaled, upgraded or stopped and started independently of other microservices. There is often an automated administration of the individual services. Microservices, in turn, can be grouped into so-called containers. Compared to a virtual machine, for example, containers offer greater efficiency and speed. At the same time, they simplify the provision of many different microservices.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) association supports companies in the development of cloud-native applications and channels many individual projects into a cloud-native stack. The stack defines the basic direction for companies on the way to cloud native applications. Numerous large and small companies belong to the CNCF. The focus: the promotion of "cloud-native" applications based on microservices and containers. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is an important project of the Linux Foundation. Community around microservices and containers What is the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)?
The Board of Directors of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation consists of representatives from Google, Docker, Cisco, CoreOS and Fujitsu, among others. The members of the CNCF also include Microsoft and IBM. The CNCF is a branch of the Linux Foundation and manages numerous open source and cloud projects. These include, for example, Kubernetes, which was originally developed by Google. Kubernetes is an open source system with which container applications can be automatically provided, managed and scaled.
Cloud native promises
Cloud Native Development promises robust and agile software development with powerful results. Instead of worrying about the infrastructure and its peculiarities, developers can concentrate fully on the actual software development. In the following you will see the main promises of cloud native approach.
Cloud Native Development has a huge advantage: software providers simply buy computing power and server capacities instead of setting them up themselves and making them available for their own services. This ensures that the management of computing power is significantly easier compared to traditional infrastructure models.
Instead of having its own infrastructure with the corresponding management and maintenance effort, the software base is simply outsourced to a third party provider such as Amazon, IBM or Google. Fixed prices for allotments provide security, and can be easily scaled if necessary.
With cloud native development, virtual environments are used, either via Docker containers or as a virtual machine. This ensures that applications can be duplicated with a single movement, variants and test environments can be created and tested with little technical effort, and under completely identical conditions. This enables developers to test a large number of variants in a short time and release releases as quickly as possible. Both software companies and customers benefit from this.
If the infrastructure required for an application is no longer running in-house, but by a third-party provider, many cost factors that have driven up costs in the traditional development model are eliminated. The scaling of the hardware base is one such item: In addition to space for data centers, their construction and maintenance is also very time-consuming and costly.
It is much more resource-efficient to work with cloud-based solutions: Even small developers can access large computing capacities. For developers, this means significantly less effort and thus costs - which in turn can benefit customers.
More reliability and security
The large cloud providers generally have several large data centers around the world, which in turn are networked with one another. The software base is maintained, updated and secured in the data centers, a measure that would have to be taken over by the software company itself when using its own server. As the cloud platforms specialize in expanding, maintaining and servicing their own data centers, a failure is unlikely.
Even attacks can usually be successfully fended off by these large data centers. This results in added value for the security and reliability of the cloud-native developed application. However, this has its price: data has to leave the company building, which is why data protection and data security must of course be given special attention in cloud native development.
Better customer experience
Of course, the customer also benefits from all these advantages: A software company that develops software-as-a-service applications and uses IaaS solutions for this can very quickly adapt to the requirements of the customer. This in turn benefits from reliable performance and quick adaptation to the desired environment.
The claim of “Mobile First” applications and the user as the center of all design efforts can also be met because the optimal scalability and API functionality allow, for example, even complex databases to be linked with the lean apps for mobile platforms.
No more lock-in effects
Last but not least, Cloud Native Development has a not to be despised advantage for developers: There are no longer any lock-in effects, because the application is no longer tied to a specific hardware and software environment. After all, VMs and containers are usually based on open source solutions and can basically run on any substructure. This in turn ensures that not only specific applications can be ported quickly, but also that the cloud provider can be changed relatively easily.
Backporting to the company's own infrastructure is also no problem in this way. This also has the pleasant side effect of increasing competition between cloud infrastructure providers. Developers and customers of cloud-based solutions can therefore benefit equally from falling prices and increases in performance.