What Are Cloud-Native Applications? Principles, Benefits, and Examples
Cloud-native applications are built on cloud technology and fully deployed in the cloud, which not only provides improved performance, greater scalability, and resilience but also allows new ideas to be brought to market much faster than with common applications
In the modern world, technologies are constantly changing. It’s crucial to stay on top of new trends and innovations. Today, more and more development companies start using cloud technologies. But, what is the reasoning behind this approach?
Cloud-native solutions are vital to success in rapidly emerging markets that require enterprises to change the way they design, build, and use applications to achieve great results. Telecommunications, banking, healthcare, education — businesses in nearly every industry must put cloud-native solutions in the middle of their business strategies if they want to meet customer needs fast.
In this article, we explain the elements of cloud-native applications, their pros and cons, the requirements for building true cloud solutions, and the business benefits they bring. Let’s go deep into cloud-native application development.
What is a cloud-native application?
Before we get really deep into the specifics, let’s identify what cloud-native applications actually are? A cloud application is a software program that is made specifically for a cloud computing architecture. Such apps work and are hosted in the cloud. The apps are created to take advantage of the cloud software delivery model. In the meantime, a cloud-native application is software designed to be used on a particular platform.
Cloud-native applications use a microservice architecture.
Cloud-native applications use a microservice architecture. This architecture efficiently allocates resources for each service the app uses. This makes the app adaptable to the cloud architecture. DevOps advocates using cloud-based applications to improve business agility. These applications are not developed, manufactured, or shipped in the same way as monolithic applications. Cloud applications have shorter lifecycles along with greater resilience and manageability.
Characteristics of cloud-native apps
Cloud-native applications take advantage of distributed system environments and can be made available on demand. Because the key factor of cloud-native apps is how they are built and deployed, not where, they are suitable for all public, private, and hybrid clouds. The most important characteristics of cloud applications are:
- Predictability. Cloud-native applications are built from microservices hosted in containers, which defines the way software is written and provides a private pool of behavior.
- Resiliency. A good cloud-native application is observable and takes advantage of the dynamics of the cloud for fast disaster recovery.
- Agility. A service-based architecture enables quick deployment of cloud applications in short iterations, which is a must for Agile development.
- Capacity optimization. Cloud-based automatic provisioning and infrastructure provisioning means resources are dynamically allocated in real-time based on the application requirements. It also simplifies application lifecycle management.
- Independence. With a microservices-based infrastructure, cloud-native applications are free from dependencies, allowing for frequent updates, scaling, and reloading without significantly impacting other services.
- Collaboration. Cloud-native development supports the unification of talents, processes, and tools that improve the collaboration of development and operations teams, accelerate production, and keep it running smoothly.
- High uptime. Cloud-native applications perform well throughout their entire lifecycle (not just during deployment). They rarely require reboots.
- Observability. Application status data is available through logs and metrics, allowing the operator to focus on other tasks. Cloud-native apps also notify when a health check is required, as they mostly run in self-service mode.
These characteristics let engineers make loosely coupled systems that are resilient, observable, and easy to manage. By adding automation, engineers can make important changes often and with minimal effort, quickly adapting applications to market needs.
As you can see, in cloud-native applications, lots of the responsibilities that infrastructure has traditionally performed move into the application realm.
Basics of a cloud-native application architecture
Before we dive into the specifics, let us break down the foundation of cloud-native applications. These apps benefit from the cloud computing infrastructure and their roughly
coupled cloud services. Services can be based on various servers and work in different locations. Since not all services are located on the same server, cloud application developers have to make a network between machines using software architectures. This lets apps scale horizontally.
At the same time, since the infrastructure that supports a cloud-native app does not work locally, these applications must be created with redundancy, letting the application resist hardware malfunctions and automatically reassign IP addresses.
Features of a cloud-native application
Like any other application, this one has its own functionality and features. Сloud-native application architecture consists of microservices. They are located in containers. These containers connect and communicate with the help of APIs.
Main features of cloud-native apps:
- Microservices. Microservices divide an application into a set of automatic services. Each service has its own data and is responsible for a particular business goal. These services interact with each other through APIs.
- Container-based. Containers are a kind of software that logically detaches an application, letting it work separately from physical resources. Containers save microservices from communicating with each other and don’t let apps use all shared resources on the host. They also allow a number of instances of the same service to be used.
- API. APIs are used for attaching microservices and containers. They let microservices exchange data and connect coupled services.
- Dynamically set up. These tools are responsible for managing container lifecycles, which can get difficult.
Cloud-native vs cloud-based apps
If you have been researching this topic for a while you might have come across these terms. But, what is the actual difference between the two? Let’s find out together. The terms cloud-native and cloud-based often get mixed up. Both cloud-native and cloud-based applications work on public, private, or hybrid cloud infrastructures. However, when it comes to design you can still identify a few differences :
Cloud-based apps do not just have the word “cloud” in them. They are solely created to use in the cloud and on cloud platforms. This kind of app can use dynamic cloud infrastructure. However, they are not able to fully embrace the benefits of the inherent components of the cloud.
Cloud-native applications are created particularly for the cloud. Cloud app development is optimized for the internal characteristics of the cloud and can be fitted to a dynamic cloud environment.
Benefits of cloud-native applications
Now, when you’re almost a pro at cloud-native apps, let’s identify and see how you can benefit from them. The cloud plays a major part in the Cloud-native apps world. All the significant benefits come from it. These apps are extremely fast and effective. Benefits of using them include:
- Cost-effectiveness. You are able to modify, compute, and store resources whenever your heart desires. Thanks to that there’s no more need for load balancing and hardware overhead. You can add virtual servers for smooth testing. Cloud-native applications can be quickly set up and launched. These apps can save you time and money because you can use containers to expand the number of microservices running on the host
- Detached modifying. Each microservice is logically detached and can be modified on its own. If you scale one microservice, the rest will not change. If some application elements need to be modified quicker than others, a cloud-native architecture can accommodate them.
- Portability. Cloud-native applications use containers for relocating microservices between different vendor infrastructures, escaping vendor binding.
- Reliability. If a failure occurs in one microservice, it does not influence neighboring services, since cloud-based applications use containers.
- Ease of management. With cloud-native apps almost everything is automated. The deployment process and updating of the apps are extremely easy. Developers are able to keep track of all microservices and components as they’re updated. Since cloud-native applications are divided into smaller services, one group of engineers can focus on a particular microservice.
- Visibility. The microservice architecture detaches services, and it becomes easier for developers to learn applications and learn how they work together.
- Faster application deployment. Companies with resources spread across different environments will see this as a big advantage. Instead of looking for ways to cut IT costs, they can use the cloud to drive business growth.
- Continuous delivery (CD). Combining continuous delivery (CD) with continuous integration (CI), a CI/CD pipeline enables immediate delivery of updates to help you keep up with customer demands. It also allows companies to quickly take user feedback into account, ensuring products are suited to the market.
- Fast recovery. Restarting an application is fast thanks to dynamic orchestration that manages container allocation. It also minimizes downtime to make sure it doesn’t harm customer satisfaction and user retention rates.
As you can see the benefits list is not small at all. It means that investing in cloud-native apps can actually be profitable. To gain all these great benefits you need to hire a highly professional development team. You can check websites like Clutch to get reviews from actual clients.
What does it take to build cloud-native apps?
Now, we have reached the most interesting part. Let’s answer the question you have all been waiting for. How to build a cloud-native app? Building and operating cloud-native applications require changing the application delivery culture and adding cloud-native architecture principles. Companies need to invest in automating the whole application lifecycle and providing resources on demand. The cloud-native approach to application development includes a specific set of application architecture and technology practices:
Development and operations teams should be united to automate inter-agency processes for effective collaboration, including through CI/CD pipelines. They need to develop an integrated approach to application development.
Containers and orchestration
Containers and orchestration offer an ideal unit of deployment and a self-contained environment. With them, you’ll always be ready to scale your application.
A service-based architecture breaks down the functions of your application into independent modules (microservices). This architecture is easier to develop and deploy in a DevOps and container environment.
Application programming interfaces
APIs enable communication between microservices using service grid layers. This makes it easier for internal and external clients to get information.
These steps are essential when building This kind of app. To build a high-quality application you need to implement all the elements and have a strong technical team at each step of the way.
Challenges of a cloud-native application strategy
Even though cloud technology is quite great, it still has some challenges that you might have to overcome in the development process. But, don’t worry, there’s not much of them. You just need to be prepared for everything that might come your way. While implementing a cloud-native strategy is a smart choice, organizations also need to be aware of the challenges operations teams will face when choosing cloud-native applications:
- You may not have centralized control over the pipelines, which limits the team’s ability to ensure that each pipeline meets security and compliance requirements. This can cause inconsistencies in CI/CD practices — for example, if not all pipelines have automated UI testing.
- You will have a limited understanding of the quality of the changes you make to each pipeline.
- You may encounter duplicate infrastructure.
- You will need to protect a large number of objects and many architectures in an ever-changing environment.
Well, as you can see, there’re some challenges that come with cloud technology. However, it doesn’t mean that cloud-native apps are bad. Not at all. You can come across similar challenges ar even harder working with other technologies. But, if you hire a professional development company, they will for sure be able to overcome these challenges and make a powerful solution. We suggest doing market research before hiring a company. You need to be sure that they can deliver a high-quality project, meet the deadlines, and have a profound experience in this area.
Best practices for cloud-native application development
The DevOps principle of operational excellence is a core foundation for all the greatest practices for creating cloud-native apps. A cloud-native architecture has no specific regulations. That is why every company approaches development in a different way based on the business goal and the software they use.
When developing a cloud-native app, pay more attention to the process of building, performance measurement, and how teams will drive continuous improvement throughout the application lifecycle. Here are five things to work on:
- Automate. Automation is a key practice in the world of cloud-native apps. You can’t create such a type of app without it. Automation enables you to periodically deliver cloud application environments to different cloud service providers. Automation uses IaC to track modifications in the source code repository.
- Monitor. Teams need to take a closer look at the development environment and exploitation of the application. The environment and application should give the opportunity for simple control of the applications.
- Document. A number of teams are involved in building cloud-native applications with bounded visibility into the work of other teams. Documentation is crucial for tracking changes. This way you can avoid misunderstanding and unnecessary hustle within teams.
- Make incremental changes. Any changes made to the application or to the underlying architecture must be reversible. This gives teams the opportunity to learn and avoid regular mistakes. With IaC, developers can trace modifications in the source repository.
- Design for failure. Processes have to be created for when something in the cloud inevitably goes wrong. You need to have your own back and be prepared for everything. This is where the actual professionalism is coming out to play.
These practices are quite simple, but their value is undeniable. As you can see every process has to be thought through.
Tools for cloud-native app development
You can not talk about cloud technologies and not mention the tools that are going to be needed for the development process. Usually, developers use a few software tools for every cloud application development process. Let’s take a look at the cloud development tools and analyze them:
- Docker. Docker is one of the most popular tools for the development of cloud-native apps. It is an open-source platform for creating, deploying, and managing containers of virtualized apps with the help of a standard OS. This tool separates resources, so different containers could use the same OS.
- Kubernetes. The Kubernetes platform is used to manage Linux containers.
- Terraform. Designed to add IaC, Terraform defines resources as code. Then it applies version control to let users see when and where resources have been changed.
- GitLab CI/CD. If you have ever been curious about cloud development, there’s a big chance that you heard about this tool multiple times. This software gives users the opportunity to automate testing and deployment. Also, it is an amazing option for analyzing security and static, and conducting unit tests.
Now, that you know the most used tools for cloud apps, you can start the development process of your project. But still, before implementing any of these tools, do quick research to find out what actually is necessary exactly in your case.
Today, cloud technologies rule the world. And there’s nothing more important in the business culture than being up to date with the current state of the tech environment. Cloud applications have been progressively used in past years and there’s so much more to come. The Cloud Computing Foundation estimates that at least 6.5 million developers used the cloud in 2020, up from 4.7 million in 2019. I hope that this article helped you better understand the world of cloud technologies, and you can now decide whether your project needs it or not. Remember, technologies are constantly evolving, and you need to keep up to build a strong and successful project.
If you want to build a cloud-native app but don’t know where to start, contact Mobindustry for a free consultation. Our company has a profound experience in this area and is happy to help you bring your idea to life.