Enterprises that migrate from an on-premises environment to a cloud-friendly world is one in which IT needs to rethink their infrastructure. The infrastructure becomes spread out among multiple IT environments while applications are distributed to support a company’s digital transformation.
In such a distributed and more complex IT environment, it’s essential for enterprise architects, CIOs and business leaders to get an automated and comprehensive overview of the infrastructure and applications across the company.
As the IT infrastructure progressively moves towards the cloud, enterprises need to understand not only the business value of developing and deploying cloud native applications but also how to deal with the strategic IT management challenges in the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. Despite the cloud native term becoming pervasive, enterprises don’t fully understand how to realize the true potential of being cloud native. What does being cloud native really mean and why is it important? What should enterprise architects, CIOs and developers know to accelerate and optimize this transition towards being cloud native?
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defines cloud native as scalable applications running in modern dynamic environments. It’s about how applications are created and deployed, not whether they sit on a public, private, or hybrid cloud. Cloud native apps are designed to scale horizontally rather than vertically and rely on technologies such as containers, microservices, and APIs. The scalability allows microservice modules to refine themselves individually without being dependent on other processes. The technology ensures that systems developed with a cloud native approach are resilient, scalable, and reusable. In other words, using a cloud native strategy enables services to be used across applications and other services.
While cloud native is important in today’s development world, it’s important to also understand the evolution of cloud native technology.
Adopting cloud native technologies and practices enables companies to create software in-house, allows those in business departments such as finance to closely partner with IT, keep up with competitors, and deliver better services to their customers. CNCF technologies enable cloud portability without vendor lock-in.
In fact, being cloud native has clear advantages compared to traditional development and computing:
This fast software service delivery is due largely to the fact that it’s much easier for organizations using either a single or multi-cloud strategy to commission and decommission IT assets on cloud platforms (e.g., a new server commissioning takes less than 30 seconds on Amazon Web Services). A cloud native strategy enables operational overheads of IT to get passed on to the cloud vendors, allowing enterprises to focus their efforts on business innovation and the customer.
“Zalando’s security department, and our whole company overall, rely on this instant visibility into cloud-specific assets.”
So why is cloud native important for developers? With a cloud native architecture, developers need to understand the basics of what’s required for creating modern cloud native applications. Development includes implementing an Agile methodology, as well as adopting DevOps practices, microservices, single or multi-cloud strategy, and containers like Kubernetes and Docker.
Microservices are the foundation of a cloud native architecture. These microservices are designed to run and execute different functions within the application. For example, one microservice may be designed to implement a process while another may be used to run that process.
These microservices are often packaged into containers so developers can work on one set of microservices at a time versus an entire cloud native application.
Software developers should consider certain elements when creating cloud native applications:
While applications may be cloud-friendly, there is still a difference between those that are truly cloud native. The infrastructure in an enterprise is increasingly becoming more and more complex. As companies adopt a digital transformation strategy, they’re finding that moving from an on-premises environment to a cloud native is not a simple process. In fact, enterprise architects, developers, and CIOs continue to face multiple challenges to transform their organization from an on-premises environment to the cloud.
Careful thought and planning is required for adopting a cloud native strategy and roadmap. For enterprise architects and CIOs thinking about transforming their organization to support the cloud native world, a few important points should be considered.
IT operation teams must change to support a cloud native world. Instead of just focusing on the IT infrastructure, they need to deliver value to the business and become more involved with improving processes and automation rather than just being the gatekeepers of technology for their organization.
Indeed, moving to a cloud native requires workloads to be prioritized in the infrastructure. In the new cloud native world, the synergy expected between the business and IT professional requires strong collaboration to assess how the two groups work together while also determining how well the workloads work in the cloud native world. The teams will need to prioritize legacy and new/emerging workloads to determine whether those workloads should move towards becoming cloud native or whether they should stay the same.
Developers will need to standardize their platform and services to support a cloud native platform using the 12-factor app principles and a microservices architecture. These 12 factors embody the characteristics of a cloud native application.
Moving to a cloud native world is no easy feat. Support for microservices and the key elements that embody the characteristics of cloud native applications should help move an organization towards a cloud native infrastructure with all the support for security inherent in the product. While adopting cloud native applications such the LeanIX Cloud Native Suite can be exciting and enable a company to become much more agile, the benefits and challenges of doing so should be carefully addressed to align the cloud native strategy with the business.
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