The cloud. You can’t escape it. Every user depends on it, every business uses it. Your company probably works with either a private, a public, or a hybrid cloud solution for various levels of business (from cloud storage and virtual machines to containers).
The cloud has become so prevalent, it’s as though it was always there and will always be there.
But there’s a big difference when you talk about the cloud and cloud-native. The cloud can mean just about anything, but it’s generally applied to end-user-facing applications and services. The aspect of the cloud we want to talk about is geared more toward businesses and how they can leverage solutions to better serve end users.
That’s what cloud-native is all about.
What is Cloud-Native?
When we talk about cloud-native, we’re talking about the technology that makes it possible for businesses to build and run applications, at scale, in public, private, and hybrid clouds. So instead of talking about cloud storage or mobile applications, we mean containers, microservices, immutable infrastructure, service meshes, and APIs.
Cloud-native is about flexible, resilient, observable applications and services that can be scaled to massive proportions. And that is key to the success of cloud-native. To match the scalability offered by cloud-native applications, an on-premise data center would have to be massive and would very quickly consume your entire business IT budget.
So when you need to deploy applications and web services to meet an ever-growing demand, cloud-native should be in your corner.
What Makes an Application “Cloud-Native?”
There are 4 specific features every cloud-native application must include, which are:
- They must be based on microservices.
- They must be container-based.
- They must be API-centric.
- They must be dynamically orchestrated.
What Technologies are Behind Cloud-Native?
In order for your business to successfully implement cloud-native deployments, you’ll have to make use of a number of specific technologies. Let’s take a look at some of those tools.
Docker is one of the most popular container deployment engines on the market. One of the reasons why Docker is so widely used is because it’s considerably easier to use than other engines. Docker is open-source and offers a community edition for free as well as an enterprise edition that includes features necessary for much larger deployments.
Kubernetes is the single most widely used container orchestrator on the planet. With Kubernetes, you can manage large deployments and even build automation into your containers.
GitLab CI/CD is the continuous integration/continuous deployment platform that makes it possible for your team to automate both software testing and deployment.
Terraform is the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) component of cloud-native that makes it possible to place cloud configurations under the watchful eye of version control. Cloud resources can get very complex, so having the ability to version control them is critical.
Your container’s manifests will need to pass authentication credentials to services, other apps, and APIs. However, if your developers leave those secrets in the manifests, they open your company up to hacking. To prevent that you should be using a secrets manager, like Vault.
You’re going to need to monitor your cloud-native deployments and no other 1-2 punch does a better job than Prometheus and Grafana. With these tools, you’ll be able to monitor how many operations are running, what are the results of the operations, how long those operations take, and how resources are being used. Prometheus also has an alert manager to keep you apprised should something change in deployment.
Istio is a service mesh, which can provide features like dynamic routing, load balancing, service directories, network policies, and resiliency primitives.
Node.js is capable of providing front-end templates for server-side rendering in cloud-native applications. With it, you can create stand-alone apps for real-time communication such as chat infrastructures. Node.js applications are perfectly at home within cloud-native and can be run in environments like serverless, Kubernetes, and virtual machines.
Benefits of Cloud-Native
The benefits of cloud-native are many:
- Cost-effective – you won’t have to pay for costly hardware (as well as the cost to provision) to be able to meet growing demand.
- Scalable – cloud-native makes it possible to scale out applications and services far beyond what traditional monolithic apps can achieve.
- Portable – cloud-native applications are portable, which means they are not only vendor-neutral but can run on nearly any infrastructure.
- Reliable – because cloud-native apps and services are containerized, they can be built with a very high level of failover. When one container goes down, the manager can be deployed in such a way that it will automatically deploy a new one to replace it.
- Centrally managed – although cloud-native brings with it a significant learning curve, once everything is deployed, you’ll find it can be easier to manage than traditional applications. One of the reasons for this is the Kubernetes orchestrator.
- Visibility and observability – cloud-native has been built from the ground up to be both visible and observable. This means your teams can more easily study the deployed applications and learn how to best optimize them.
Cloud-native is here to stay, and your company would be well served by jumping on board this train before your competition is too far ahead of you. With cloud-native, your development teams will be capable of deploying more reliable applications that can massively scale, and be automated to drastically shorten the software lifecycle. Although the learning curve can be steep, it will be well worth the time invested.