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If your company regularly develops digital apps, there’s a good chance your development strategy is going to shift, or may already have shifted, to a “cloud-native” mindset.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, let’s go over its advantages and take a look at why it might become essential for developers in the very near future.
Cloud-Native Development, Explained
The foremost advantages of cloud-native development are that it’s generally quicker from start to finish and that it’s more “agile” and responsive to your, and your clients’, needs. But why?
“Cloud-native” is a philosophy that influences every step of application development, from concept and design to implementation and eventually your go-live date. Like the name suggests, it’s an application intended from the ground up to take advantage of cloud connectivity’s opportunities — as well as to address some of its shortcomings.
Still a little bit confused? Here are a few more tenets of cloud-native development to help things come into better focus:
- Application processes are “containerized” for efficient transportation as well as transparency.
- Applications are built to optimize the use of available resources.
- Applications are designed to facilitate “microservices” to ensure agility and uptime.
Here are some of those same words again in layman’s terms:
Under cloud-native development, software takes the form of containerized microservices that developers can prioritize dynamically across the cloud. These “containers” are just what they sound like: self-contained packages that include everything you need to run an executable application. Each container is separate from its surroundings and exists in a virtualized computing environment.
Here’s where the versatility and portability come from. Because it’s self-contained, the application should run as-designed in any environment, whether it’s in the testing phase, under active development or being deployed by a client. The fundamentals of this design make the resulting applications more easily horizontally scalable, too, since you can keep stacking instances of the application on top of one another to suit your ongoing demand.
Containerization is just the first part of the process. The next step is to use an orchestration tool to make sure your application functions as intended, every time. Of course, “functions as intended” is more than making sure the program just executes when it’s supposed to. It also involves:
- Receiving instructions on starting up or shutting down containers as demand for features dictates
- Balancing resources between all the active instances of the application
- Verifying the exchange of credentials between containers and clients
There are multiple open tools available, such as Docker, Kubernetes, Amazon ECS, Mesos, and others, that provide frameworks for handling the critical task of container orchestration.
Microservices and the Value of Going Cloud-Native
The containerization process, as described above, results in what have come to be called “microservices.” That gets at the primary reason why cloud-native development is taking off the way it is. It’s in stark contrast to previous-generation cloud development, which involved creating and then deploying one monolithic application for each separate service. Instead, cloud-native applications can be run in discrete little pieces, servicing only the tasks of interest at the time.
We’ve touched on some of the benefits of pivoting to this holistic, cloud-focused type of development — and maybe already made a case for becoming a cloud-native business. To be more specific, here are some of the results you can expect to see when containerization, orchestration, and microservices come together in your own company’s web and mobile applications:
- Microservices “de-couple” individual application tasks from the application itself, meaning they’re easier to access, repair or update without causing problems elsewhere. Microservices are far more hardware-efficient than non-cloud-native applications.
- You can think of containerization as a kind of “virtual machine.” The self-contained nature of containerized processes means multiple applications can run alongside each other on the same machine, without conflicts or compatibility issues. Containers might require libraries and configuration files, but they’re otherwise not dependent on other containers.
- Cloud-native development means apps can be dynamically orchestrated and delivered continuously. Applications can be cloned into other processes as required, scaling up and down according to the number of instances required.
A savvy application developer will be able to discuss these concepts with you in even greater detail. But with any luck, you’ve got a better idea now of what to ask your next dev team when it comes to developing a new app. Nothing’s ever been “future-proof,” but cloud-native development is taking its best shot at providing a philosophy and a framework for building an application that can change and adapt as it needs to, and potentially even create new business opportunities in the process.
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