Cloud-Native Applications: Faster, Safer, Better

Mati Lerner
Cloud ComputingCloud Native
01 Dec 2021

With the advancements in software technologies, it has become essential for developers to understand both the cloud-native definition and cloud-native application definition and apply these concepts to build scalable, modern apps in the cloud.

So, what is cloud-native?

Simply put, cloud-native is the concept of building modern applications that fully utilize the scalability, flexibility, elasticity, and resiliency of cloud computing. In other words, cloud-native technologies and cloud-native services let developers build and run scalable apps in any type of cloud (private, public, or hybrid).

Cloud-native computing involves several modern software development practices and technologies, such as containers, microservices, DevOps, and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD).

Cloud-native software development methodologies and technologies
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Now that you know what cloud-native is, you may ask, “what are cloud-native applications?”

Cloud-native applications are the apps that run in the cloud and take advantage of the benefits of a cloud computing model. These apps are broken down into small microservices and run in containers.

This article will provide a thorough understanding of all the concepts related to cloud-native and cloud-native web applications, including cloud-native databases, cloud-native platforms, and more.

Let’s start with the basics: cloud-native architecture.

What Is Cloud-Native Architecture?

Cloud-native architecture is the design methodology for applications that are built specifically to be deployed and run in the cloud rather than on physical servers in traditional data centers. This methodology uses cloud services like Lambda and EC2 to allow developers to adopt agile application development techniques.

Cloud-native architecture allows developers to build, run, and update the software through multiple independent microservices as opposed to a monolithic app infrastructure where apps are deployed on a single server. For instance, developers can easily scale up cloud-native applications by adding server nodes and scaling back down if needed. Other cloud-native architecture advantages include:

  • Faster release cycles
  • Reduced development costs
  • Reliability
  • Automated recovery and backup

Cloud-Native vs Microservices

Although many people confuse cloud-native architectures with microservices architectures, it’s not a one-to-one comparison. A cloud-native architecture is a design for the applications that are built specifically to run in the cloud. Cloud-native architecture focuses on providing resilience, horizontal scaling capability, and automating the process of replacing failed components through microservices architecture.

Microservices architecture is an approach where an application consists of several loosely coupled services that can be deployed independently. Many modern cloud-native apps do use microservices architectures—but it’s not a requirement.

In a microservices architecture, services communicate with each other over well-defined REST APIs and each has their own tech stack, including databases. Each service executes a single, unique function, can be scaled independently and doesn’t share its code with other services.

Cloud-native microservice design
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All in all, when you adopt a cloud-native architecture, you eliminate several layers of infrastructure, such as physical servers, private networks, etc., and define them in code and store them in the cloud. This means you can focus more on writing code and improving business value.

Microservices and Containers

Although it’s not necessary to run microservices in containers, many organizations choose to put microservices in containers (containerize them) as it makes it easier to make changes to one group of microservices. Containers operate independently from each other, so containerization eliminates the risk of conflict between libraries, languages, and frameworks. Microservices and containerization both help with the agility of cloud-native apps. Kubernetes is a widely used container orchestration platform.

If you want to learn more about containers and Kubernetes, check out our guide on what are containers.

Cloud-Native Solutions

Although there are several cloud-native solutions, it’s important to recognize whether a solution is cloud-native or just cloud-based or cloud-agnostic. A cloud-native solution must offer all the cloud-native architecture features and allow you to reap the benefits of distributed computing. Ridge offers a cloud-native solution that allows you to manage and customize your existing cloud architecture and gives you the agility of the public cloud with private cloud performance.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between cloud-native and other cloud solutions, keep reading.

Cloud vs Cloud-Native

Cloud computing vs cloud-native and cloud based vs cloud-native: Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of data storage, databases, and application services through the internet. Cloud-based applications are the apps that can be accessed via a cloud, so they are independent of location or computer. In contrast, cloud-native applications are built through microservices, and each service can be scaled independently.

Another distinction to make is between cloud aware and cloud-native. Cloud aware applications are typically deployed on traditional servers but are compatible with the cloud and may run portions of the software on the cloud. Cloud-aware apps take advantage of some of the cloud’s advantages, such as scalability, flexibility, and elasticity, but not as many as cloud-native apps, which run entirely on the cloud.

Cloud Enabled vs Cloud-Native

Cloud-enabled applications were initially built traditionally for use in a conventional data center and then moved to the cloud. This is common for enterprise software. For the migration, some characteristics of the application need to be changed or adapted to run on the cloud. Lift and shift is one of the most common approaches used for cloud migration.

Cloud-Hosted vs Cloud-Native

Cloud-hosted applications are installed traditionally on-premise and hosted on dedicated servers managed by a cloud provider. This means these apps run on the virtual hardware of the cloud provider and are available remotely. Cloud-hosted solutions allow for fast provisioning of new hardware. In contrast, cloud-native solutions involve technologies that are built entirely on virtual hardware.

Cloud Agnostic vs Cloud-Native

Cloud-native and cloud-agnostic technologies are usually used together because this combination provides more flexibility. However, these two are different concepts. The services and components in a cloud-native architecture are tied to one specific cloud service provider, so companies select one specific cloud provider. In contrast, companies can move cloud-agnostic applications and workloads between different cloud platforms and on-premises infrastructure. For instance, in a cloud-agnostic setup, a company can seamlessly move a tool from AWS to Ridge without having to worry about dependencies.

While cloud-native applications are easy to scale up and down, cloud-agnostic applications are easily portable.

Traditional vs Cloud-Native Applications

Traditional applications are built using a monolithic architecture where all processes are linked and run as a single service. This means if a company wants to scale up one process of the application, it must scale the entire architecture. On the other hand, cloud-native applications use microservices architecture that allows scaling up or scaling down each service independently. And each service doesn’t share its code with other services.

 

Comparison of monolithic architecture and microservices architecture
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Efficiency

Traditional applications require a huge amount of time to build as they are mostly developed and released as one package, whereas cloud-native applications take a lot less time. In terms of maintenance and post-release bug fixing, traditional architectures usually come with longer debugging times.

Development Time

Another key difference between traditional applications and cloud-native applications is the development process. In traditional applications, the application code is given to the operations team by the developers once it’s completed, and the operations team then provision servers to run it in production. This multi-step process can be slow. On the other hand, cloud-native provides a seamless transition from transferring the application code to production once it is completed — spinning up new virtual machines to host the code is easy!

Cost

Traditional applications also cost more compared to cloud-native applications. In traditional applications, a company must set up all the services and data storage, whereas, in cloud-native, a company only has to pay for the services and storage it uses.

Backups and Recovery

Traditional applications and cloud-native applications also differ in their backup capabilities. While traditional applications typically have manual backups, cloud-native platforms offer automated backup and recovery.

Cloud-native containers offer high-density and dynamic virtualization on top of a virtual machine that matches hosting microservices.

Examples of Cloud-Native Applications

Many well-known companies use the cloud-native approach. Below are a few cloud-native application examples:

Netflix

Netflix is a famous streaming app for TV shows, movies, and documentaries. Netflix initially had its own data centers but in 2016, the organization decided to go cloud-native and shifted to microservices. This allowed their developers to deliver new features a lot faster than before.

Uber

Uber is another popular app that uses a cloud-native approach. Uber has over 4,000 independent microservices, which the team monitors using the Prometheus platform. This allows Uber developers to quickly respond to market changes and update or scale a specific portion of the app.

Airbnb

Airbnb is a well-known American vacation rental company that operates in 65,000 cities around the world. As the company grew, it shifted to a microservices model, and as of 2017, Airbnb deploys 3,500 microservices per week, which allows the organization to keep providing services seamlessly to thousands of customers.

Benefits of Cloud-Native Applications

Independent Scalability

One of the biggest cloud-native benefits is independent scalability. In cloud-native, each microservice performs one single task and can scale independently. So, if one service is scaled up or down, other services won’t be affected. This means cloud-native architecture allows updating some parts of an application faster than others if required.

Faster Release

As the market needs change rapidly, the speed of a service provided by a company is very crucial to its success. In software development, DevOps is the key element for faster delivery. With DevOps, companies can transform their software delivery pipeline through automated deployment and automated testing. Cloud-native supports CI/CD enabled DevOps processes and thus helps with the faster release.

Cheaper

In cloud-native, storage and processing resources can be scaled as required. This means it will cost only for those resources that are in use. Hence, cloud-native applications help reduce costs. Additionally, cloud-native apps use containers that can be used to run the maximum number of microservices on a host and save money.

Resiliency

Resiliency is a system’s ability to respond to failure while still remaining functional. Cloud-native applications are designed to be resilient. A cloud-native application that is designed properly won’t go offline even if there is an infrastructure outage. It’s because cloud platforms are capable of detecting and mitigating infrastructure issues, such as an overloaded microservice that is unable to respond for a short period, hardware failures, network connectivity errors, etc.

Automation and Zero Downtime

Cloud-native apps use features of DevOps automation. And cloud-native allows development teams to release the individual app or software update once they are ready, which helps with continuous delivery, continuous integration, and deployment. Additionally, container orchestrators like Kubernetes allow development teams to update software with zero downtime. Cloud-native also provides automated scalability which also eliminates downtime because of human error.

Cloud-Native Applications – Frequently asked questions

What is a cloud-native application? What is cloud-native software?

A cloud-native application is built to maximize the features of a cloud computing model. Cloud-native applications run in the cloud and have an architecture that is built around microservices.

What is cloud-native development?

Cloud-native development is simply an approach to build apps that are responsive, scalable, and resilient. Cloud-native development improves the quality of apps and reduces the risk of an app going offline suddenly due to failure or error.

What are cloud-native Kubernetes and cloud-native Docker?

Cloud-native Docker is a container platform and containerization. Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that enables developers to streamline the deployment and scaling of their containers. Containerization plays a crucial role in building a good cloud-native application because when microservices are run in containers, it’s easier to make changes in one set of microservices without affecting the other.

 


Author:
Linkedin Mati Lerner, Co-Founder & CEO | Ridge
Mati is not only one of the founders of Ridge, but also a cloud expert. He enjoys writing about the benefits of cloud nativity & different cloud architectures.