Why businesses should embrace cloud-native development

In today’s business environment, firms need their IT infrastructure to be both speedy and scalable. The cloud-native paradigm for app development enables this through the creation of apps that fully leverage the capabilities of the cloud. However, many businesses don’t quite know why the cloud-native model is so good for speed and scalability.

Cloud-native app development refers to the building and running of new apps based on cloud computing principles. The aim is to be able to act with speed, flexibility and agility in order to shorten the time taken to deploy applications, implement improvements and react to incidents. This is achieved through the coming together of four key components of the cloud-native model: microservices, containers, APIs and DevOps.

Microservices bring scale

A microservices-style architecture sees applications broken down into independent modules, or ‘services’. Rather than using the traditional monolithic approach to developing apps, microservices allow an app to be disassembled into smaller components that work together to complete tasks, with each microservice implementing its own business capability and running in its own process.

Microservices allow for the development of agile processes, as they enable DevOps teams to quickly release and update apps as a collection of loosely coupled services instead of having to wait for one large release. This modularity also helps teams in scaling apps, given that individual services can be promptly swapped out. In this way, microservices are key to realising a cloud-native architecture and are far easier for teams to test, deploy and update.

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Containers and modularity

To realise and capitalise on the modularity offered by microservices, containers serve as the second part of the cloud-native equation. Containers package up code and all associated dependencies into a single atomised bundle, which in turn allows an application to run quickly and reliably in any computing environment.

Containers provide the infrastructure to realise a microservices architecture in practice. It provides individual standalone components for an app that can be independently replaced, changed, or removed without jeopardising the rest of your infrastructure. This is essential to realise the cloud-native vision because the completeness of a container package and its agnosticism to its environment ensures the portability needed for cloud-native apps – containerised apps can be deployed in whatever cloud environment you operate in, whether it be public, private, or hybrid.

The use of containers in the cloud-native model thereby brings speed and scalability that cannot be achieved through traditional systems architecture, and addresses a fundamental business need: for changes in software to be applied quickly and seamlessly so that tasks can be completed efficiently and inexpensively. For all these reasons, containers are one of the biggest trends in enterprise software development: a recent report by Red Hat and CCS Insight found that 91% of EMEA developers are currently developing and deploying container-based applications, and more than half of developers (51%) see container adoption as a high priority for their team.

APIs allow flexibility

To get containers to talk and interact with one another, however, you’ll need an orchestration platform such as Kubernetes in place. At the heart of these container orchestrations are Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which are sets of tools, definitions, and protocols that let products and services communicate without teams having to continually construct new connectivity infrastructure, while also helping to allocate compute and storage resources across your system.

The use of APIs is key to developing an agile architecture for your app development process as teams are awarded greater flexibility as to when data, applications and devices can communicate and work together. APIs free teams from having to do repetitive checks and configurations of their infrastructure, allowing them to direct their focus to immediate priorities. This plays into the wider collaborative cloud-native approach that enables the process of application development to be speedy and scalable.

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DevOps delivers speed

Finally, bringing the above elements together, teams should embrace a DevOps approach to complement the deployment of traditional cloud-native technologies such as containers and microservice architectures. DevOps sees operations and developer teams committed to a shared or integrated approach to deploying applications which, in practice, automates the processes between the development and operations teams. With the DevOps model in place, DevOps teams can practise Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) in the app development process. This approach is essential to a cloud-native app development model as clear communication between developers writing code and operations teams that implement it, allows teams to quickly iterate on apps.

When it comes to enabling organisations to build speedy and scalable IT infrastructure and also fully leverage the capabilities of the cloud, a cloud-native model is usually the way to go. Through bringing together DevOps, microservices, containers, and APIs, teams often find that the benefits of each when it comes to speed, modularity, and scale, end up synergising and creating something much greater than the sum of their parts – an entirely new approach to creating apps that’s fit for the IT stack of today.

Written by Erica Langhi, senior solutions architect at Red Hat

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