What is a cloud-native application in the context of cloud computing? Does “cloud-based” and “cloud-native” refer to the very same type of architecture?

Does cloud-native development mean using a specific set of methodologies and tools or simply hosting, running and managing your app in a specific environment?

Let's try to define, in plain English:
 

… and to bust some of the myths and confusions around cloud-native technologies and the cloud-native type of app architecture.
 

1. “Cloud-Native”: What It Means & Key Patterns

A cloud-native technology enables you to build and to run your scalable app in a dynamic environment: a public, private or hybrid cloud. 

To give you just a few examples of specific techniques supporting the “cloud-native” approach: immutable infrastructure, containers, service meshes, declarative APIs. 

What they do precisely is enable loosely coupled systems. This way, you get to ship new features faster, with less effort, more predictably and with zero impact on the end user's experience.
 

2. What Is a Cloud-Native Application in Plain Words?

The most concise definition possible would be:

It's an application developped using cloud-based technologies, fully hosted and managed in the cloud.

Do you sense the underlying difference between a “cloud-based” and a “cloud-native” application?

While the first one might be an older app re-architected to run properly on a cloud operating system, the second one has been hosted in the cloud from the very beginning.

It runs in cloud end-to-end...

Meaning that it has been written, tested and deployed in the cloud, using technologies and services that are cloud-based and not just rehosted, subsequently, to a cloud computing environment. That opposed to the (just) cloud application.

Now, if we were to highlight the traits that set them apart from traditional applications, I would sum them up to 3:
 

  • they're built with agility and high flexibility in mind, which translates into better security, top performance, and improved customer experience
  • … and into the high speed at which you can run new features, apply changes and, overall, customize your app
  • there's no monolithic software codebase that they depend on; instead, they're built in a modular manner, leveraging multiple infrastructures and cloud computing frameworks 
     

3. 3 Defining Characteristics of a Cloud-Native App

“What is a cloud-native application?” is a question that calls for another one:

“What are its definining features?”

In other words, how can you identify a cloud-native application?

Let me trim down the long list of traits to the most specific ones:
 

  • they're not limited to certain public cloud infrastructures
  • they scale better since they tap into the cloud platform's elasticity
  • they're built using a set of cloud-specific DevOps methodologies, technologies, and architectural approaches: lightweight container environments, infrastructure as code, microservices, orchestration
     

4. Why Would You Develop a Cloud-Native App? 7 Main Reasons

If you think that the above-mentioned characteristics don't stand as strong enough reasons for you to opt for cloud-native development, here are some more convincing ones:
 

4.1. Managing Your Infrastructure Gets Easier

Let the serverless handle it for you! 

With serverless platforms like AWS Lambda and Azure Functions, operations like configuring your networking, provisioning cloud instances and making sure there's enough storage will get automatically taken care of.

All there's left for you to do is upload your code as functions...
 

4.2. Cloud-Native Apps Are Resilient to Failures

“What is a cloud-native application?” It's that “ideal” app that ships with built-in self-healing.

Therefore, expect it to handle outages automatically, to be inherently fault-tolerant. If trouble strikes, you cloud-native app processing will move from one data center to another promptly and discreetly.

In short: the end user's experience won't get affected and you don't need to worry about downtime costs.
 

4.3. You Can Release Your Apps Faster

Since it supports DevOps processes — streamlining key operations like build, test, deployment automation and collaboration — your cloud-native app will speed up the whole software delivery process. 

4.4. Lower Costs

And the 4 key reasons behind the inevitable reduction of costs are:
 

  • containers: containerizing your app will enable you to manage it easier and safer
  • cloud-native tools, which lead to a certain standardization of the tooling
  • the open-source model
  • the serverless computing, which supports a pay-per-use model and enhances flexibility in pricing
     

4.5. Your App Scales Automatically to Accommodate Your Growing Needs

One of the main attributes of a cloud-native app's architecture is auto-scaling.

Basically, your app will scale, by default, to handle your future business needs. And this reflects in the costs, as well: you'll get charged only for the computing resources that you'll use.
 

4.6. You App Supports Auto-Provisioning

Just imagine: your business-critical app will run non-eventful, using an on-demand allocation of services right from the app.

It will automatically tap into self-service and programmatic provisioning, so you don't need to manually provide them with the resources they need to run smoothly.
 

4.7. You'll Provide a Better Customer Experience

And it's quite predictable since the cloud-native principles revolve around a fast shipment of new features and continuous iteration.

 

The END!

Is my answer to your “What is a cloud-native application” question clear enough? And what about the above-listed reasons to opt for this type of app development architecture?

Are they relevant enough for your own scenario?


Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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