Keys for Cloud Native Application Development

Need an edge? Run your apps in the Cloud. Read this primer on the components for building cloud native applications.
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A brief overview of devops, microservices, containers, agile development within cloud native application development and the cloud computing model.

What Are Cloud Native Applications?

It goes without saying that nowadays public cloud technologies impact each and every sphere of our life. By now many of us are familiar with cloud applications. We use and interact with them daily. Many organizations large and small have come to realize the power and flexibility of providing services to their end-user via the cloud. But it was not always like this.

Just in the last 10-15 years, advances in computing and communications technology have enabled businesses to automate and improve the delivery and management of their enterprise software applications. With the advent of cloud environments from AWS, Azure, Google Compute, a multitude of SaaS offerings and private cloud deployments, companies today can take advantage of powerful technology improvements with relative minimal cost.

These advances allow organizations to increase or decrease their usage of computing power for many of their application services with ease. Cloud native apps allow companies to realize these benefits.

cloud native computing - traditional application

Challenge of Traditional Applications

Well designed cloud native software allows companies to squash many of the challenges traditional on-premise applications harbor including:

Difficulty of deployment

The increasing number and complexity of applications, operating systems, networks and computer systems have made it difficult and time consuming for businesses to implement and use enterprise software applications.

High cost of ownership

Traditional enterprise software applications can have a high TCO. Development teams and businesses must make significant ongoing investments in development, licensing and hardware Capex to maintain traditional software systems. This can be radically reduced with cloud infrastructure.

Move toward Cloud Native Scalable Applications

In short the landscape for computing has adopted cloud native principles and cloud native technology as a means to more efficiently design, build, deliver and maintain software services of all kinds for users accessing those services across a wide array of devices. Something traditional software approaches just could not do.

The advantages of cloud-native vs. on-premise architectures

Cloud application development requires a completely different architecture from the traditional business application that runs in a data center. This page explains what cloud-based software offers in comparison to the traditional app development model.

Applications written in cloud environments typically use traditional languages such as C++, C# or Java, Node and Python. Cloud-native applications typically work on web-based languages like HTML, CSS, Java, or JavaScript. A cloud native stack can rely on many different languages or frameworks.

The traditional application development process generally involves the use of an MVC (model-view-controller) framework, such as Ruby on Rails or Laravel for PHP. Cloud-native applications often use a microservices architecture, which allows for individual services to be written in different languages and to be deployed independently.

Relational databases, such as MySQL, are the norm for traditional applications. Cloud-based applications often use NoSQL databases, such as MongoDB or Cassandra, which are designed to scale horizontally.

Traditional application deployments are typically done manually, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Cloud-native deployments are automated, using tools such as Puppet, Chef, or Ansible.

Traditional applications are typically scaled vertically, by adding more resources to a single server. Cloud-native applications are scaled horizontally, by adding more servers to a cluster.

The cloud-native vs. on-premise debate is one that is likely to continue for some time. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for a particular project will depend on the specific requirements. However, it is clear that the cloud-native stack offers many benefits over traditional on-premise development, including increased scalability, flexibility, and efficiency.

Emergence of Cloud Native Applications

Cloud applications reference a delivery-model which answers the question “how” should these applications be made and deployed. Designing and developing cloud-native applications is a modern approach to running applications.

Many large organizations have set up or designed their own private cloud environments to take advantage of their own massive infrastructure while other businesses from massive enterprise to mid-sized businesses to start-ups have relied on public cloud infrastructure to deliver and enjoy the services their businesses require.

cloud native computing - docker containers

Four Key Components of Cloud Native Applications:

Agile Development. Since cloud-native technology is famous for its on-demand delivery, Agile development is a key component in software development build practices. In simple terms agile focuses on the planned commitments of small units of software to the broader code base. The smaller services then can be tested, pushed to production and rolled back without detriment to the broader application or service.

And while even traditional software applications can benefit from Agile Development practices. Cloud native applications thrive under its usage. As organizations become more knowledgeable of agile development they begin to realize the benefits of pushing small pieces of software through an iterative delivery process of design, develop, test, and deploy.

This continuous delivery makes the whole act of releasing reliable and stable code a fundamental. Organizations can deliver production code with reduced risk and faster time to market. A host of cloud native computing technologies exist today to organize and simplify development and leverage the CI/CD framework which we will discuss in moment.

Devops. While there is really no formal definition of Devops it can best be described as a combination of different practices and tools which are aimed at increasing businesses ability to manage applications with more agility baked into the process. In DevOps, software development and systems administration teams are no longer separated or pushed into their individual siloes. These teams are merged into a cohesive unit where the engineers work across the entire application lifecycle, from development and test to deployment to operations, and develop a range of skills not limited to a single function.

This combined efforts is organized with the goal of improving product delivery and can be a more efficient process than legacy waterfall develop and shunted away IT admin teams. Within DevOps, software developers and the DevOps engineers work together to create a more robust process from dev to management and back. With the entire team integrated together to work together throughout the application lifecycle these DevOps team can tackle design, development and production challenges systematically.

A number of tools that have arisen to help organizations efficiently manage IT infrastructure many of these solutions oftentimes continue to choose sides between software development teams (AppDynamics, NewRelic, Chef) or systems admins (Puppet, Saltstack).

Beyond these tools, you also have the emergence of Kubernetes. Kubernetes is a container orchestration tool that helps developers manage and automate the process of deploying and scaling containerized applications. It groups containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery. Kubernetes also provides isolation mechanisms to ensure that each application has its own resource utilization, making it easier to run multiple applications on a single cluster.

Microservices is another type of architectural approach to develop and deliver application in a form of small services. Each of the ones has its own aim: to implement business processes, to run directories, to communicate via messaging, etc. It’s important to mention that each microservice can be restarted, deployed or upgraded from the scratch independently. Since there’s no standard identification for microservices, usually there are several characteristics which help to define the style.  Even though developers can choose any protocol, the majority of them tend to HTTP/REST with JSON or Protobuf.  To get a better understanding of microservices architecture, it helps to consider its opposite:  monolithic applications. In comparison with microservices, a monolithic application can be characterized as a single and autonomous unit. For instance, in a client-server variant, the server-side application can be described as a monolith that is aimed to handle the HTTP requests.

Netflix offers a wide architecture that has been made up from monolithic to SOA. Today it gets more than 1 billion calls days from 800+ different types of devices to its streaming-video API. Amazon also boasts of microservices, it also gets numerous calls from a variety of applications (including those which manage API and website). When it comes to eBay, it has also gone through the same transition. Their major app offers several autonomous applications; each of them is aimed to execute the business logic for different tasks.

Containers. Containers are another method for virtualizing the operating system. It allows you to run the application and its dependencies in resource-isolated processes. Containers differ from virtualization technologies like hypervisors. Containers run atop the host operating system and rather than support a number of guest OS they abstract the role of the guest OS to deliver only the required libraries and dependencies the application requires. Containers allow you to easily package an application's code, configurations, and dependencies into easy to use building blocks. With containers, developers and systems admins can ensure that applications deploy quickly, reliably, and consistently without regard for the deployment environment. Containers also give the engineer more granular control over resources.

With container images, a software developer can package an application and its dependent services into easy to use building blocks. For example, you could create a container image that contains an Apache web server and your website code. Container images are typically stored in a container registry.

cloud native computing - microservices architecture

So How Do We Build a Cloud Native Apps Given the Core Components

Designing for the cloud is similar to building an application for any other system. For cloud native development, there is a best approach which adheres to a few principles.

Build Cloud Native Services

It is no secret that cloud native applications are best deployed in form of a collection of cloud services or APIs. The algorithm looks like this: data ---> services ---> composite applications. This is a service-based architecture; the majority of developers tend to make applications that focus on the user interface rather than pay attention to the underlying functions.

When it comes to developing an application architecture for the cloud, one has to deal with numerous distributed systems. The best cloud native development models though can take advantage of loosely coupled systems and apps made on many services. Another advantage is the ability to decompose the app into hundreds of services, which increases service reuse and breaking down an application into many services.  

Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration

The process of getting code changes into production has to be as fast and easy as possible for a cloud native application. This requires continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD).  For example, a change made to the code should automatically trigger a build, test, and deployment process. If the process is successful, the code is deployed to production. This allows for small, iterative changes which can be quickly deployed and does not require a lengthy process.

The benefits of the CI/CD framework are numerous. First, it minimizes the risk of errors when deploying code changes. Second, it speeds up the process of getting code changes into the production environment. Third, as mentioned in the example, it allows for small, iterative changes which can be quickly deployed and does not require a lengthy process. Finally, CI/CD allows developers to focus on writing code, rather than worrying about the process of getting code changes into production.

Cloud Native Services Can Decouple the Data.

Both private and public clouds are distributed systems that perfectly cooperate with a cloud native architecture that breaks processing and data into numerous separate components. In order to find a good home for an app, development and operations teams decouple the data. Once it has been decoupled, development teams have a great option to store and process the data on any cloud provider.

With cloud native application development, one has to monitor cloud native apps and their performance and caching systems since both are close to the open Internet and locally strong commonly accessed data. Any application must be tested within its data in order to determine how efficient the cache will be.

Communications Layer.

When it comes to communication in a cloud native application, there are many options. You can use either synchronous or asynchronous communication. Each has benefits and drawbacks that need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

It is often best to start with asynchronous communication and only switch to synchronous if there is a specific need. In most cases, asynchronous communication will provide the flexibility and scalability needed for a cloud native application.

Cloud Native Apps and Synchronous Communication

In synchronous communication, both parties wait for a response before continuing. This can be thought of as a blocking call. An example of this would be a phone call. The caller speaks and then waits for a response from the called party. Once the response is received, the caller can continue speaking.

A cloud native example of this would be if you were trying to load a webpage and had to wait for the server to respond before the page would continue loading. With synchronous communication,  there is a guaranteed response time from the called party. However, this can also lead to bottlenecks if there are too many requests being made simultaneously.

Cloud Native Apps and Asynchronous Communication

In asynchronous communication, the parties do not wait for a response before continuing. This can be thought of as a non-blocking call. An example of this would be an email. The sender sends the message and does not wait for a response before continuing. The recipient receives the message and can respond at their convenience.  With asynchronous communication in cloud native app example, there is no guaranteed response time from the called party. However, this can lead to more efficient use of resources since requests can be processed as they come in.

But does this throttling slow the app down?

It can, but not necessarily. It all depends on the design of the app and how the communications are handled. If the communications are designed properly, then the throttling should not slow the cloud native app down.

Model for Performance and Scalability

To improve overall performance, you can extend considerations around how application components communicate. To do this, you have to get a better understanding of how your app will be scaled in dynamic environments under an increasing load.

What does ‘designing for performance mean’? It means first building a model that represents how the application behaves under an increasing load. You need to understand how the application will work with 100, 1,000, and 10,000 or more users logged in at the same time. But the solution is hidden in the network capacity — which can remain the same, the number of database instances may have to increase to handle any additional load.

This model helps to understand how best to scale the application by automatically spinning up resource instances that are needed. Another tip is to monitor overall application performance using application-aware performance monitoring tools.

Security in a Cloud Environment

When it comes to security, it should not be an afterthought when developing for cloud native applications. When building an app using cloud-native technologies, security must be a priority. You should build your application architecture security systematically. It must be designed and built in the application architecture and software development practices.

It is highly recommended to choose a security standard before even starting to work with designing an app. For healthcare, for instance, it’s important to take into account personally identifiable information as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US. Other industries have their own details about security.

Privacy in Cloud Native Technologies and Development

Beyond industry practices the emergence of increasingly broad, yet uneven, privacy requirements must also be part of the cloud native app development process. California Privacy Rights act and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation overlap in some meaningful ways but also differ. A coordinated plan the supports cloud native development needs to cover these privacy laws.

5 Benefits of Cloud Native Technologies

There are several advantages why this technology is more preferable than old-fashioned applications.

Cloud Native Enables Quick changes and Auto-Scaling.

Cloud-native equals switching focus from IT costs savings to business goals and customers’ needs. Nowadays business can instantly respond to customers’ needs and deliver exactly what they need in no time. Infrastructure automation at scale eliminates downtime. Why could it happen? Because of human error. Since computer automation does not face such challenge, a fully cloud-native application is about automating system, avoiding consistent application the same set of rules across any size of deployment. Add almost  limitless computing power for scaling services up and down during peak and trough periods and that’s the answer why numerous business choose cloud-native.

Resilience can be designed into Cloud Native Architecture.

Infrastructure means risks and traditional services mean low safety. When it comes to cloud-native, it helps specialists to have online access to their systems that remain online anytime, anywhere. Such approach can allow to work a reliable architecture easily that can economically support millions of users concurrently is desirable for any business, any organization. In addition, an ability to connect to other 3rd party systems and applications both inside and outside the enterprise provides even more possibilities for development.

A Cloud Native World Offers Extreme Flexibility.

The technology providers keep on offering numerous services at a decent price. However, the majority of enterprises are not ready to select just one infrastructure and that’s it. If a platform supports cloud-native approach, enterprises build applications that run on any cloud without modification. Thus, IT developers have that ability to work without locking into one vendor’s cloud. Nowadays flexibility could be even more important than cost-reduction. Cloud-native applications flexibility allows to reach information anywhere and run clouds without modifications. Thus, this on-demand flexibility which allows businesses to gain greater control of their technology spend.

Cloud Native Architecture can Improve Security.

It’s never too much security. This type of applications offer multi-level security so cloud engineers can be sure any data won’t get lost in the middle of somewhere or simply won’t be stolen. Thus, an ability to securely provide ubiquitous access to the applications.

Cloud Native Computing is Cost-efficient.

Any business aims to reduce costs and if any technology is cost-competitive, it draws attention at once. In comparison with other technologies, cloud-native applications win with price and such cost-efficiency helps to captivate even more businesses.

The wide use of mobile and internet infrastructure, along with a dramatic decline in the pricing of computing technology and network bandwidth, have enabled a new generation of enterprise computing services providers who can provision and deliver dynamic services on-demand in the moment and scale up or down.

Cloud Native Computing

A number of proprietary and open source solutions have emerged to help companies deploy and manage cloud native applications across their own cloud environment  infrastructure. Importantly though,  there are several popular services to run a cloud application: AWS, Azure, Google Compute, Softlayer, Heroku and Digital Ocean.

Let’s take a closer look to each of them. You can refer to our introduction to the cloud for more background on cloud providers.

AWS

Amazon Web Service allows customers to have a robust platform to plan any disaster. It’s secured, reliable and one of the most popular infrastructure to run a cloud application just like that. It has its own community where AWS solutions architects can share their ideas and experience.

Azure

Azure by Miscrosoft is a service to run mission-critical cloud apps. It connects SaaS and enterprise applications and can handle and support any business processes.

Google Cloud Platform

GCP is a service for cloud-applications by a giant of digital world – Google. It’s a reliable, high-performance and scalable VMs. It is aimed to deliver virtual machine running in Google’s data centers worldwide.

IBM Softlayer

Softlayer is a less popular service, however, it offers captivating price list. The focus on enterprise innovation and offers a trusted IBM cloud.

Heroku

Heroku is a platform as a service (PaaS) that enables developers to build, run, and operate applications entirely in the cloud. There’s also Heroku podcasts for engineers and product managers

Digital Ocean

Digital Ocean can be described as cloud computing, simplicity in scale. It provides developers and businesses a reliable, easy-to-use cloud computing platform of virtual servers (Droplets), object storage (Spaces), and more.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation

Beyond the public cloud providers there are a host of services and resources that enable software developers and companies to build private clouds as well as hybrid clouds. Hybrid clouds stitch together the resources used to power traditional enterprise applications as well as private clouds into cloud enabled infrastructure.

Companies can build and run scalable solutions and build cloud native applications or run existing enterprise systems on infrastructure that gives the ability to enjoy benefits of cloud native underlying infrastructure.

What to Keep in Mind in when building Cloud Native Applications

Yes, cloud applications have become a trusted and established model for delivery of IT services. However, even today there are still a host of application that sit on-premise as traditional applications being laboriously maintained by developers and systems admin. Many of these applications can be migrated to the cloud but before doing so, there is still several consideration we must take into account. Below are a handful of key questions cloud architects, DevOps engineers and developers should answer before migrating an application to the cloud

  1. How sensitive is the data?
  2. Is the data subject to regulation or potentially exposed to increased regulation if in the cloud?
  3. How many levels of privacy does the application have?
  4. Should buy or build your cloud infrastructure service?
  5. Which workloads are best suited for the cloud?
  6. Where is the data stored globally?
  7. Encryption keys: who makes, holds and provisions them?
  8. Where is the data being encrypted?
  9. Can the data be moved to another provider?

These are just a few questions to-consider a if business wants to migrating to the cloud.

If you are looking to build a cloud application, What Key Questions Should Your Cloud Engineer?

If you are a business owner, you want to be prepared to ask the right questions when hiring your cloud architect, developer or DevOps engineer. Beyond having a solid professional background and appropriates cloud certifications such as certified AWS Cloud Architect, here are few more questions to have ready:

  1. How do you usually design for failure?
  2. When it comes to application uptime, how do you monitor it?
  3. How do you build a self-healing architecture?
  4. What would you do to ‘size’ our app for peak traffic situations?
  5. Please name the most important metrics to monitor.
  6. How exactly do you utilize caching to deliver better performance?
  7. Please name a managed service you have used in the past.

A cloud application is one that is designed to run in the cloud. It is built using a microservices architecture and runs in containers. Cloud native applications are scalable, highly available, and fault tolerant. They are designed to be run in a distributed environment and can be deployed on demand from public cloud, private data center or both.  Many companies have discovered that they can gain competitive advantage by building their business systems on cloud platforms and leveraging cloud native techniques for development and amangement.  

At Azumo we are expert at building cloud native systems and working businesses to expand their cloud native business capabilities. We have a strong track record helping companies build and run scalable applications and cloud native systems. We are a nearshore software development company focused on building web, mobile, cloud and data applications for our customers globally.

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