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What is Cloud Native…and who cares?
Martyn Coupland, Senior Azure Consultant
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What is Cloud Native? That’s a million-dollar question and like many areas of technology, one which divides opinions. For me, Cloud Native is when software development utilizes the cloud to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments. Before we get into the details, let us look at several high-level facts established by 451 Research.

  • 54% of mature public cloud users have platform-as-a-service in place today
  • 51% indicate most or all in-house software is Cloud Native or cloud enabled

Cloud Native is heavily weighted towards the software engineering world, but IT pros and operations teams still have a huge role to play and for that reason, developers are very much in the driver’s seat. However, Systems Engineers, Network Engineers, and other operational roles can and should, influence the direction taken with Cloud Native technology.

You should care about Cloud Native because this is already the next big thing in the revolution of architecture patterns. The patterns introduced are arguably not new, however, add in the immense power of the cloud and this changes everything.

We can now design architecture patterns for microservice-based applications, giving you the ability to better serve your customers than ever before with a highly scalable and dynamic environment. Cloud Native replaces the need for multiple applications accessing the same data source for example, where in Cloud Native this can be replaced with an API connected to the data source and then consumed by multiple applications (think of micro-segmentation of networks). Microservices are the micro-segmentation of application layers to achieve high levels of durability and scalability when deployed on the cloud.

It is important to understand the fundamental technologies at play, or at least the categories Cloud Native technologies are broken down into. Also, consider that DevOps is a key driver of success with Cloud Native and understand where the traditional IT pro role fits in with Cloud Native.

Cloud Native technologies

While the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) does place a heavy emphasis on containers and Kubernetes, it’s important to understand that Cloud Native covers a wide variety of technologies from numerous vendors. The CNCF has produced a great Cloud Native Landscape which enables you to see the different categories of tools within the stack in which you will see some very familiar products.

You can, broadly speaking, split the technologies into seven categories. These are:

  • Platform
  • Observability and Analysis
  • Serverless
  • App Definition and Development
  • Orchestration and Management
  • Runtime
  • Provisioning

The key takeaway is that technologies cover the stack from top to bottom. Some of these solutions are specific for one function while others can be used across stacks and platforms.

DevOps is the key to Cloud Native success

We all know the situation between development and operations teams. Developers will say the operations team does not understand why features need to be released so quickly and that they are not interested in what is happening on the development side. Developers want infrastructure built quickly and the operations team doesn’t deliver.

On the flip side, operations teams will say their fundamental goal is to maintain availability and performance on the platform, that developers always throw releases over the fence, nothing is documented, and we don’t know how to support it. The list frankly could go on for some time on both sides.

Enter DevOps. The goal of DevOps is to bring teams closer together, solicit better communication and collaboration between teams. The successful implementation of DevOps can deliver faster deployments, shorter time to market, lower failure rates, improved recovery times, and many more advantages. DevOps is all about four key pillars: culture, people, process and technology. I’m very purposeful when I place those pillars in that order.

I believe that buy-in for DevOps must come from the top-down. In many organizations, this is a fundamental change to the way you work and operate. You must first get the culture right within your organization. This will in turn, determine the people and skills you need to execute on your goals. Those people will then drive your process improvement. Finally, technology will enable you to automate your processes and become faster.

Cloud Native is for IT pros

IT pros have vast amounts of operational knowledge, both of applications and very importantly, the business. This is knowledge which developers in most organizations do not possess outside of the specific features which they work on. With DevOps, IT pros can apply this knowledge very early in the development process, ensuring their requirements are captured in the solution phase. This ensures they have the knowledge to support the Cloud Native technologies deployed and provide key information on things like disaster recovery, backups, high availability, and other areas which are not areas of expertise of most developers.

To summarize, Cloud Native is already here, and research shows many organizations are already utilizing it. A great strategy in combination with the right DevOps strategy, will go a very long way towards getting your product from good to great, and delivered faster with higher quality results.

Let’s chat about what’s in store for your digital transformation.

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