What Is ‘Cloud Native’ (and Why Does It Matter)?

Cloud computing adoption has accelerated rapidly as technology leaders look to achieve the right mix of on-premise and managed cloud services for various applications and workloads. And this adoption is only expected to increase further; according to IDC, public cloud spending is forecasted to nearly double from $229 billion in 2019 to almost $500 billion in 2023.

As cloud computing adoption has increased across IT, a new application classification has also emerged: “cloud native.” As the “cloud native” descriptor appears more and more often in developer conversations and in articles such as, “The challenges of truly embracing cloud native” and “Six steps for making a successful transition to a cloud native architecture,” it’s become such a buzzword that the important distinctions for successful systems and applications are often lost. By designing cloud native solutions from the beginning, businesses can maximize the full potential of the cloud instead of struggling to adapt existing architectures.

What Does Cloud Native Mean?

The Linux Foundation offers the following definition: “Cloud native computing uses an open-source software stack to deploy applications as microservices, packaging each part into its own container and dynamically orchestrating those containers to optimize resource utilization.”

Analyst Janakiram MSV provided a slightly different description to The New Stack: “Cloud native is a term used to describe container-based environments. Cloud native technologies are used to develop applications built with services packaged in containers, deployed as microservices and managed on elastic infrastructure through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery workflows.”

While those technical definitions might be accurate, they also somewhat obscure the forest for the trees. At Streamlio, we believe it’s useful to take a step back from the technical definitions to set the broader context: to be cloud native as a solution is to embody the distinguishing characteristics of the cloud. It’s no longer enough for developers to design systems and applications that simply operate “in the cloud.” Instead, the cloud needs to be a key part of the design process so solutions are optimized from the ground up to leverage that environment.

For example, the practice of “lift and shift” to move on-premise IT infrastructure to the cloud in no way results in a cloud native solution. Deploying a solution in the cloud that was originally designed to run in a traditional data center is possible, but generally of limited merit, as you’re simply redeploying the same application and architecture on different infrastructure and likely making it more complicated in the process.

The Easy Way to Tell if a Solution Is Cloud Native

Cloud native solutions allow you to deploy, iterate and redeploy quickly and easily, wherever needed and only for as long as necessary. That flexibility is what makes it easy to experiment and to implement in the cloud. Cloud native solutions are also able to elastically scale up and down on the fly (without disruption) to deliver the appropriate cost-performance mix and keep up with growing or changing demands. This means you only have to pay for and use what you need.

Cloud native solutions also streamline costs and operations. They make it easy to automate a number of deployment and operational tasks, and — because they are accessible and manageable anywhere — make it possible for operations teams to standardize software deployment and management. They are also easy to integrate with a variety of cloud tools, enabling extensive monitoring and faster remediation of issues.

Finally, to make disruption virtually unnoticeable, cloud native solutions must be robust and always on, which is inherently expensive. For use cases where this level of resiliency is needed, it’s worth every penny. But for use cases where less rigorous guarantees make sense, the level of resiliency in a true cloud native architecture should be easily tunable to deliver the appropriate cost-reliability balance for the needs at hand.

Best Practices for Becoming Cloud Native

Organizations looking to become more cloud native should carefully examine how closely new technology meets the above criteria. Key areas of focus should be on how (not just where) data is stored and, perhaps more importantly, how it is moved into and out of the production environment. Some questions you can ask to determine how “cloud native” a solution includes:

  • How is resiliency handled? How are scaling and security implemented?
  • Rather than asking if it’s implemented as an open-source software stack that deploys as a series of microservices, ask can you scale up and down without disrupting users or applications?
  • Can the solution not only easily be deployed, but also be rapidly (re)configured?

Asking questions like these helps you to uncover the underlying architecture of the solution. Fundamentally, it’s either cloud native or it’s not. You can’t just add cloud native fairy dust into an architecture not designed for it and be successful. For enterprises and vendors, building in the cloud is an opportunity to refresh applications and architectures in ways that make them more flexible, scalable and resilient, changing the way organizations can and must think about things like capacity planning, security and more.

Organizations should also carefully avoid designing solutions that are either too narrow or too broad. Designing for too narrow a scenario can make it difficult to accommodate new uses and applications that emerge rapidly in cloud environments, while designing for too many possible needs at the start can lead to over-engineering that delays projects and adds paralyzing and fragile complexity.

When choosing a cloud solution, don’t just assume that because a solution comes from a cloud provider it’s the most cloud native option available. Instead, carefully evaluate each application to ensure it meets both your needs and your expectations.

Private Clouds vs Virtual Private Clouds (VPC)?

To understand why Virtual Private Clouds (VPC) have become very useful for companies, it’s important to see how cloud computing has evolved. When the modern cloud computing industry began, the benefits with cloud computing were immediately clear; everyone loved its on-demand nature, the optimization of resource utilization, auto-scaling, and so forth. As more companies adopted cloud, a number of organizations asked themselves, “how do we adopt the cloud while keeping all these applications behind our firewall?” Therefore, a number of vendors built private clouds to satisfy those needs.

In order to run a private cloud as though it were on-premises and get similar benefits to having a public cloud, you need a multi-tenant architecture. It helps to be a big company with many departments and divisions that all use the private cloud’s resources. Private clouds work when there are enough tenants and resource requirements are ebb and flow so that a multi-tenant architecture works to the advantage of the organization.

In a private cloud model, the IT department acts as a service provider and the individual business units act as tenants. In a virtual private cloud model, a public cloud provider acts as the service provider and the cloud’s subscribers are the tenants.

Moving away from traditional virtual infrastructures

A private cloud is a large initial capital investment to set up but, in the long run, it can bring savings––especially for large companies. If the alternative is every division gets its own mainframe, and those machines are over-engineered to accommodate peak utilization, the company ends up with a lot of expensive idle cycles. Once a private cloud is in place, it can reduce the overall resources and costs required to run the IT of the whole company because the resources are available on-demand rather than static.

But not every company has the size and the number of tenants to justify a multi-tenant private cloud architecture. It sounds good in principle, but for companies at a particular scale, it just doesn’t work. The alternative was the best of both worlds; have VPC vendors handle the resources and the servers but keep the data and applications behind the company’s firewall. The solution was a Virtual Private Cloud; it is behind the firewall and is private to your organization, but housed on a remote cloud server. Users of VPCs get all the benefits of the cloud, but without the cost drawbacks.

Today, about a third of organizations rely on private clouds, and many companies embarking on the cloud journey want to know whether a private cloud is the right move for them; they also want to ensure that there are no security concerns. Without going too far into those debates, there are certainly advantages to moving to a private cloud. But there are disadvantages as well; again, it is capital and resource intensive to set up. However, running a private cloud can lead to significant resource savings, but some organizations do not have enough tenants to make hosting their own cloud worth it.

VPCs give you the best of both worlds in that you’re still running your applications behind your firewall, but the resources are still owned, operated, and maintained by a VPC vendor. You don’t need to acquire and run all the hardware and server space to set up a private cloud; a multi-tenant cloud provider will do all of that for you––but you will still have the security benefits of a private cloud.

How Anypoint Virtual Private Cloud provides flexibility

Anypoint Platform provides a Virtual Private Cloud that allows you to securely connect your corporate data centers and on-premises applications to the cloud, as if they were all part of a single, private network. You can create logically separated subnets within Anypoint Platform’s iPaaS, and create the same level of security as your own corporate data centers.

More and more companies require hybrid integration for for their on-premises, cloud, and hybrid cloud systems; Anypoint VPC seamlessly integrates with on-premises systems as well as other private clouds.

The Architects of the IT world

The backbone of every thriving modern enterprise is held up and supported by skilled IT architects. An Architect for Information Technology is different from an architect that produces well-designed infrastructures. An IT Architect still designs but in an entirely different way and area of expertise.

The Role of a Cloud Architect

Today’s cloud architects are in charge of designing cloud environments, usually giving a definitive guide in the cycle of development of a cloud-based solution and project up to its deployment. They need to have an in-depth understanding of all cloud-based concepts and the components that are integral to the steady delivery of the cloud service. A cloud architect must be an expert not just in cloud-based functions and tools but should also be knowledgeable in the cloud-based infrastructure and able to provide well-strategised build-and-release directed to the development teams.

Technically speaking, cloud architects are decision-makers when it comes to the required network, suppliers to team up with and how to combine all of the procured pieces and parts from varying vendors. They also dictate what kind of API to implement, and what specific industry standards to adopt into the project.

It takes more than just knowledge in IT and being tech-savvy to make it as a cloud architect. There are specific skills required along the way. Here is a list of the qualifications and skills a cloud architect should possess or accomplish to be exceptional for the role:

An enterprise computing background

It takes more than one degree in the computing field to pass like a cloud architect. A robust general experience in the departments of MIS, computer engineering, computer science, and similar studies capped with a broad knowledge of how enterprises utilise IT solutions for various functions and reasons.

Technical skills in enterprise computing

It is but logical that cloud architects are experts in all things IT, from its core to the very last detail that binds that makes it up. Cloud architects are usually on the specialists on the different and vast disciplines of technology. These areas include but not limited to; programming languages, databases, web development and tools, infrastructure, networking, ERP and of course client systems and corresponding applications.

People Skills

This is not the usual skill required for a regular IT guy. For an IT architect, on the other hand, it is utmost crucial to have excellent communication or people skills. A cloud architect must be able to convey, effectively direct, and persuade through writing and in person, whether it is a one-on-one meeting or a panel discussion.

Leader Vibes

A cloud architect should be able to exhibit strong leadership skills to effectively convince different groups in the organization apart from the main decision-makers that the makings of a cloud environment are beneficial for the enterprise. A leadership style that best fits this job is the inverted pyramid style, which, according to our portal, is the best strategy to empower people. Learn more about at: https://www.integralrising.org/inverted-pyramid-style-why-it-is-best-to-empower-people

Inquisitiveness

Cloud architects to jumpstart their role in an enterprise should be able to pinpoint the areas that need improvement or mending — being curious plays a critical part of the job as much as being analytical.

Be an architect

In essence, architects (of any field) should become planners and organisers. Projects typically take on an extended period (a few months to years) to materialise and complete. A cloud architect should be able to comply with these basics to manage a project every step of the way.

Be business-minded

Cloud architects’ focus might be on technology, but the solutions they come up with will affect the entire organization. They must put themselves in a position where they fully comprehend what the company needs, how much the solution will cost the business financially and strategically aligning the design for overall success.

What a Cloud Architecture Job entails?

Job openings are plenty across major tech hub cities, and the salaries, especially in areas of IT with high-demand on architect skills, can pay up to $150,000 or over.

The job title usually goes to those with 8-10 years of experience and comes to those senior staff in the later stages of their careers. Strong technical skills with a mix of soft skills like the ones outlined above all contribute and necessary for those who want to fill the job position.