You may have heard the term “cloud-native” thrown around; often without any real context or details pertaining to what it means and why it matters. Like most buzzwords, it’s regularly used to drive a perception of innovation without actually understanding the core components of how it’s applied and the expected impact.
In short, cloud-native is a shift in thinking around how to best design and construct IT systems for speed and the ability to embrace rapid change, scalability, and resilience.
Before we dive into the impact of cloud-native, let’s look at the official definition provided by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation:
Cloud-native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.
These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.
Cloud-native is all about increasing speed and agility. With user requirements and expectations constantly growing, it’s become vitally important to provide rapid responsiveness, innovative features, and zero downtime. IT systems are evolving from enabling business capabilities to being a force for strategic transformation that accelerates business velocity and growth. The speed at which a system or solution can pivot and bring new ideas to fruition can create a competitive advantage that propels an organization forward.
Adapting to Change - Remote and Hybrid Work
With organizations experiencing a faster rate of change across everything from how business is conducted to how employees communicate, the ability to quickly adapt to both expected and unexpected changes is now more critical than ever. Speed is the name of the game and the quicker you can adapt, the greater the advantage gained. IT operations teams are tasked with supporting organizations that may experience a rapid shift in growth, direction, or requirements at any given time. The most recent and impactful example of this is the rapid shift to remote and hybrid work.
Remote work is not a new concept - there’s been a slow transition taking place for years now. But that doesn’t mean that businesses were prepared to have the majority, if not all of their employees, shift to remote work overnight. Accommodating relatively slow, gradual change is easy for most, but what happens when that change occurs over the course of weeks instead of years? Rapid changes tend to create opportunities for some while creating undue burden for others.
The purpose behind cloud-native technologies is closely aligned to this organizational goal of being able to pivot and adapt quickly. When many offices were shuttered in 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19, those businesses still operating a heavily on-premises IT infrastructure had to figure out a quick fix to support a large number of employees that were suddenly working remotely, accessing internal resources from a more diverse set of devices and networks than what had been supported in a traditional office environment. This led to greater security exposure and the need for more expansive use of VPNs to create a secure way for remote users to access resources located on-premises. Unfortunately, VPN usage not only creates additional overhead and network burden, but it also hurts the end-user experience.
Businesses that had already transitioned to a more cloud-focused strategy had practically no issues dealing with the influx of remote workers. That’s because cloud-native solutions support users in a uniform manner, regardless of location or whether or not they’re in an office. By having implemented a cloud strategy, those businesses could continue to operate at their full velocity while other businesses ate up significant time, money, and resources to figure out how to support the rapid shift to remote work.
Embracing the Future for Better Business Growth
While the example of remote work highlights the benefit of cloud-native technologies being able to ubiquitously support end-users, the ability to seamlessly support future growth is even more significant.
Business growth and resource fluctuation can demand a high level of flexibility and extensibility from the underlying IT infrastructure. The inability to quickly accommodate that demand can slow down business operations, equating to lost revenue and market share. Cloud-native solutions embrace this need for functional agility and are specifically architected to easily scale and quickly deploy new features. Instead of a monolithic approach, cloud-native technologies embrace microservices, a popular architectural style for developing modern applications. Microservices provide two main benefits:
- Each microservice has an autonomous lifecycle and can be developed and deployed more frequently, independent of the rest of the application. This means you can update a small piece of a complex application with less risk and potential complication.
- Each microservice can scale independently instead of having to scale the entire application. You only scale out the services that require additional processing power or bandwidth, helping to reduce costs and efficiently allocate resources.
Applications based on a monolithic approach or software originally designed as an on-premises solution are constrained by slower methods of development and deployment. Even if those applications are hosted in the cloud as cloud-based solutions, they’re still limited by those outdated approaches that lead to scalability issues and longer deployment intervals. There are a number of applications that fit within this mold, but the only way to achieve the speed needed to immediately meet current and future business needs is to transition to cloud-native services and solutions.
Does your IT operations solution check all the boxes of being cloud-native?
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