Cloud native is a method, not a nickname. It’s as much cultural as it is architectural.
There is no escape from the buzzwords in the tech world. From DevOps to digital transformation, it’s hard to walk – or perhaps more accurately, click – into a boardroom in 2021 without being inundated by them, especially if you’re an IT or telecom company.
If you were to create a word cloud of all the technical terms used in conference rooms around the world today, “cloud native” would probably be right in the middle. The problem is that a recent poll found that over 95% of IT business leaders claimed to be cloud native, but they didn’t quite agree on what that meant. Does a business just have to be “born” in the cloud to be classified as cloud native, or is it just a matter of putting certain processes in the cloud? Maybe it is enough to get into containerization with a tool like Kubernetes to get into the cloud native club?
Here’s the problem: Cloud native isn’t a particular bunch of things. It’s a way of doing these things. Cloud native refers to a particular approach to designing, building, and running applications that is not that easy to pin down and label. It is a complete architecture; a philosophical approach to building applications that take full advantage of all that cloud computing has to offer. It gives businesses, including MSPs and VARs, the flexibility and agility to scale quickly, quickly pivot into new avenues to market, and jump on ideas as they arise. Turnaround times for new ideas are measured in hours rather than days, allowing organizations to respond to turbulent and unpredictable market forces. It’s hard to imagine a more eventful and unpredictable record year for businesses than 2020, and this is why cloud native has its place at the board table.
But companies in the IT and telecom sector, pioneering groups in digital transformation processes, are they taking full advantage of the native cloud? If a managed service provider thinks that pulling a tool like Kubernetes into its arsenal makes it cloud native, it’s sadly missing the basics. Containerizing your first app is just a drop of water in the native ocean of clouds, and here’s why.
Put the culture on top of the containers
One of the biggest mistakes IT companies tend to make when “moving to cloud native” is putting architecture above people. And that makes sense – after all, architecture is at the heart of their business. Containerization, microservices, automation, and orchestration are essential to the cloud native philosophy, but they don’t add much if a business doesn’t train its employees. In one recent poll, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) found that “cultural shifts within the development team” were seen as the biggest barrier to cloud native adoption; this makes it a bigger issue than security, complexity, training, storage, and vendor support for the majority of businesses.
It cannot be said enough: Cloud native is not just about swapping one set of technologies for another set of technologies. It’s a whole culture, and you can’t have a culture without people. So, that being said, what are the fundamentals of cloud native?
Cloud Native Architectural Principles
We will move on to very important cultural principles shortly. But first, let’s quickly walk through the architectural principles of the cloud native approach. To even consider defining itself as a cloud native, a company must have a good grasp of the following:
- Containerization: A method of “packaging” or encapsulation of an application in its own virtual runtime environment, with the dependencies it needs to run, making it easy to test, move, and deploy.
- Dynamic management: Use of cloud-based servers that can be flexibly provisioned on demand. Typically, this will also allow businesses in a public cloud environment to pay only for the resources they use.
- Microservices: Design applications as a collection of small, independent components that are decoupled from enterprise-wide dependencies. These microservices can be deployed, upgraded, scaled and restarted completely independent of other services, making businesses more agile and resilient.
- Automating: Be able to replace manual tasks such as maintenance and updating with scripts or code so that they run independently and reliably.
- Orchestration: Relate all of the above by automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications, often using a tool like Kubernetes to control and automate tasks.
The above principles are at the heart of the cloud native approach. If an internet provider, for example, wants to take advantage of speed and others …