As a manufacturer, you probably don’t give much thought to how developers created your software. You just want it to work the way you need it to. However, the reason you have some of the capabilities you and your team rely on is because of how your software vendor developed your application – specifically, whether they’re providing you with a cloud-native application.
Perhaps the best way to explain cloud-native development is to describe what it was like before moving to the cloud. Before cloud, software teams developed applications using on-premises hardware and infrastructure. This limited teams to doing only what their infrastructure supported or spending time and capital to add more.
Virtual machines helped teams overcome that limitation. Then, developers took it a step further by connecting hypervisors – which run virtual machines – to create, in effect, clouds that gave them more capacity, agility, and flexibility.
Software developed in physical environments, which often used monolithic architecture with all features and components woven into one application, worked well on the on-premises hardware it was designed for, but usually, applications weren’t compatible with other systems. Cloud also gets credit for becoming the key to groundbreaking development changes, including containerized microservices, that changed that as well. Containers enable self-sufficient pieces of the application, with all the components they need to run to operate in any environment. Also, microservices can be added, updated, changed or deleted without requiring sweeping changes to the entire application. Teams can test them in a cloud test environment to ensure when they are released that they don’t create bugs.
Developing in the cloud gives developers a range of benefits, including:
When software teams develop applications in the cloud, it’s less expensive than developing in an on-premises environment. There’s no need to purchase on-premises infrastructure or hire a full-time IT team to maintain it. Cloud development is also faster, which means development teams can make the best use of their time, minimizing the need to use freelance developers and shipping improvements and fixing bugs without having to wait for the next major version of the software.
DevOps groups in which cloud development and IT operations work together keep projects on track, minimizing the time on rework to meet project specifications.
Without the limitations of on-premises hardware, cloud development makes scaling projects quicker and easier. Teams don’t need to wait until the finance department approves the CAPEX for new infrastructure and IT installs it. When they need more capacity, new features or improved performance, developers can spin up new resources in the cloud. Also, cloud services with auto-scaling allow teams to use only what they need under a pay-as-you-go model.
Development is also faster using cloud-based microservices architecture. When customers request a new feature or a change, developers can add it without impacting the rest of the application. They can write code for just that feature and confirm it works without negatively impacting the rest of the application in a cloud test environment, then quickly add it to the next release.
Cloud also offers developers the added benefit of automating some of the repetitive processes their teams invested time in, such as testing, deployment, and workflow monitoring. It saves time and allows development teams to spend their time on higher-value activities.
As a user, you can also expect similar advantages from using a cloud-native application.
Cloud applications enable you to minimize the onsite IT hardware you need. You don’t have to invest in costly servers, data centers, and IT staff. Your applications run, and your data can be stored in the cloud. Additionally, with cloud applications, you don’t have to purchase software licenses outright. They’re often available via the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which allows you to pay a monthly fee to use the software rather than requiring you to make a large capital expenditure for the application.
When you need more storage capacity or higher performance, you can scale up the cloud services you use – and if you need less, you can scale back. You don’t have to worry about making new infrastructure investments or, maybe worse, looking at IT hardware collecting dust that you no longer need. You simply pay for what you need in the cloud.
When other businesses in your market introduce new offerings, ups their customer service game, or automates for greater efficiency and profitability, you can keep pace by adding new cloud solutions – almost instantly – that keep you competitive. And, if you want to work with a software developer to create a new feature or app to meet a unique requirement, they can deliver it more quickly.
In an interview with Built In, First Resonance’s Chris Magorian, a DevOps and backend engineer, adds that cloud-native applications also enable fast feature deployment. “Customers get to see immediate benefits by refreshing their pages, versus a redeployment or reinstall and an update of an on-prem database.”
Also, users can access cloud applications from a single URL, and their in-house engineers can leverage APIs for additional functionality.
It’s important to distinguish between software that functions on the cloud and software that is genuinely cloud-native. A cloud-native program was born there, and can run from that platform. Furthermore, a cloud-native application can run on on-premises servers for security or compliance reasons, as long as the software is properly updated and maintained. The more your company relies on cloud technology, the more you will grow to appreciate the distinction, and the value will become increasingly clear.
The key takeaway from a primer on cloud-native application development is that it’s time to take a look at the applications you’re running. Evaluate whether they cost more in terms of IT maintenance, time, and loss of competitiveness than you’d be paying with a cloud-native application. A cloud-native application is extremely quick to implement compared to non-native tech. More than just the features of a given product, you should consider its architecture – how it will scale and integrate with your existing systems, or those you intend to add. Consider what is going to set your business up for success in this decade – and beyond.