What does cloud native really mean for business?

Cloud native doesn’t just mean migrating to the cloud. It is about exploiting the cloud’s infrastructure and services to drive digital transformation, increase agility and add business value.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation – part of the Linux Foundation – defines cloud native as the use of open-source software and technologies, such as containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure and declarative APIs. The goal is “to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private and hybrid clouds.”

While most components are open source, it is worth mentioning that the commercial ecosystem around them is snowballing. According to 451 Research, enterprises can purchase three million products from the hyperscalers alone.

These components are made up of “loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable and observable – combined with robust automation – allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil,” according to the CNCF.

In other words, they allow businesses to get to market faster and gain an edge over the competition. The big game changer is scalability. Cloud-native environments enable enterprises to rapidly scale workloads up and down to adapt to dynamic business changes.

Cloud-native applications enable businesses to stay relevant and respond quickly to any changes and new opportunities, while keeping up with the arrival of disruptive technologies.

It is little surprise, therefore, that a cloud-native culture is often linked to an agile, start-up way of thinking. It is continuously improving to deliver business value rapidly.

The business value of cloud-native applications

By speeding up the development and deployment processes, cloud native enables businesses to accelerate application and service delivery. This is possible because these applications are purpose-built for cloud – often described as born in the cloud.

By adopting a cloud-native approach, developers can quickly create applications using individual service components. Each service is responsible for running its own process. This means they can be developed and deployed using different tools and languages, are far less resource intensive, and can be reused in other projects and scaled accordingly. This is a significant boon for business as it cuts down on time and costs.

Containers host the individual microservices that form a microservices application. Containers are highly portable and make it easy to move workloads between servers and clouds, making them a cornerstone of any software-defined infrastructure.

Next comes availability. Cloud-native applications are designed with redundancy; this enables them to deal with hardware failures and adjust Internet protocols as required automatically, cutting out downtime. Cloud-native applications can also support blue/green deployment strategies, where one environment runs the current applications and the other runs the new applications. This reduces risk by simplifying the changeover process if a service or application fails.

Going cloud first, cloud native

Increasingly, enterprises are adopting cloud-first strategies. Reasons differ from lowering costs to better resilience, delivery speed and flexibility. As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2025 over 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed on cloud-native platforms.

It is essential to note that cloud first does not mean cloud only. Some, such as those dealing with mission-critical data, may also decide to maintain traditional onsite infrastructures. Businesses need to look at their applications and consider where they will get the most significant benefits from cloud native.

A cloud-native business aims to establish an efficient and sustainable way to innovate. Going cloud native is not quite as simple as it sounds. Cloud native requires changing the business’ operating model and continuous commitment. Therefore, the enterprise must set out its objectives, business benefits and outcomes before setting out on a cloud-native journey.

Enterprises that start building cloud-native applications today will need to evolve their skillset to manage future artificial intelligence (AI) workloads. These so-called smart cloud-native applications have AI at their epicenter and can be continuously and dynamically managed and deployed. By using AI models as microservices, enterprises can add and remove services without disrupting other services being offered. For example, improved fault isolation means that if one service goes down, it will not impact the others.

Don’t forget the cultural change

Cloud native isn’t just about technology. For any business to make cloud native a success, it has to change its culture. This means embracing DevOps and taking on board an agile way of thinking.

DevOps combines development and operations to create a set of practices and tools that allows enterprises to deliver applications and services far more quickly than traditional software development methods. DevOps aligns people, processes and technology, ensuring everyone and everything in the lifecycle of an application work together in a frictionless and seamless manner.

As IDC notes, DevOps professionals continue to be in the hot seat as businesses and their customers demand easy-to-consume and user-friendly services delivered at an ever-faster rate.

At a high level, cloud native demands that agile concepts be promoted across the business and technology. Teams will need to collaborate and adapt to new processes to maximize the acceleration capabilities that cloud native has to offer.

Getting cloud native for business right from the start

Cloud native is about speed and agility, allowing enterprises to transform faster and tap into new business opportunities in the growing digital partners and customers ecosystem.

Adopting cloud native for business is a no-brainer. But to see the business benefits, you must be prepared to fail fast. Cloud native is complex. It isn’t just a change in the technology stack; it requires a total re-think of culture, integration and application development. This means re-skilling and bringing on board new skills.

Going cloud native alone isn’t easy, especially as we are in the middle of a skills drought. Suppose your enterprise is just exploring the concept of cloud native or has already started on the journey. In that case, you will achieve your business outcomes faster by working with an experienced partner – one that understands innovation and collaboration.

Faced with ongoing market challenges, new competitors and increasing customer expectations, enterprises must ensure they are agile, scalable and secure. Click here to learn more about how cloud can be a catalyst for this change.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.