App Dev | Cloud Management

7 Common Challenges In Cloud App Development

Steve Sangapu
Steve Sangapu

The cloud is an ever-growing, quickly evolving technology that has made it easier for people to work remotely. Forbes reported that about 5.4 million developers were building cloud apps. That number has been increasing as cloud technology becomes more and more prominent in the business and consumer worlds.

Despite the growing popularity of cloud-based apps, cloud-native development still has a few challenges, especially for businesses that have recently migrated to the cloud. As with any technology, optimization takes time and effort., And in this article, we’ll go over some of the most common challenges and discover the ideal ways to tackle these challenges.

7 Most Common Cloud App Development and Maintenance Challenges

Cloud-native app development is, without doubt, the next step in software engineering but it’s only been a few years since the technology went mainstream and as a result, operational inefficiencies are common. Unfortunately, these seemingly minor inefficiencies can quickly snowball into bigger problems and even failures. Some of the most common examples of this include:

1. Optimizing Processes and Building Pipelines

One of the biggest advantages of cloud-native app development is pipelines and the automation that comes with it. But at the same time, it’s also one of the more complicated processes and is thus often delayed. In the way, optimizing processes after a cloud migration may be delayed in order to prioritize app deployment.

Unfortunately, both of these things result in underdeveloped systems – the effects of which are only visible in the long term. For instance, because cloud apps are so resilient, the lack of a proper monitoring system may not be realized right until a system fails. Similarly, software engineers may not realize how much time can be saved in testing and deployment with CI/CD pipelines.

Solution: The only long-term solution to unoptimized processes is to understand the services available in Google Cloud and how to best use them. Thankfully, there is absolutely no shortage of great resources, from informative official YouTube videos to in-depth technical documentation on the Google Cloud website.

2. Application Security

Client-side security still remains a challenge for most cloud app developers. It has been improving over the years, but up to 66 percent of IT specialists say that security is one of the most significant concerns when it comes to developing cloud-based apps.

Cloud apps need several API integrations. They also need to be readily accessible for users. The security threat arises because your data is in the hands of a third party, and although they’ll have specific security protocols in place, a data breach is always likely especially when data is shared frequently.

Solution: The Google Cloud ecosystem is massive with hundreds of tools and services available to developers. And a large chunk of these is dedicated to strengthening app security.

Additionally, developers usually tackle these issues by introducing strong data encryption, SSL, and reverse proxy usages, to name a few things. About 67 percent of developers believe that artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming critical components of improving cloud security.

3. Finding Technical Talent

Cloud-native development requires various specialized positions that are difficult to fill through traditional recruitment – especially for legacy businesses that may not have the necessary expertise in finding the right individuals. This is made worse by the “cloud talent drought” which is only expected to get worse as cloud adoption breaks all records.

Making things even more complicated is that most small-medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have the capital (or necessity) for full-time employment. Most project requirements (especially in the early stages) are short-term and thus specialized talent (such as cloud migration architects, security experts, DevOps engineers, etc.) are only required for 6-8 months. But with so much demand, it’s difficult to attract the right individuals.

Solution: There are different approaches that companies can take for recruitment. The most common options are internal recruitment and traditional outsourcing. There are other options as well such as hiring a Managed Services Provider (MSP) that can take care of one or multiple aspects of your business. Another option is staff augmentation and we’ll take a closer look at it towards the end.

4. Finding and Fixing Bugs

While there are numerous tools and processes that make debugging a lot easier and more efficient in the cloud, bugs are still part of app development.

The Systems Sciences Institute at IBM says that fixing a bug in the implementation phase costs up to six times more than in the design phase. Worse, it could cost you about 15 times if you’re going to fix a bug in the testing phase.

For instance, in 2019, Google Cloud experienced a 4-hour-long network outage in the U.S. East Coast, West Coast, and some central regions as well. Google apps such as Suite and YouTube became unavailable and business customers had a lot of questions to ask. It turned out that Google’s network control plane was mistakenly taken down.

According to Google’s official report on the incident, “Two normally-benign misconfigurations, and a specific software bug, combined to initiate the outage”.

Solution: The first step is to build the right monitoring tools, most cloud vendors provide such services built-in to the platform, like real-time vulnerability scanning in Google Cloud. However, we still need a fail-safe as most of these failures happen due to poor planning and human error, which brings us to…

5. Systems Failure and Downtime

Cloud-native applications are built to withstand failures – in fact, resilience is one of the core tenets driving the development of cloud-native apps. But no app is completely impervious to failure and downtime is still a possibility.

Gartner analysts estimated that on average, app downtime costs over $300,000 an hour. There are definitely some real-life examples to demonstrate that. But usually, the common theme is that it all begins with a bug that is not caught in time. Any software developer could tell you how important bug fixing is. An app needs to be periodically monitored and maintained for bugs and optimized.

Solution: Cloud-native apps support a wide range of systems dedicated to fault isolation that help prevent complete failures even when one thing goes wrong. This is called fault isolation and some of the ways of cloud engineers achieve this include:

  • Using persistent disks and startup scripts
  • Implement Managed Instance Groups with Load Balancing and Autohealing
  • Live migration for scheduled maintenance
  • Disaster Recovery strategies
  • Cluster replication, and more

6. Setting up Autoscaling

Autoscaling is an extremely powerful feature of Google Cloud that grants SMBs a lot of flexibility. And while setting up autoscaling is still far easier than configuring infrastructure for different scenarios, it can still be tricky. One of the biggest concerns that SMBs have is how they can balance cost, performance, and scalability.

Solution: For Google Cloud Compute’s VMs, we recommend using a managed instance group (MIG) setup that can autoscale based on traffic. In addition to this, you can also use schedule-based autoscaling. It’s also equally important to find performance bottlenecks in your code by setting up Cloud Tracking and instrumenting your application code with Open Telemetry

Additionally, SMBs can use get more granular insights into their costs by setting up a billing export to BQ and using a Business Intelligence (BI) tool like Looker.

7. Implementing These Solutions

Bit of a meta, this final challenge. But it’s 100% true. Implementing all of the systems discussed in this guide is a real challenge for many SMBs. Not everyone will struggle but those that do will see costs spiral out of control and efficiency dwindle. In these scenarios, it’s important to look inward and understand where the company is lacking. In our experience, the single biggest reason for ineffective systems implementation is not having the right personnel.

Solution: This once again brings us to a core challenge in cloud app development – finding talent. Every company wants the best but in 2021, they can either not find the right individuals or the short-term cost is not feasible with traditional recruitment. The solution? Don’t use traditional recruitment.

Understanding staff augmentation

The cloud talent drought is a modern problem and overcoming it requires looking past traditional recruitment. And one of the best alternatives is staff augmentation. Simply put, staff augmentation is a $490 billion industry temporarily outsourcing business processes partially or fully to other professionals or enterprises.

Staff augmentation helps overcome some of the most common challenges through its unique approach to recruitment. Instead of hiring employees full-time, businesses have the freedom to find technical talent for short-term contracts while still retaining the flexibility of having an in-house team. This process makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for because you have access to talent all across the world, especially useful during peak seasons.

Furthermore, staff augmentation gives businesses the prospect of scalability and expansion. Many small-scale IT firms don’t have the necessary resources to take on big projects. With staff augmentation, these enterprises have a far higher chance of securing larger contracts and while also achieving healthy internal growth.

Wrapping up…

Understanding the power of staff augmentation is the first step. But before companies can implement it, they need to learn how staff augmentation is going to fit into their specific business. Some ways to do this include: taking on an in-house specialist, taking on a consultant to better establish and guide practices, or to learning how to do it yourself.

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