App Dev | Modernization

Breaking Down The Cloud-Native And Microservice Architecture

Steve Sangapu
Steve Sangapu

Cloud-native is the tried and tested modern approach to delivering software to the masses. With faster deployment, virtually limitless computing power, and the effective use of isolated containers, cloud-native app development has become the most popular app development. Today, around 86 percent of businesses are using a cloud-native infrastructure in their internal IT operations in some capacity.

Business cases can vary from something as simple as hosting a single-page smoke test with unpredictable resource requirements to breaking down monolithic applications into more efficient microservices and hosting entire databases on a secure cloud server. But nearly everyone is either in the process of using cloud-native technologies or is planning on doing so.

If you’re in the latter category and are wondering, what exactly is cloud-native architecture, why is it getting so much traction, and what benefits can it bring to your organization? You’re in the place as we’ll answer all of these questions in this article, starting with…

What is Cloud-Native?

The term cloud-native is more of an umbrella term, a generalization for a combination of highly efficient, modern development concepts. It’s a combination of serverless architecture, microservice features, the effective use of containerization, and numerous other technologies that leverage cloud computing in some form.

In many ways, cloud-native is the next step in the evolution of agile development. It is a modern-day approach to developing a digital product while taking advantage of modern principles that focus on faster deployment, more efficient use of computing power, and better customer experience.

It can be referred to as both an architecture and an infrastructure, based on the implementation of the technology (the former being broader in scope). When referring to applications, in particular, cloud-native is the approach to building and running applications with the benefits of the cloud delivery model.

Cloud-native is not a single technology or a platform that businesses can incorporate into existing IT infrastructures. Cloud-native application development takes advantage of different technologies like containerization, autoscaling, cloud storage, and DevOps.

It is also not just limited to developers and designers. At the highest levels of the organization, it is a change in mindset, towards adopting off-premises infrastructure, automation, and often a digital transformation (which can be executed through a multi-tiered approach). This change in mindset allows companies to release updates faster, with fewer failures, and at a significantly reduced cost.

Note: Platforms like the Google Cloud Platform do bring these different technologies together on a single platform, but they’re nonetheless separate, with different objectives, users, and experts.

What is Microservices Architecture?

Microservices is one of the most fundamental technologies involved in cloud-native development. It is a design approach of building software through independent but loosely coupled features that all work together to ensure that the software continues to work even if one feature stops. This containerized style of developing features helps make apps more scalable, resilient, and cost-effective.

The traditional way of developing features in your app meant combining multiple functions into one environment or container. Like developing an entire landing page on one programming file. If one feature needs a restart, you would have to be reset. This method is called the monolithic architecture

Microservices isolate features by packaging them in their own self-sufficient environments called containers These containers (or microservices) communicate through APIs that also loosely couple them to each other to form a comprehensive application.

What truly makes microservices a better architecture than traditional monoliths is that it allows for an incredible level of scalability. You can easily remove, add, edit, and delete microservices without crippling your system. Software development for teams becomes much more goal-driven as well, with small teams being able to focus solely on their microservices – without worrying about compatibility later on. This ease of collaboration is only compounded by cloud-native applications supporting a mixed technology stack which means different development teams can work using different programming languages, libraries, and other dependencies.

The Business Value of Microservices and Cloud-native App Development

Dialogflow is part of Google’s vart ecosystem of cloud services. It is a fully-hosted on Google’s secure cloud which means you don’t need to host it yourself. On the surface, Diagflow looks like any other Google service with its simplistic but functional UI. It has a console to manage your agents (a core component that we’ll talk about next), a visual builder, and monitoring and analytics tools found in every other GCP service.

Limited scalability
Slow time-to-market
Prone to failures (and unstable updates)
Solving these three core problems has been the backbone of the cloud-native philosophy and is the reason why it’s such an efficient architecture for businesses today.

These three major problems have also led to numerous impactful benefits, some of which I have discussed below:

High costs
Containerization refers to the process of packaging a microservice (which itself is a mini-application) along with everything it needs to run in something called containers. These containers work on their own, like independent executables. Containers are the building blocks of cloud-native architecture and are what removes the limitations of traditional monolith models.

Since monoliths are built from the ground up in a single file/database, your entire structure is compromised if even a single component fails. Cloud-native applications aren’t affected by this problem, s containers and microservices being two of the reasons why (advanced replication and advanced Disaster Recovery strategies being other reasons).

Containers are also much more efficient when it comes to performance because they directly share the machine’s operating system instead of booting one for their own (they have all the instructions, they just need external means, or resources, to carry out those instructions).

Finally, containers are much easier to manage than traditional monolith code. Bugs are isolated and easy to find. Automated debugging is also far more effective. There are also open-source container orchestration programs like Kubernetes and Docker that businesses can use to make their software faster and easier to monitor.

On-demand Performance and Serverless Deployment
Traditional architecture meant investing in your own server, built and managed locally on-premises. These servers are on all the time. However, it’s rare to have steady traffic at all times. There are different peak hours when a server needs to work extra hard and slow days where the server isn’t being used to its maximum capacity. You also cannot ignore the possibility of going viral in 2021.

This is where serverless comes in. Serverless deployment refers to launching software without having to manage physical servers and configuration yourself. You can skip hiring an IT professional or an engineering team to manage your servers, as well as the electric bill you’d need to keep it running cool.

Cloud vendors like the Google Cloud Platform charge on a per-user basis, meaning performance can be ramped upon demand by the software and automatically lowered at all other times. This saves you money, power, and even time.

By smartly choosing which parts of the app to focus on, cloud-native applications can effectively allocate performance where it matters the most. Programs like Kubernetes do this seamlessly and even have dedicated nodes for specialized tasks.

Memory Efficiency and Resiliency
Cloud-native apps are also much better when it comes to being efficient with memory. Monolithic programs boot from the ground up. Even if you’re just using half of a program’s total functionality, a monolithic model would still load everything completely.

In contrast, cloud-native apps can provision their needs because of on-demand performance. They can separate memory needs where necessary and use less memory for the same task. There are also different types of storage available based on how often a file is accessed.

Rapid Deployment
When it comes to speed, the cloud-native architecture is unmatched by traditional models. Businesses can deploy new features, test certain containers, and fix bugs with lower overhead and in a fraction of the time, developers can take testing and deploying down from months to weeks or even days when needed. This is thanks to the following factors made possible only in a cloud-native infrastructure:

  • Separate teams that work alongside each other without compatibility issues
  • A very high level of automation made possible with tools such as CI/CD pipelines
  • Managed services such as serverless deployment that allow developers to significantly reduce their workload.

Considering how competitive the tech market can be and how tech consumers are used to instant gratification, being able to deliver faster updates than your competitor is a must.

Limited rollouts or canary deployments are also far easier in a cloud-native environment. And being able to rapidly deploy small features to a targeted group of users also helps developers test and troubleshoot new releases before making a massive change to their software.

Challenge and Limitations (And Insights into How to Overcome It)

Despite the massive benefits, there are still some limitations to adopting cloud-native architecture and microservices.

Upfront Costs
The biggest cost-savings from cloud-native infrastructure are visible in the long-term usage (which is why it’s important to get started as quickly as possible). Right at the start, however, businesses are more likely to be faced with high costs.

Almost all of these costs will be related to migration costs, especially if you have full-fledged monolithic applications that need to be migrated to the cloud. But much of this can be overcome by choosing the right modernization strategy (such as lift-and-shift).

There is also the cost of on-prem hardware that will likely need to be phased out. That said, businesses will most likely save far more money and time than they would ever spend on the cloud.

Expertise/Technical Talent
The next biggest challenge of cloud-native app development is finding the technical talent for it. Cloud developers, migration officers, consultants, etc. are all specialized positions that most businesses cannot fill internally.

Additionally, filling these positions full-time may not be ideal for many small-medium enterprises (especially for modernization projects). In such cases, working with a cloud-certified agency like D3V or going with staff augmentation would be far more cost-effective and beneficial.

Wrapping up…

Cloud-native and microservice architecture is the future. It offers greater performance, scalability, flexibility, and resilience at a lower price than on-prem solutions for almost all small-medium enterprises. That said, challenges are still present and can be a major problem if you’re not prepared.

Thankfully, most of these challenges are fairly easy to overcome – especially when you have the right cloud partner. If you are one such company, feel free to reach out to our certified cloud engineers for guidance on choosing the right cloud services provider and a complete cloud migration roadmap.

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