Traditional Applications vs Cloud Based AppsHow do they compare in terms of cost to build and maintain? Are cloud applications the right choice for legacy businesses as well?
February 25, 2021 | App Dev
In 2021, almost everyone is choosing to build cloud based applications over traditional applications due to the changing market requirements. Cloud based applications were created to cater to the modern business’ needs and it does so very well. But what about the disadvantages, are there any at all? How do they compare in terms of cost to build and maintain? Are cloud applications the right choice for legacy businesses as well? These are some of the questions that we will answer in this article as we take a closer look at traditional applications and cloud based apps to help you find the best fit for your business in 2021.
What is Traditional App Development?
App development is the culmination of various tools, practices, and goals. And all of these factors are constantly changing and shifting to meet real-world demand. Traditional app development refers to an earlier form of app development, creating apps that are now called legacy applications. The term “legacy” means outdated or obsolete - and it’s true. Almost all legacy applications are built on a type of architecture called monolithic. Unlike modern architectures, monoliths are far more interconnected - and that’s not a good thing. Every line of code, every service, and every function is connected to another, it’s all built on top of each other which creates a series of problems. For instance, monolithic applications are much more prone to downtime and failures because when one thing fails, everything is affected. Similarly, debugging requires more effort too because to find the cause of the problem, developers need to scan the entire codebase. The fact that everything is built on top of each other also means that the app is neither very scalable nor flexible - at some point, the backend just gives up.
Up until about a decade ago, the monolithic design was the way to go, not because it was particularly good back then but due to a lack of choice in terms of development architecture. But then the cloud-native architecture came and with it came different new forms of development architectures that were more focused on scalability and flexibility, neither of which were monolithic applications’ strong suits.
Traditional app development was very advanced a decade ago, but in the last 5 years, new technologies and software engineering methodologies have become popular that are far more capable. And we’re not just talking about cloud app development. Methodologies like agile development, DevOps, and cloud-native are all based on the same principles of isolation and flexibility and are far more suited to take on the challenges of modern businesses than traditional apps.
What is Cloud-based App Development?
One of the main differentiating factors is that cloud based applications are not on-premises. Instead of self-hosting, businesses subscribe to a cloud vendor (like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, etc) to use their servers instead. This solved one of the biggest problems of traditional monolithic applications - scalability. There was always a point where the backend could no longer be efficiently scaled up and it would get choked. Cloud based applications do not suffer from this limitation as cloud vendors like Amazon and Google have virtually unlimited compute and storage, more than most businesses will ever use.
The second major way in which cloud-based apps are different from traditional apps is that they completely break down the monolith. Instead of lumping everything together in the main codebase, cloud-based apps use microservices. Microservices are mini, self-sustainable pieces of code that are containerized and can be run on any platform capable of running containerized applications without worrying about infrastructure or provisioning. Microservices make app development faster, simpler, more resilient, and scalable. New microservices can be added and old ones can be removed without them affecting the rest of the application. Additionally, because microservices are independent and isolated, when one microservice fails, it doesn’t affect the rest and developers can quickly identify the problem without having to scan the entire codebase.
Cloud vendors have also come a long way in providing fully-managed platforms that reduce development time and administrative overhead.
When to Use Traditional Applications?
As we said at the beginning of this article, everyone is moving to cloud-based applications. The cloud-native ecosystem is architected to serve businesses’ current needs and is thus simply a better choice for most businesses. There are cases where traditional applications can be used. For instance, if an on-premises solution is a strict requirement, then cloud applications are out of the question (although there are certain cloud services that can be used even on on-premises infrastructures). Another example where traditional applications can be used is when the business has its own proprietary platform/protocols that cannot be mimicked on a cloud architecture. That said, it’s important to note that these cases aren’t the norm and most businesses don’t have such requirements. Furthermore, there are very few things a traditional app can do but a cloud application can’t. In a nutshell, if you need to ask whether to go with a traditional infrastructure or a cloud infrastructure, you most likely want to go with the latter.
When to Use Cloud based Applications?
Simply put, cloud based applications are more modern and are designed to solve current-day challenges. So, if you’re looking for any of the following characteristics, cloud-native applications are for you:
Today’s viral marketing and social media trends mean your app or service can go viral at any point and ideally, you want your application to be able to handle hundreds of thousands and even millions of hits even when its usual traffic is in the thousands. On the other hand, your app may have varying levels of traffic during the week. For instance, you may get 70% of your weekly traffic on the weekends - so it doesn’t make sense to pay the same amount in uptime for a Wednesday as you would on a Sunday.
This is where cloud computing’s scalability shines. Having a serverless solution means businesses no longer have to worry about overprovisioning or underprovisioning resources. Cloud based applications can scale up or down depending on the demand instantly without any human input, meaning you’re less likely to lose business due to timeout and 404 errors.
Scalability is crucial but it won’t matter for most small-medium businesses (SMBs) if it costs a fortune. Thankfully, cloud applications scale only on demand so businesses only pay for what they use. In fact, cost optimization is one of the main reasons for driving cloud adoption among businesses. Cloud vendors provide this type of fully-managed and serverless platforms that allow businesses to get their app online in a cost-effective manner.
The 2020 global health crisis has brought to light a lot of things about modern businesses and among them is the need for flexibility. Businesses need to be able to pivot quickly, push updates, and make changes before anyone else to stay in business - what worked yesterday, might not work tomorrow. Cloud applications are very decentralized and this allows for a lot of agility in how applications are developed and maintained. For instance, cloud applications support a mixed technology stack which means companies can hire developers that specialize in different programming languages because the cloud architecture removes that barrier of compatibility. Similarly, remote work is not only made possible but facilitated. Different developers and teams can collaborate and communicate much more effectively with microservices, DevOps, CI/CD pipelines, and more.
4. You get so much more
There are numerous other reasons as to why a company might choose cloud based applications over traditional apps but we don’t want to make this article all about the benefits of cloud based app development. Although, there are still a few things that deserve to be mentioned. For instance, automation. Cloud computing platforms by vendors like Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are already fully-managed and do most of the administrative operations for the developer. However, there’s still a lot of scope for additional automation with feedback loops, CI/CD pipelines, testing, etc.
Migrating your traditional application to the cloud
Despite the increasing adoption rates in cloud computing tech, a large number of small-medium businesses are still using legacy technology and traditional monolithic applications. Part of this because of misconceptions regarding cloud based applications. For instance, it’s a relatively new form of app development and one that was traditionally only used by large enterprises. Therefore, there is a misconception that cloud computing costs a lot. This is 100% false. Businesses can achieve more per dollar with cloud computing than with traditional applications. This is especially true when getting started as Google Cloud Platform, one of the top cloud vendors provides many different free tiers along with pay-per-usage pricing schemes.
Another misconception stems from the belief that cloud migration is similar to digital transformation in scale and both are equally disruptive to business operations. This is wrong on both counts. Compared to a digital transformation, cloud migration does not have to be a complete overhaul of the existing application or infrastructure. In fact, there are numerous cloud migration strategies including the “lift-and-shift” strategy that minimizes disruption while also reducing costs and overall time required to migrate to the cloud.
In a nutshell, modernizing your existing infrastructure and migrating applications to the cloud is very much possible. It’s not only possible but also recommended because compared to an on-premises solution, you’re more likely to reduce long-term maintenance and upkeep costs on the cloud. If you want to learn more about cloud computing or how cloud based applications will perform in your particular business, reach out to D3V’s certified cloud experts for a free consultation today.