One of the biggest benefits of cloud native deployments is scalability, the ability to expand (or shrink) your application and resources on demand. Scaling on-premises infrastructure generally involves upgrading hardware with additional modules or even purchasing new devices, all of which take significant time and labor to achieve. Scaling a cloud native environment is much easier thanks to technology like microservices, container orchestration, and IaC as well as overall methodologies like DevOps. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to build cloud native scalability using these tools and best practices.
Building Cloud Native Scalability: Microservices and Beyond
First, let’s explain exactly what we mean by scalability. There are two basic types of scaling: scaling up and scaling out. Scaling up is simply upgrading a single resource so it has more data capacity, processing power, memory, etc. Scaling out involves adding more resources to a pool to increase capacity and functionality across an entire cluster.
Scaling a traditional, on-premises infrastructure usually means scaling up, which is relatively simple to achieve but requires time and manpower, not to mention new hardware and licensing. This makes it challenging to scale on-premises infrastructure on demand to meet the changing requirements of applications and services.
Cloud native applications typically scale out, which is done by adding additional nodes or application instances to a cluster. While this can be complicated to handle manually on a large-scale, cloud native environments can use container orchestration tools to auto-scale on demand without any human intervention. Let’s dive into all the components that make up such an environment and how these tools and technologies work together to build cloud native scalability.
In a traditional development environment, an application is written and deployed as a single unit, or monolith, on a single machine instance. If any part of that monolithic application requires scaling, you need to provision a new instance with upgraded resources and then deploy a new copy of the entire application to that new machine. Scaling is an all-or-nothing endeavor. You can either end up scaling components that don’t need it (which is cost-inefficient) or put off scaling until there’s a greater need (which inhibits application performance and end-user experience).
In a cloud native development environment, software is built and deployed on the microservice application model. These applications are modular, built as a collection of individual services that run their own processes and can be independently deployed, modified, and scaled. That means you can scale each component on demand without affecting the rest of the application. Microservice applications can also be deployed as cloud native containers for even greater scalability.
Cloud native containers are modular, portable software packages that contain all the dependencies each microservice needs. Container configurations are defined by text-based files that are repeatable and reusable and can be checked into source control. That means you can use infrastructure as code (IaC) and automated pipeline tools to streamline the provisioning of new containers. Containers are also immutable and run independently of each other, meaning you can copy, delete, and recreate them on demand without affecting other modules. That makes cloud native container environments infinitely scalable, assuming you have the orchestration to handle it.
While containers create the opportunity for efficient, on-demand scaling, a complex application will make it challenging to manage this environment manually. Cloud native container orchestration platforms automate the management of containerized services, including:
- Provisioning container instances across a cluster.
- Container discovery and communication.
- Scaling in and out on demand.
- Monitoring the health of each container.
- Preventing and detecting failures.
- Performing container upgrades in production.
Container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes include auto-scaling capabilities that quickly respond to spikes in demand by programmatically adding additional instances and nodes.
As mentioned above, cloud native container configurations are codified. You can check them into code repositories with version control and use infrastructure as code (IaC) to manage and deploy them. IaC platforms allow you to create playbooks, programmatic instructions for how to provision new container resources. That means developers can get new environments as soon as they need them, eliminating bottlenecks between development and operations teams.
To effectively build and operate cloud native scalability, you need to ensure you have the organizational and management practices in place to support such a complex and fast-paced development environment. The DevOps methodology gives you tools and techniques for streamlining deployments while improving team morale and increasing the quality of your releases. For example, a DevOps organization should remove informational silos to allow for greater collaboration between developers, testers, sysadmins, and other critical team members. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together to create scalable infrastructure and applications that meet — or even exceed — business goals.
Building Cloud Native Scalability with Copado
Overhauling your entire approach to software development by adopting cloud native practices and technology can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Luckily, you don’t need to build cloud native scalability on your own. The DevOps experts at Copado Strategic Services can help you achieve digital transformation through cloud native practices, technology, and scalability.