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Cloud Native Applications: 5 Characteristics to Look for in the Right Tools

Copado DevSecOps - Blog Series

Originally published by New Context.

Moving from traditional or on-premise hosting to a cloud native environment is quite a transition—and it’s one that many are considering right now. While most companies have migrated to the cloud in some form or another, nearly one-third of organizations have not adopted any cloud native infrastructure. Those who are new to the process may spend a lot of time researching cloud-native applications when they’d do better to focus on the characteristics of those tools.

There are certain things that all industries will need in a cloud native environment. Choosing a specific application is far less important than understanding the characteristics of those programs. To manage a flexible infrastructure while maintaining cloud security, cloud native tools should deliver things like declarative dependencies, statelessness, concurrency, observability, and disposability.

The 5 Characteristics Needed in Cloud Native Applications

Just listing off the tools needed by their specific names will not provide the correct guidance for moving to a cloud native environment. Sometimes, the answer isn’t that easy. Sure, there are some simple decisions, like making the choice of Terraform over CloudFormation simply because of its flexibility and features. However, new tools regularly come out that could offer better support for a company’s specific needs.

One excellent guide is the Twelve-Factor App. While developed a decade ago by the platform-as-a-service company Heroku, it’s also a good guide for the attributes to look for in cloud native applications. Key areas of focus include:

DECLARATIVE DEPENDENCIES

STATELESSNESS

CONCURRENCY

OBSERVABILITY

DISPOSABILITY

Dependencies are the enemy of cloud native. By decoupling services, all programs work independently and can be isolated. When there is a dependency, it should have clear reasoning behind it—otherwise known as declaring dependencies. This prevents dependence on packaged systems by requiring justification for connections. Removing state from your applications makes your system more resilient. This data is valuable and is not easily replicated. Meanwhile, the applications and tools you use should be disposable. Separating the two protects the information you can’t replace while limiting damage to the aspects you can. Concurrency is an idea as old as computing itself. Multiple instances running simultaneously create a larger picture. In cloud computing, these processes don’t run as children of another program. Instead, they’re primary processes that run simultaneously alongside others. This is another method of eliminating dependencies. Observability centers on logging, where time-ordered events allow administrators to monitor these systems and actions. In the event of abnormal behavior, they can intervene. Immutability is essential, as changeable logs will allow bad actors to eliminate notifications that would alert someone of unusual behavior. When the state is removed from an infrastructure or app, the system itself becomes disposable. Any program can be terminated at a moment’s notice with little impact on the overall design. This also handles sudden terminations from hardware failure by allowing the developer to eliminate the program and create a new one to replace it.

 

Cloud native architecture is more resilient because failure is baked into the design. These attributes keep data separate from applications and turn those systems into basic processing pipelines. The larger the separation between apps and data, the more secure and resilient the system. Of course, this is a significant transition from on-site or traditional servers. As a result, it’s vital to make some cultural shifts as well.

 

Cloud native architecture - Copado

Supporting the Cloud Native Transition Plan

The success of a cloud native transition plan will depend on the people available for the program. There should be someone on the team who has gone through such a transition before. They can help steer the strategy and overcome many of the pitfalls that might stall the projects.

Aside from that, it’s vital to meet workers where they’re most comfortable. Matching their skills to the characteristics of the app will help ensure expertise and limit the need to upskill. Exceptional coders who constantly innovate should focus on disposability. Meanwhile, someone with attention to detail would be excellent for managing the observability of a project. Teams should be independent so that if one group falls behind, other projects stay on track. Having the human characteristics mirror the apps ensures flexibility in the system and the workflows. This is the type of supportive culture a cloud native environment requires.

An outside consultation can significantly benefit companies when adopting cloud native applications to support a flexible environment. Leaning on the expertise of a digital transformation partner, companies can conserve resources and focus on areas of concern. Targeting dependencies, statelessness, concurrency, observability, and disposability allows companies to transition to cloud native without being tied to specific programs.