Digital is a business imperative. Even before the pandemic, cloud had become an ideal way to rapidly scale compute, storage, and network infrastructure, and business leaders had acquainted themselves with the relevant cloud terms—public cloud, service provider, hyperscaler, cloud cost, storage, and more.
Then the global pandemic took hold, and the world experienced a surprise: cloud-native adoption took off like a rocket, and its top-of-mind relevance ushered in a whole new vocabulary – terms like containers, microservices, service mesh, and observability are all part of the new cloud-native dictionary.
If you’re not familiar, fear not. In a recent report, Raising a toast to cloud native: A primer on the cloud-native paradigm, 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, breaks it all down for people still getting familiar with the cloud-native paradigm. The report, which is summarized below, uses a goods-manufacturing analogy – specifically toaster building – to define key cloud-native terms.
“Cloud-native appears to be on everyone’s mind right now,” says 451 Research. “But it can be easy to get lost in its new vocabulary — from microservices to service mesh.”
Setting up its toaster-making analogy, 451 Research starts off with a summary of cloud-native principles.
“Cloud-native is a set of architectural principles that allow applications to be managed efficiently at scale. The key principle is that the application is broken into components that are discrete independent functions called ‘microservices.’ Containers are the technology by which these microservices are packaged. These microservices can be updated, scaled up, and managed simply and independently, without needing to rebuild the whole application.” All with a single goal: “To allow applications composed of hundreds or even thousands of components to evolve, and to evolve quickly,” 451 Research asserts.
Ultimately, this benefits user experience, the analysts believe, such as these gains:
The toaster comparison is an ideal starting point for getting familiar with the new vocabulary that comes with cloud-native. “Just like a toaster, an application has many components—there are functions that perform specific tasks,” says 451 Research. “In our monolithic toaster, each component is part of the whole and can’t easily be separated from the others.”
If demand goes up, explains 451 Research, the manufacturer could build a bigger factory – but that would mean scaling every single aspect of its operation, which leads to vulnerabilities such as supply chain shortages. The monolithic toaster manufacturer is limited.
Just like a toaster, an application has many components – there are functions that perform specific tasks. In our monolithic model:
We’ve now come full circle to the issue of scale. Like a factory, an application can be made bigger to meet increased demand, but as with the toaster factory analogy, vulnerabilities arise: “Scalable access to infrastructure through the cloud has made this feasible – we could put it on a bigger cloud instance or across virtual machines,” states 451 Research in its report.
However, “If a part of the application needs to be changed or updated, the whole application must be changed or updated… Because the system is structured as a tightly integrated monolith, bottlenecks in any part of the code can bring down the whole application.”
A supply chain exists to help the toaster, and other manufacturers, scale production. Should one component become unavailable (or should there be a sudden spike in demand for more), the manufacturer can swap in another vendor’s component (or buy more components from a different vendor).
Similarly, “In a cloud-native model, components of the application are separated and self-supporting—these components are called microservices. Each is a distinct function with a specific purpose that doesn’t rely on any other component,” writes 451 Research.
Business professionals still learning about cloud also need to understand how one or many clouds work with microservices, enabling the microservices to scale by providing a robust and flexible infrastructure. Containers are often the technology that is used to package these microservices as self-reliant parcels of code and libraries. “Serverless is a model whereby microservice code can be executed without the developer being concerned about the underlying infrastructure,” the report notes.
Toaster Supply Chain
Every manufacturer also has to track what suppliers provide which components as well as how many supplies they’ve ordered and received. Software development needs to do this kind of tracing, too.
Rapid adoption by the numbers
It’s no wonder a primer is needed to explain today’s cloud-native vocabulary. Organizations are increasingly incorporating cloud-native technologies into their environments, according to 451 Research’s semiannual Voice of the Enterprise: DevOps survey.
The data reveals a steady shift toward cloud-native, from organizations planning to adopt it, to those building proofs of concept for it, to those who have achieved team-level and then full adoption of it. This transition will only accelerate as more teams recognize the value of cloud-native architectural principles, which enable applications to be rapidly rolled out and efficiently managed at scale.
The simpler we make complex technical terms for business owners, the better understood their benefits can be to the whole organization. The task is ongoing as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)’s recently published interactive map of the cloud-native computing landscape currently shows more than 1,000 parts, with its estimate of a combined market cap of about $15 trillion and funding over $25 billion.
For both building and running applications, cloud-native takes full advantage of the cloud computing delivery model. It speeds time to market for new products and services while helping to ensure consistency in how applications are developed and deployed. Access the full report ≠ Raising a toast to cloud native: A primer on the cloud-native paradigm – to help your executives understand the practicality of going all-in on cloud-native.
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