With the right development team, just about any application should be capable of being moved to the cloud. But to fully reap the benefits of the cloud, it’s not enough to move apps there. For optimal performance and value, an app should be architected and created specifically to run in a cloud environment using what’s known as cloud-native application development.

This is different from the traditional waterfall approach development teams have used previously and is the basis for most legacy apps. With the waterfall approach, discrete design, build and run phases last a few months or longer. The entire unit of software is then released.

The cloud-native approach uses a modular architecture and flexible infrastructure that can scale horizontally on demand, support multiple environments, and offer application portability. Development and delivery are continuous; cycle times are shorter.

Using a cloud-native approach, development teams can quickly react to market changes and add new features. The resulting apps can scale and deploy rapidly, offering greater agility, portability, and resilience across cloud environments.

It all sounds logical, but are traditional and cloud-native apps that different? And does the app development approach really matter? The answers — yes and yes.

The Differences Between Apps

Traditionally developed apps are usually large, complex, and require a lot of time for updates. Their architecture allows for close dependencies between the app and underlying OS, hardware, storage, and backing services. This makes migrating and scaling the application across new infrastructure complex and risky, working against the cloud model.

Cloud-native apps are architected as collections of independent, loosely coupled services. They’re smaller than traditional apps and easier to develop, deploy, and iterate on. They’re built in a way that enables them to take advantage of cloud computing models to increase speed, flexibility, and quality while reducing deployment risks.

Because of the way they’re developed, cloud-native apps are better able than traditionally developed apps to deliver business value. For example, they might have the ability to rapidly incorporate user feedback for continuous improvement. Or they can enable an organization to build a great customer experience and foster customer loyalty by delivering new features faster and iterating continuously.

The Benefits of Microservices

One of the reasons that cloud-native application development makes a difference is microservices architecture. With microservices, an app is made up of independent components that run each application process as a service and communicates via application programming interfaces (APIs) or messaging. Each service is independent of the others and performs a single function.

The individual services can be designed, tested, deployed, or replaced without affecting the others. Because they can make updates by changing a single microservice, development teams can scale quickly and contain and address failures immediately. That reduces both technology and business risks.

The Value of Agile and DevOps

Another differentiator in cloud-native app development is the use of agile, an approach that addresses and enables change quickly and easily during the development process. By splitting the process into time windows and providing a continuous feedback loop, agile enables rapid and more effective development so organizations can innovate quickly.

DevOps is instrumental in cloud-native app development as well. It enables developers to break down silos and align on the shared objective of releasing apps quickly and efficiently. It focuses on how to get an app from the design stage into a running environment as quickly as possible.

Yet another integral component of cloud-native app development is continuous delivery. It’s a DevOps practice in which code changes are deployed to a testing environment and/or a production environment after the build stage. When properly implemented, developers will always have a deployment-ready build artifact that has passed through a standardized test process.

The Attributes of Cloud-native Apps

So, we’ve shown that traditional and cloud-native apps are different. We’ve explained some of the reasons the app development approach matters. But does cloud-native app development really deliver apps that are that much better than traditionally developed apps?

The benefits of cloud-native apps make a compelling case for why cloud-native app development is the way to go. Consider that cloud-native apps:

  • Scale as needed.
  • Are modular with functions broken into microservices, allowing them to be shut off when not needed and for updates to be rolled out to that one module.
  • Aren’t tied to infrastructure, which means they can run in a highly distributed manner while maintaining their state independent of the elastic nature of the underlying infrastructure. Many on-premises apps store the state of the app on the infrastructure the code runs on so the app can be broken when adding/removing server resources.
  • Have architecture that lets developers use a platform to abstract away from underlying infrastructure dependencies. With traditional app architecture, developers often build close dependencies between the app and underlying hardware, storage, and backing services, which works against the cloud model.
  • Have a platform that dynamically allocates and reallocates resources based on the ongoing needs of the application. Traditional IT designs a dedicated, custom infrastructure solution that’s often over-sized based on worst-case capacity estimates with little capability to scale beyond to meet demand.

Learn More About Cloud-Native Application Development

It’s one thing to read about the theories and principles of cloud-native app development. Real-world case studies show those theories and principles in action, attesting to the true value of cloud-native app development.

You can read about some of ClearScale’s cloud-native app development work in these customer stories:

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