I read an OutSystems report the other day that surprised me. According to OutSystems’ “Cloud-Native Development: Ready or Not?” report, although both Gartner and IDC predict that 90% to 95% of applications will be cloud-native by 2025, only 47% of IT decision makers and developers even understand what “cloud native” actually means.
In other words, fewer than half of the people who need to know how to build and implement a cloud-native application actually understand what it means to be cloud-native and how to be ready for it. If true, that’s a scary state of affairs for modern enterprise development efforts.
Most respondents in the report (72%) do acknowledge that most new applications will be created using cloud-native technologies by next year. So, while most companies are not yet prepared for the cloud-native world, they understand they should start building these applications right now.
What is cloud-native?
Cloud-native computing is an emerging transformative methodology for application development that enables you to build, operate, and scale applications by leveraging cloud technologies and innovations. Using cloud-native applications can improve an organization’s agility and operational efficiency, shortening time to market for new products and services.
Cloud-native refers to applications that are designed from the ground up to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, including flexible architectures, high scalability, high availability, resiliency, and elasticity.
Cloud-native technologies improve not only the operational flexibility of the application, but also the development flexibility as well, leading to a more adaptive development process and greater technical innovation.
Why is cloud-native important?
According to the OutSystems report, a cloud-native architecture “allows for massive scale at rapid speeds… and frees organizations from the inflexibility of legacy systems.” Cloud-native application development gives organizations the flexibility and adaptability they need to improve their competitiveness. These benefits are possible in all industries, not just in industries that have a strong technology influence.
The cloud-native computing paradigm is a response to the challenges of today’s digital marketplace. Businesses must respond quickly to changing consumer tastes, new market opportunities, and the emergence of disruptive technologies. They also must address growing concerns about software reliability, security, and data management.
Cloud-native computing gives companies the flexibility they need to meet their growing business requirements.
Responsiveness through agility
In the world of software development, agility is about having the capacity and capability to rapidly respond to change by reducing the time it takes to deliver new features, resolve bugs, and improve existing systems. When organizations build their applications around cloud-native practices, they can respond more quickly to change. They can build software that can easily be scaled up or down to handle increased or decreased demand. Their software is more modular and flexible, making it easier to modify. Better agility allows businesses to respond more quickly to customer needs, market trends, and employee preferences. It allows them to pivot more easily as they face new challenges. It lets them experiment more freely as they explore ways to expand their offerings.
Greater reliability and security
Building software around cloud-native practices will improve your application’s reliability and security. Simpler and more scalable applications are naturally more reliable and more secure, but the advantages go beyond that.
Cloud-native applications allow you to take advantage of the native security offerings provided by cloud providers. These security offerings, backed by some of the best security organizations in existence, extend the cloud provider’s security knowledge and learnings into your cloud-native application, increasing your security.
Finally, improved agility and ability to move quickly means you can move faster and react more quickly when threats from bad actors impact your applications and your organization. Quickly being able to adjust to new and ongoing threats will make you less likely to fall victim to security vulnerabilities.
How to prepare for cloud-native computing
Companies are moving to the public cloud for many different reasons. However, many simply move existing applications from their on-premises homes to a cloud-based location. These “lift and shift” applications are not taking advantage of cloud-native capabilities or benefits.
Furthermore, companies that build new applications in the cloud often build these applications using the same processes, procedures, systems, and architectures that worked in their pre-cloud world. The result is new cloud applications that work just as on-premise applications do. This type of development does not create cloud-native applications. It creates old-school applications running in a cloud environment.
To truly develop cloud-native applications, companies must adopt cloud-native processes and procedures to build and operate these applications. These procedures fundamentally change how many organizations develop software, and may require rethinking all aspects of your development and operational processes. In fact, many of the changes required by cloud-native development go against the traditional IT culture of many companies, especially large enterprises..
One of the first steps enterprises must take to develop a cloud-native environment is to make sure they have the right talent. This involves a new breed of architect—the cloud architect—who understands and can use cloud-native technologies effectively. This essential skill set is important for any successful cloud-centric organization and is absolutely critical for a cloud-native organization.
Yet, most enterprises lack individuals who are skilled in cloud architecture techniques. According to the OutSystems survey, 77% of respondents believe they need to hire new staff to fill their cloud architecture needs.
But a cloud architect is not sufficient. Often, your entire company culture must be modernized in order for you to take advantage of true cloud-native applications. IT leaders must fill out their cloud-native strategies in various job categories, ranging from back-end developer to designer to product owner.
Organizational change doesn’t happen overnight, just because you begin hiring talent to grow your cloud expertise. However, new technology exists to help improve and drive the cloud-native development process. AI-assisted development techniques, while in their infancy, are beginning to gain traction and drive new development processes and systems.
Additionally, low-code development techniques have grown from their infancy of allowing non-programmers to develop quick-and-dirty applications, to being full-fledged development tools that aid development organizations in building cloud-native applications faster and with greater flexibility.
These tools help grow your new and existing staff and can help drive the process changes necessary for your company to become a cloud-native organization.
Your cloud-native future
The cloud-native computing paradigm is a response to challenges in today’s digital marketplace. It’s a shift in software architecture that makes applications more scalable, more eliable, and more secure. It encourages businesses to adopt agile development practices that respond more quickly to change while improving productivity.
Being cloud-native is becoming business-critical to the success of the modern enterprise in any industry. Becoming cloud-native requires process changes and cultural changes that will revolutionize how we do business, and it requires new skills and new tooling to enable us to develop our cloud-native processes and systems.
Being cloud-native is not a future-state dream, but a business necessity here and now. What’s more, it’s a business essential for which many businesses are ill-equipped. There’s no time to waste.
The world of software development is moving quickly. Only by embracing cloud-native development can modern organizations remain agile and innovative. To survive, you will need to create, deliver, and scale new applications that can handle the changing demands of your customers. You will need to rapidly respond to threats and opportunities alike. And you will need to move quickly in order to remain competitive.
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