Most people agree that going cloud-native is easier and more productive than migrating traditional data center applications to the cloud.
But this is a bit more complicated than signing an SLA and clicking the Go button. Cloud-native apps take on an entirely different development philosophy than their data center counterparts in order to capitalize on the distributed nature of cloud resources and the presence of highly automated, service-oriented operating environments.
According to tech analyst James Governor, the journey toward cloud-native functionality is more important than the destination because this is where many of the fundamental issues regarding long-term data operations are sorted out. While many have tried to categorize this transition in terms of technology – everything from container-based services to platform independence to fabric connectivity – the fact is that change is about people. So before we can even begin to address what we’ll do with a cloud-native environment, we need to figure out how to get there.
This is not to say that technology cannot expedite this process, of course. Tibco Software and Pivotal recently teamed up to accelerate the transformation to digital business architectures by fostering a broad cloud-native application environment. The intent is to build cloud-native apps using the Tibco BusinessWorks Container Edition development environment and then launch them on the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform. In this way, developers can automate complex tasks like the integration of microservices, and then test and deploy them in the runtime-friendly Cloud Foundry ecosystem – essentially creating a full cloud environment as quickly as a start-up that has no legacy infrastructure to deal with.
Other solutions are attempting to incorporate existing cloud development architectures with emerging container-based models. A company called Hyper_ has developed what it calls a hypercontainer that co-founder Xu Wang says can easily set up PaaS-based development environments for cloud-native apps. The hypercontainer is an open-source container that runs on a hypervisor rather than directly on Linux so as to provide better kernel isolation in distributed, multi-tenant environments. As such, it replaces the traditional hypervisor as the building block for the cloud, at the same time providing a highly scalable, highly elastic environment with which to compile various app components into functional applications. Wang says the environment is particularly useful when the task at hand requires inexpensive, disposable infrastructure.
Ultimately, a cloud-native ecosystem will require careful coordination across the various hardware and software layers that make up the distributed data environment, but coding for that level of functionality is still very much a work in progress. Intel and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) recently created a cloud application testing cluster to help developers determine how their solutions operate at scale. The cluster consists of more than 1,000 Xeon-based nodes that can be used to test key attributes like resource consumption efficiency and portability. Intel is also working with top virtualization and orchestration firms to foster highly optimized clouds for a variety of enterprise applications.
It’s important to remember that cloud-native will not become the dominant or even the preferred means of application support in the coming years. Rather, it will be one of many options that will constitute hybrid infrastructure going forward. IT executives will have to weigh a number of factors when it comes to choosing between cloud, data center and hybrid deployments, hopefully keeping business goals, not technology, in mind before launching the development phase.
But for jobs that require dynamic scale, fast turn-around and minimal commitment of resources, a cloud-native environment should fit the bill nicely.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.