Going Cloud-Native: Equal Parts Platform and Practices

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    Cloud Forecast: Where It’s Been and Where It’s Heading

    Momentum for building cloud-native enterprise architectures is building, but as with any emerging technology initiative, it can be difficult to envision the larger picture or how it will affect data functionality.

    The lingering question appears to be how cloud-native differs from normal cloud, hybrid cloud and all the various other cloud iterations that have already come forward.

    According to Pivotal CTO Cornelia Davis, going cloud-native has as much to do with how you use your cloud infrastructure as what type of infrastructure you deploy. At last month’s Collaboration Summit 2016, she highlighted the fact that cloud-native requires a change in enterprise practices, particularly those surrounding app development and deployment, so that companies can execute business plans much more quickly and efficiently in an increasingly data-driven economy. Key elements in this strategy are the twin concepts of continuous development and continuous delivery, which allow applications and services to be deployed, tweaked, scaled and even corrupted and repaired without disrupting availability and performance.

    To that end, Pivotal is working with a number of leading cloud infrastructure providers to incorporate native application support on their platforms. With VMware, for example, the company has integrated its CloudFoundry stack with the Photon platform to produce an easily deployable, virtual framework to support cloud-native app development and deployment. The system supports high-scale, multi-tenant clouds through a combination of API support, Linux-based container hosting, ESXi virtualization and an open-source distributed control plane.

    At the same time, Pivotal is working with VMware’s parent, EMC, on a broader platform that incorporates both physical and virtual components. The partnership involves packaging Cloud Foundry into EMC’s Native Hybrid Cloud (NHC) platform, which EMC is offering as a full turnkey solution for organizations looking to implement cloud-based, agile Dev/Ops in the near term. The system also encompasses the Photon platform, as well as numerous other components such as the VCE VxRack System 1000, the Neutrino and FLEX Nodes IaaS modules, the Virtustream Enterprise Cloud and vCloud Air solutions, plus support for AWS and Azure for the public side of the cloud. EMC is also providing end-to-end support for the entire set-up, which means enterprise customers won’t be bounced around among various suppliers trying to nail down performance issues. And the company says it can provide full deployment in a matter of days.

    But even as cloud-native platforms emerge from traditional vendors, new technologies like containers and software-defined infrastructure threaten to introduce more complexity into an already complex undertaking. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), an off-shoot of the Linux Foundation, is working to bring some harmony to the field by coordinating the various aspects of highly scalable, container-based application environments. The group is working to nail down standards for key elements like container runtimes and image specifications, while at the same time fostering advanced orchestration solutions that allow cloud-native practices to extend into highly dynamic microservice environments and distributed, abstract infrastructure.

    It’s a tall order, and one that is further complicated by the rapid pace of development and the growing demand to orient cloud-native constructs toward the demands of Big Data and the Internet of Things.

    At this point, it is rather difficult to see where all this will put the enterprise in the next five or 10 years, but one thing is certain: Neither infrastructure nor the way it supports the application and service layers will remain as they are for much longer.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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