BLOG

Born in the Cloud: unlocking the value of being Cloud native

Detelina Vasileva, Head of Cloud Operations, HeleCloud  

“Cloud native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid Clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach. 

These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.”  

Source: https://github.com/cncf/toc/blob/main/DEFINITION.md 

According to the internationally recognised author and linguist, Casey Miller, a native language is like a second skin, so much a part of us that we resist the idea that it is constantly changing and being renewed. The same concept can be applied to Cloud-native development.  

Being Cloud-native gives organisations the power to adapt to ever-changing landscapes, embrace change and capitalise on its massively scalable, flexible, distributed platform with a high number of on-demand tools and services. This inevitably changes how businesses develop software.  

Currently, Cloud-native systems accelerate business growth and keep a competitive advantage. But how does going native impact overall business operations?  

Not all Cloud-native development models are alike  

Our perception of a situation depends on where our mirror is pointing – and perception is reality.  

Cloud-native may be in line with business growth, but it is important to remember that everyone has a different definition of what Cloud-native means. Being “Cloud-native” is a variable term, often encompassing technologies such as containers, Kubernetes, serverless etc., each of which may or may not be the perfect fit for all organisations. Therefore, leaders need to start by truly understanding their organisation’s needs and only then figure out how it can integrate with the operating models.  

A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t beneficial for Cloud-native development, because every framework implemented must be adapted to the organisational culture, to specific ways of working and to the technical needs of a business. Technological change is closely tied to a change in thinking and operating. For this to happen smoothly, people should be bought into Cloud-native transformation. Otherwise, organisations may end up with a new technological stack that isn’t adopted.  

For most companies, it is more about looking at a list of things that can be improved and selecting what to pursue, based on the stage of development.  

The challenges – and solutions – of this development model  

Despite the transformational value of going Cloud-native, a universal challenge for organisations of all sizes is justifying the investment in Cloud-native development to the board, and this will be an ongoing battle.  

This is because, with Cloud-native models, the Cloud and its standards change all the time – which means the investment will be ongoing, too. Business leaders must always plan for updates to Infrastructure as Code, the application, and the infrastructure’s architecture, to maximise the benefits of running workloads in the Cloud.  

If we use home maintenance as an analogy: failure to carry out smaller, regular tasks like painting the walls, or larger, less frequent ones like retiling the roof, will result in the property gradually deteriorating. Returning the property to a liveable condition may require considerable investment. Similarly, with a Cloud-native model, failure to carry out regular updates will ultimately cost you more in terms of money, security, operability, performance and reliability.  

In response to the pandemic, businesses started looking at migration to the Cloud in order to save costs and to be flexible on sizing up and down. Many companies aim for speed and do lift and shift migrations to reduce project costs. This can be a false economy… 

Granted, transformation to more Cloud-ready or Cloud-native principles can be expensive and usually involves placing other work on hold to allow development teams to focus elsewhere. In addition, development teams need help to properly understand and adapt to the Cloud principles. However, without this initially time, labour and investment intensive transformation, companies quickly realise that the Cloud is costing them a lot more than they expected. What’s more, security is completely different in the Cloud, and without transforming your applications and ways of working, the risks can be substantial.  

This is usually when organisations look for a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to help. MSPs have a well-trained workforce, processes, and automations to ensure Cloud environments are properly managed and optimised over time. This optimisation is at the core of being Cloud-native and it isn’t “one-size-fits-all” – every customer’s path will be different.  

As discussed earlier, another challenge is the highly dynamic nature of the Cloud – its functionalities and features change continuously. MSPs have the scale to create an effective information flow so that Cloud knowledge is constantly shared across the organisation. An organisation of cloud certified engineers handles this dynamic more easily than a company whose primary focus is their own business.  

Looking to the future 

In 2022, leaders need to distance themselves from old operational models and embrace a DevOps-centred philosophy. This doesn’t just mean adopting new tools or learning new languages. People must be on board and have a very clear understanding of what these tools and technologies should achieve. It is imperative that we focus on teaching people about the challenges that Cloud technologies are solving. It’s about ensuring speed, scale, cost, security, traceability, and immutability, so that you are better equipped to navigate uncertainty. Once these values are adopted, it gets easier to stop operating in pre-Cloud ways and embrace new methodologies and technologies.  

COVID-19 has changed the working world, possibly forever. Organisations that can mitigate the downside of these changes and seize the upside of opportunities to transform can recover stronger, rebuild better, and give leaders the freedom to focus on driving their business forward.  

I am hoping that more companies embrace the transformation to Cloud-native instead of doing the quicker but riskier – and potentially costlier – lift-and-shift approach. Moving your business into the Cloud should feel like a revolution to the way you operate, innovate, and scale. The challenge for businesses is to find the right balance between how quickly they want to move to the Cloud and what their main reason is for doing so. With this question answered, and the right partner helping them, they can shape the right strategy and embark on this amazing journey.