Cloud-native infrastructure has emerged as one of the biggest game-changers for application development in the last couple of years. This isn’t to say that cloud-based applications are a recent occurrence. What this approach does, however, is it brings the power of the cloud to organizations that have been relying on the traditional, monolithic approach for far too long and are finding it increasingly hard to keep up with the pace with which the technology is evolving. Initially, the cloud was all about increased scalability and flexibility. Enterprises didn’t have to spend money and resources in managing huge datacenters as they could simply leverage cloud vendors to deploy the resources they needed on the cloud. The pay-as-you-go pricing model was also attractive to many organizations that were tired of paying for operating and maintaining multiple datacenters. But the cloud-native infrastructure has evolved since then and has been especially big in 2020.
Cloud-native doesn’t just mean being on the cloud anymore. It means using the right tools to make sure the applications you make are developed quicker and with more agility and can be migrated with ease between different platforms. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defines cloud-native applications as applications that are microservices-based and rely on containers and container orchestration tools like Kubernetes. With cloud-native apps, developers are required to focus on how they are building an app instead of where it will be deployed. CNCF aims to create an expansive ecosystem of vendor-neutral tools and help organizations develop applications or workloads that can be easily reused, migrated, and updated when needed.
Let us take a look at some of the highlights in the cloud-native world in the last year.
A growing need for cloud-native storage solutions
Storage is vital to organizations dealing with critical business data on a day-to-day basis. This is why organizations rarely ever consider moving to newer storage solutions. When it comes to protecting mission-critical data, enterprises would rather go for a tested and proven solution rather than something completely new. This doesn’t mean that organizations never experiment with newer solutions in the market. However, there is always apprehension about adopting newer and more modernized data storage and management solutions. A majority of organizations rely on traditional database solutions like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Kafka, and Elasticsearch. This can also be because they dread the overhead involved in migrating huge volumes of data.
The idea behind building cloud-native applications is to develop applications that are not tied to a vendor. However, enterprises starting to adopt public clouds in their workloads usually tend to go for services they have available on-premises or the ones provided to them by a specific cloud vendor. This way, even if organizations choose to migrate to a public cloud, they might experience similar limitations they had with the traditional infrastructure to begin with. Vendor lock-in can even plague organizations with really complex Kubernetes workloads as it can become extremely hard to store application data inside containers. Cloud-native applications need to be decentralized and portable. To help with that, there are several data management tools available in the cloud-native ecosystem. Tools like Robin, Ionir, Portworx, and Kubera let users avoid vendor lock-in by taking application-aware backups and storing them in optimal locations for quick access. These tools can help organizations take backups that can be migrated to different solutions without any manual configuration and provide comprehensive insights into the application data. Kubernetes data management tools have been all the rage in the last year.
Security is more vital than ever
Security had taken a backseat in the cloud-native infrastructure. However, this year, security was an important and recurring theme at Kubecon + CloudNativeCon 2020 North America. Kubernetes workloads have a tendency of becoming too complex. This makes security tricky. Cloud-native applications need a more modernized approach when it comes to protection from attacks. Various enterprises have been using a familiar approach for their cloud-native workloads. But that just simply doesn’t work. Although containerized workloads are less prone to attacks because of the ephemerality and isolation of the containers and the distributed architecture. However, the key to security in K8s workloads is observability. Using various cloud-native security tools, organizations can collect observability data (metrics, logs, and traces). These tools can help visualize this data or export it to the backend of other monitoring tools to audit application security. This year, DevSecOps emerged as an important trend as the Kubernetes security community recognized the need for human intervention in enabling security at different stages of development. There is a strong push in the cloud-native community to form policies to standardize security protocols across all sizes of Kubernetes workloads.
The future is hybrid
Cloud-native infrastructure is very loosely defined and doesn’t limit organizations to a specific platform. However, various organizations haven’t been able to make the move to public clouds. This hesitation can because, even in 2020, many enterprises don’t trust public clouds with the protection of their data. Another reason is the cost and effort involved in migrating from private datacenters. Containerizing stable monolithic applications may not always be the best option because it can make the applications unnecessarily complex and if not implemented properly, can be time consuming and wasteful. Organizations may choose to gradually containerize their workloads or keep their core functionalities monolithic while adding other containerized components on top of it. This can only be properly be implemented if the organizations go with a hybrid infrastructure. A hybrid platform allows you to keep various components of your workloads on different platforms like private/public clouds or on-premises. Organizations can also choose to have their workload spread across various cloud platforms (multicloud) based on their specific needs. Recently, cloud-native products have been inclusive of all platforms including on-premises datacenters. The cloud-native community is aware that the hybrid cloud will be appealing to the majority of enterprises for the foreseeable future.
Kubernetes and edge computing: A match made in heaven
Edge computing has become a hot topic for a while as it brings computing power closer to the edge devices. IoT has caught on in the last couple of years, and now everything is connected to the internet and the cloud. Constant interactions between edge devices and centralized datacenters located thousands of miles away can make for latency, which can be troublesome with devices such as ATMs or auto-billing counters. Kubernetes has become the go-to tool to implement edge computing with ease. Kubernetes allows edge devices to compute while maintaining synchronized metadata between the edge and the cloud. Kubernetes based tools like K3S and KubeEdge help maintain a reliable connection between the cloud and edge devices. These tools also provide more autonomy to edge devices by lending them the computation power they need despite an unstable connection. These tools provide lightweight agents that can be installed on the edge devices and allow you to manage edge devices via APIs. KubeEdge was recently approved as an incubating project by the CNCF Technical Oversight Committee (TOC).
No stopping cloud-native innovation
The cloud-native community is growing faster than any other community right now. The pace at which the innovation is taking place is just incredible to witness. New tools are being developed to handle every possible use case under the sun. It has been an overall busy year for the cloud-native community. Let’s brace ourselves for another spectacular year.
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