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What is Cloud Native?

Building modern systems

Any Dilbert CEO can doodle a cloud on a whiteboard and say: “That is where we run our software!” So what exactly is Cloud Native and why should we care?

It is hard to find a single, concise definition of what Cloud Native is. The words “Cloud Native” might suggest software designed to live in the cloud. You may have heard of the term from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Their charter describes Cloud Native as a new computing paradigm that is optimized for modern distributed systems environments capable of scaling. It is open source and vendor-neutral and intended to help build sustainable systems. Software that is container-packaged, dynamically orchestrated and managed, and microservice-architected.

If software is made by developers, what are Cloud Native developers? Cloud Native developers own the lifecycle of the application. Besides writing the application code, they are also concerned with aspects like deployment, orchestration and monitoring. This is DevOps at its best!

That sounds a lot like being a full-stack developer, or knowing about the 12-factor apps. It is hard to disagree with these twelve principles. Yet we still come across software that just isn’t robust when going from development to operations.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) aims to improve this by providing a suite of tools to help you with the entire lifecycle.

Didn’t containers solve everything?

Docker has become a familiar buzzword because packaging and running software in containers has a lot of benefits. For example: infrastructure as code, deployment portability, and reproducible environments.

But just moving to containers doesn’t mean you can forget about operations. As Kris Buytaert pointed out at CoDe Conf 2017, you still need to deal with operational aspects such as monitoring, logging, scaling, and much more.

Cloud Native is an ecosystem of tools for software running in containers. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is curating the technologies with experienced people in a technical oversight committee.

Is Cloud Native for me?

Yes! The idea of being in control of your software environment is something that should appeal to everyone. Cloud Native focuses on container technologies, but that should not stop you.

You may have started packaging your software in container images. For example, if you began by deploying to a cloud with Docker Compose, you might benefit from moving to Kubernetes orchestration instead. And if you really need monitoring Prometheus was built with containers in mind.

While containers started for Linux, Microsoft is evolving in the area. If your software runs on Windows take a look at their Windows container documentation and Praqma’s guide to getting started.

Maybe your software is not yet ready for containers. If that’s the case then start with your CI environment: A Jenkins master, Artifactory server, or Chef server for example. This will give you experience of using a new operational model with a limited scope of users being affected.

Combine this with configuring your systems as code, such as the Jenkins master and you will be managing your CI servers like a boss! Using Atlassian? Put your Atlassian stack into Kubernetes to make upgrades and scaling effortless.

Getting started with microservices may or may not be a good choice for you. Very often, people don’t start out writing microservices. In fact, Martin Fowler argues with the notion of a “microservices premium” that this is very reasonable. There is an overhead in learning the architectural style which does not make sense for simple systems.

Cloud Native lets you focus on how software is built and deployed, not where. It enables the DevOps ways of working, such as sharing environment definitions between developers and operations, and facilitating continuous experimentation.

A growing community

As with a lot of open source, Cloud Native gives you the opportunity to benefit from a growing community. First, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation serves as an entry point to the technologies. But also many Cloud Native meetup groups have emerged in the last year. We are proudly hosting Cloud Native meet-ups in Copenhagen, Oslo, Aarhus, and Gothenburg. We are also doing a one day workshop at Cloud Native Oslo There are also relevant Slack groups, like the Kubernetes Slack and the Danish Cloud Native slack.

Why not come and join us?

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