Develop Cloud Software Applications to Scale Your Business
Why Develop Cloud Applications?
It goes without saying that nowadays public cloud technologies impact each and every sphere of our life. By now many of us are familiar with cloud applications. We use and interact with them daily. Many organizations large and small have come to realize the power and flexibility of providing services to their end-user via the cloud. But it was not always like this.
Just in the last 10-15 years, advances in computing and communications technology have enabled businesses to automate and improve the delivery and management of their enterprise software applications. With the advent of cloud via services like AWS, Azure, Google Compute, a multitude of SaaS offerings and private cloud deployments, companies today can take advantage of powerful technology improvements with relative minimal cost.
These advances allow organizations to increase or decrease their usage of computing power for many of their application services with ease. Cloud applications allow companies to realize these benefits.
Challenge of Traditional Applications
Well designed native cloud applications allow companies to squash many of the challenges traditional on-premise applications harbor including:
- DIFFICULTY OF DEPLOYMENT. The increasing number and complexity of applications, operating systems, networks and computer systems have made it difficult and time consuming for businesses to implement and use enterprise software applications.
- HIGH COST OF OWNERSHIP. Traditional enterprise software applications can have a high TCO. Developers and business must make significant ongoing investments in development, licensing and hardware capex to maintain traditional software systems.
In short the landscape for computing has adopted cloud principles as a means to more efficiently design, build, deliver and maintain software services of all kinds for users accessing those services across a wide array of devices. Something traditional software approaches just could not do.
Emergence of Cloud Applications
Cloud applications reference a delivery-model which answers the question “how” should these applications be made and deployed. Designing and developing cloud-native applications is a modern approach to running applications.
Many large organizations have set up or designed their own private clouds to take advantage of their own massive infrastructure while other businesses from massive enterprise to mid-sized businesses to start-ups have relied on public cloud infrastructure to deliver and enjoy the services their businesses require.
Four Key Components of Cloud Applications:
- Agile Development. Since cloud-native technology is famous for its on-demand delivery, Agile development is a key component in software development build practices. In simple terms agile focuses on the planned commitments of small units of software to the broader code base. The smaller services then can be tested, pushed to production and rolled back without detriment to the broader application or service. And while even traditional software applications can benefit from Agile Development practices. Cloud applications thrive under its usage. As organizations become more knowledgeable of agile development they begin to realize the benefits of pushing small pieces of software through an iterative delivery process of design, develop, test, and deploy. This continuous delivery makes the whole act of releasing reliable and stable code a fundamental. Organizations can deliver production code with reduced risk and faster time to market. We use agile principles on a daily basis to build high-quality code and make development decision transparent to everyone in the build process.
- DevOps. While there is really no formal definition of DevOps it can best be described as a combination of different practices and tools which are aimed at increasing businesses ability to manage applications with more agility baked into the process. In DevOps, software development and systems administration teams are no longer separated or pushed into their individual siloes. These teams are merged into a cohesive unit where the engineers work across the entire application lifecycle, from development and test to deployment to operations, and develop a range of skills not limited to a single function. This combined efforts is orgnaized with the goal of improving product delivery and can be a more efficient process than legacy waterfall develop and shunted away IT admin teams. Within the DevOps the software developer and the cloud engineer work together to create a more robust process from dev to management and back. With the entire team integrated together to work together throughout the application lifecycle these DevOps team can tackle design, development and production challenges systematically. Interestingly there have been a number of tools that have arisen to help organizations efficiently manage IT infrastructure many of these solutions oftentimes continue to choose sides either developer (AppDynamics, NewRelic, Chef) or systems admin (Puppet, Saltstack) – their ultimate goal is to create more efficient DevOps teams.
- Microservices. Microservices is an architectural approach to developing applications in the form of small services. Like DevOps, there’s no standard definition of a microservice, but usually there are several characteristics which help to define the approach. Every microservice has the ability to run its own directories, communicate via messaging with other services and can be restarted, deployed or upgraded independently. Developers can choose any messaging protocol for a microservice however, the majority of them rely on HTTP/REST. To get a better understanding of microservices architecture, it helps to consider its opposite: monolithic applications. In comparison with microservices, a monolithic application can be characterized as a single and autonomous unit typically developed with a waterfall approach (rather than agile). Many large thriving businesses have successfully built their business atop microservice like architectures. For instance, Netflix is able to serve millions of customers and gets more than 1 billion calls daily from 800+ different types of devices to its streaming-video API. Amazon has also successfully leveraged microserves to handle the billions of calls its services receive from a variety of applications (including those which manage API and website). Many of these companies did not start off with an infrastructure built around microservices. eBay, for instance, rebuilt its massive platform to become a more flexible and capable service provider to its legion of buyers and sellers and partners.
- Containers. Containers are another method for virtualizing the operating system. It allows you to run the application and its dependencies in resource-isolated processes. Containers differ from virtualization technologies like hypervisors. Containers run atop the host operating system and rather than support a number of guest OS they abstract the role of the guest OS to deliver only the required libraries and dependencies the application requires. Containers allow you to easily package an application’s code, configurations, and dependencies into easy to use building blocks. With containers, developers and systems admins can ensure that applications deploy quickly, reliably, and consistently without regard for the deployment environment. Containers also give the engineer more granular control over resources.
So How Do We Develop a Cloud Application
Designing for the cloud is similar to building an application for any other system. For cloud apps, there is a best approach which adheres to a few principles.
- APIs and a Collection of Services. Your cloud applications are best deployed in form of collection of cloud services or APIs. This is a service-based architecture; the majority of developers tend to make applications that focus on the user interface rather than pay attention to the underlying functions. When it comes to developing an application architecture for the cloud, one has to deal with numerous distributed systems. The ones can take advantage of loosely coupled apps made on many services; however, the governance technology provides services directories which can track many services. Service reuse and breaking up the app into hundreds of services are other benefits.
- Decouple the Data. Both private and public clouds are distributed systems that perfectly cooperate with app architectures that break our processing and data into numerous separate components. In order to find a good home for an app, we decouple the data. Once it has been decoupled, we have a great option to store and process the data on any cloud. In addition, one has to keep a finger on performance and caching systems since both are close to the open Internet and locally strong commonly accessed data. Any application must be tested within its data in order to determine how efficient the cache will be.
- Architect for Performance and Scalability. To improve overall performance, you can extend considerations around how application components communicate. To do this, you have to get a better understanding of how your app will be scaled under an increasing load. What does ‘designing for performance mean’? It means first building a model that represents how the application behaves under an increasing load. You need to understand how application will work with 100, 1000 and 10,000 users logged in at the same time. The solution is hidden in the network capacity — while it can remain the same, the number of database instances may have to increase to handle any additional load. This model helps to understand how best best to scale the application by automatically spinning up resource instances that are needed. Another tip is to monitor overall application performance using application-aware performance monitoring tools.
- Security. When it comes to security, it should not be an afterthought. When building an app using cloud-native technologies, security must be a priority. You should build your application architecture security systemic; it must be designed and built in the application architecture. It is highly recommended to choose a type of security before even starting to work with designing an app. For healthcare, for instance, it’s important to take into account personally identifiable information as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US. Other industries and spheres have they own details about security. In other words, any cloud-based app must leverage identity and access management or IAM. The one will be provided as a service to the enterprise and the concept of cloud-delivered IAM quickly leads to the concept of centralized identity management.
5 Benefits of Developing Cloud Applications
There are several advantages why this technology is more preferable than old-fashioned applications.
- Rapid changes and Auto-Scale. Cloud-native equals switching focus from IT costs savings to business goals and customers’ needs. Nowadays businesses can instantly respond to customers’ needs and deliver exactly what they need in little time. Cloud infrastructure offers the automation many companies require to operate at scale and avoid downtime. A cloud-native application can be architected and developed to incorporate DevOps principles for automating the management of all of the systems required to operate the application service. And with almost limitless computing power for scaling services up and down during peak and trough periods — businesses can now better manage their own costs a key reason why numerous business develop cloud-native applications.
- Resilience. A well designed cloud application can be architected to withstand just about anything. Developers can specify and code against a limitless set of “what-ifs” creating innumerable levels of redundancies to counteract unforeseen issues. And given the broad instrumentation available to DevOps teams, developers can monitor and manage their cloud applications and react swiftly if something were to happen. The best designed services are able to self heal intelligently if a specific zone or data center or link experience an outage or break.
- Flexibility. Cloud-native applications allow developers to design services that can reach users anywhere while continuing to run in the cloud. In fact, users can have the opportunity to run their applications while offline and sync with the cloud service when their connectivity is restored giving users the freedom to operate anywhere at any time.
- Improved security. Cloud applications offer multi-level security which allows cloud engineers the ability to control data access as well as understand data provenance on fine-grain level. Since the cloud was build on the internet, at its core it relies on the open principles that govern communication and messaging across web. However with those principles also come many of the advances the internet has helped foster including virtual private networking (VPN), data encryption and API keys that allow data to remain secure.
- Cost-efficiency. In comparison to its on-premise alternative, cloud-native applications can easily win a OpEx debate given its pay as you go on-demand delivery terms.
The wide use of mobile and internet infrastructure, along with a dramatic decline in the pricing of computing technology and network bandwidth, have enabled a new generation of enterprise computing services providers who can provision and deliver dynamic services on-demand in the moment and scale up or down.
Where to Run a Cloud Application
A number of proprietary and open source solutions have emerged to help companies deploy and manage cloud applications across their own infrastructure. Importantly though, there are several popular services to run a cloud application: AWS, Azure, Google Compute, Softlayer, Heroku and Digital Ocean.
Let’s take a closer look to each of them.
- AWS. Amazon Web Service allows customers to have a robust platform to plan any disaster. It’s secured, reliable and one of the most popular infrastructure to run a cloud application just like that. It has its own community where AWS solutions architects can share their ideas and experience.
- Azure. Azure by Miscrosoft is a service to run mission-critical cloud apps. It connects SaaS and enterprise applications and can handle and support any business processes.
- Google Compute Engine. GCE is a service for cloud-applications by a giant of the digital world – Google. It’s a reliable, high-performance and scalable computing services with a growing number of ancillary services to rival AWS. It is aimed to deliver virtual machine running in Google’s data centers worldwide.
- IBM Softlayer. IBM acquired Softlayer a few years ago as a means to create a competitive solution to AWS. Admittedly Softlayer is a less popular service, however, it offers a compelling price to value price list especially for users familiar with IBM and Bluemix.
- Heroku. Heroku is a platform as a service (PaaS) that enables developers to build, run, and operate applications entirely in the cloud. There’s also Heroku podcasts for engineers and product managers
- Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean can be described as cloud computing, simplicity in scale. It provides developers and businesses a reliable, easy-to-use cloud computing platform of virtual servers (Droplets), object storage (Spaces), and more.
What to Keep in Mind when Developing a Cloud Application
Yes, cloud applications have become a trusted and established model for delivery of IT services. However, even today there are still a host of application that sit on-premise as traditional applications being laboriously maintained by developers and systems admin. Many of these applications can be migrated to the cloud but before doing so, there is still several consideration we must take into account. Below are a handful of key questions cloud architects, DevOps engineers and developers should answer before migrating an application to the cloud
- How sensitive is the data?
- Is the data subject to regulation or potentially exposed to increased regulation if in the cloud?
- How many levels of privacy does the application have?
- Should buy or build your cloud infrastructure service?
- Which workloads are best suited for the cloud?
- Where is the data stored globally?
- Encryption keys: who makes, holds and provisions them?
- Where is the data being encrypted?
- Can the data be moved to another provider?
A Few Key Questions When Hiring Your Cloud Developer or Engineer
These are just a few questions to-consider a if business wants to migrating to the cloud. If you are a business owner, you want to be prepared to ask the right questions when hiring your cloud architect, developer or DevOps engineer. Beyond having a solid professional background and appropriate cloud certifications such as certified AWS Cloud Architect, here are few more questions to have ready:
- How do you usually design for failure?
- When it comes to application uptime, how do you monitor it?
- How do you build a self-healing architecture?
- What would you do to ‘size’ our app for peak traffic situations?
- Please name the most important metrics to monitor.
- How exactly do you utilize caching to deliver better performance?
- Please name a managed service you have used in the past.
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