Cloud-native app development is quickly becoming the new standard; more often than not, its incorporation into companies that already have established development systems in place can become challenging. Being a new paradigm, it requires a reframing of many concepts that are ingrained in the traditional development environment. Let’s first explore some of these concepts, so we can understand the whys behind this approach and what are the best practices for cloud-native app development.
Best practices for cloud-native app development: A new paradigm
In this article, we talked about why cloud-native app development is a smart choice, not only for developers but also business-wise. However, it implies several changes in the essence of what we understand as development. It is not just moving a monolithic application to a cluster in the cloud, but much, much more. For example:
The update schedule changes. A cloud-native app is updated frequently in small increments, so it is always fresh and functional. The mentality has to move from a “project” framework (with an initial phase, a development phase, and a delivery phase where our implication with the project ends) to a “product” framework (offering the first version of our app, and updating it more frequently so it adapts better to the client’s needs). Similarly, the concept of a “release” as a big event every quarter is becoming obsolete since what we want to pursue is a “feature” implementation: smaller, more often, and in sum, a better fit for our client.
The way of storing code also changes. The cloud offers resiliency and scalability, but only if we can adapt our development style to it. Thinking in microservices means implementing reusable, portable pieces of code that are independent of the infrastructure they are running on top of, but the toll to pay for those characteristics is an increase in security and monitoring tools to control that they do what they are made for and nothing more.
With all this in mind, and not forgetting that we want to improve development speed with a cost-effective solution that is, after all, as easy to maintain as possible, let’s try to pinpoint the best practices for cloud-app development.
Best practices for cloud-native app development: Organization
Avoiding vendor lock-in
It may be tempting at first, but the ties with vendors must be minimal if any. The goal is to create portable apps that can change vendors seamlessly, so the organization must ensure that there is no essential dependency on a single vendor’s services. Also, the components of the application should be loosely coupled, so the risk of vendor lock-in is avoided.
Serverless frameworks allow developers to build applications that are auto-scalable. The servers are handled outside the project by the cloud vendors themselves, so the developers can focus on the application, without worrying about managing the server itself.
Considering on-premise deployment
If your organization already has the means and the infrastructure ready, you don’t have to throw it all out the window. You can take a containerized microservices-based application and deploy it into an on-premises Kubernetes cluster, thus creating your own cloud development environment. Developers should design applications that can run anywhere, not only in the cloud. Depending on your requirements, an on-premise deployment may be the right choice, and should not be ignored (for example, it can allow for security or data privacy controls in a way that is not possible in the cloud).
Best practices for cloud-native app development: Development
Use of a Microservices-Based Architecture
Microservices are the base of cloud-native apps for good reason. Dividing a monolithic app into chunks of manageable code with its own set of data and a specific business goal allows for efficient resource allocation and flexibility.
Monitoring and Logging
Microservices add complexity when it comes to monitoring in a production environment because there are many things to monitor, and those things might have dependencies on each other.
You need to fully trace and correlate all the metrics to provide a global vision for what is going on in the system. This means collecting as much data as possible and monitoring the small things, from logs to application metrics, and then aggregating them so you can see the forest from the trees. With more visibility into the health of your services and applications, you can solve problems faster and improve overall performance
Security in cloud-native app development must be considered at the outset of conception. Secure configuration and automation are needed during building, testing, and releasing our services, and also once they have been deployed. Microservices offer a challenge regarding security because the surface area that needs to be protected greatly increases, and that can be addressed by automating the process of testing if the security features work as intended. We also need to prioritize the security of application data, by implementing data encryption, hosting data inside the app as well as outside, and using other approaches to guarantee the privacy of the information managed by our app. We want to ensure that our app works as intended (and only as intended) to protect our business and our clients.
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Best practices for cloud-native app development: DevOps
Use of containerization
Containers help isolate microservices, scale in and out easily and enable multiple instances of the same service running at the same time. They are a fundamental tool for optimizing resources and infrastructure.
Automation of the CI/CD pipeline
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) allow the dev team to release high-quality code faster and more often. The results of the compilation, testing, and deployment phases are available a lot sooner, which gives us more immediate feedback loops that let the dev team solve issues faster and polish the app.
Use of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
Using infrastructure as code, you can provision your resources in a safe, repeatable manner, allowing you to build and rebuild your infrastructure and applications without having to perform manual actions or write custom scripts. Instead, your teams can make changes in source control and let the pipeline test and deploy the updates. This not only reduces error rates but also dramatically speeds up the process of deploying infrastructure and aligning people and processes.
To finish what we believe the best practices for cloud-native app development are, the goal is to use DevOps as a cultural shift where the teams, processes, and technologies work in sync, allowing for seamless operations. And when each person understands their responsibilities, there is no room for conflicts between development teams, resulting in faster delivery.
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