Cloud-native has become one of the operative words of modern application delivery, although it’s a somewhat ambiguous term. If you’re looking to understand what cloud-native means in practice, it’s useful to consider what it looks like to build an application delivery pipeline that is fully cloud-native.
Let’s do that in this article by examining Azure cloud-native services and application development.
What is cloud-native?
In a nutshell, cloud-native refers to applications or services that are designed first and foremost for the cloud.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that a cloud-native app can’t also be deployed on-premises, or in a hybrid infrastructure. In the real world, many organizations have yet to move to an exclusively cloud-based model (and many never will, for good reason).
You can still be cloud-native without switching 100 percent to the cloud. That’s because cloud-native is different from earlier application delivery strategies — not by eliminating other forms of infrastructure from the picture, but instead by making the cloud the primary infrastructure for development and deployment and treating other forms of infrastructure (like on-premises bare-metal or virtual servers) as secondary components.
A containerized application delivery pipeline is a good example of a strategy that is cloud-native, because containers can easily be deployed in any public or private cloud. However, you could also run containers on-premises if you wanted — or you could even deploy an application as a set of containerized microservices, some of which run in a public cloud and some on-premises.
Azure cloud-native development
At a high level, cloud-native application delivery is compatible with any type of cloud, whether a public one like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud, or a private cloud built with a platform such as OpenStack.
That said, not all clouds are made equal when it comes to supporting cloud-native application deployment. In many respects, Azure cloud-native services stand out for offering a rich set of features and enhancing cloud-native application delivery.
Azure App Service
First and foremost among these (in my view, at least) is the Azure App Service, which makes it easy to take an application written in virtually any major programming language and deploy it to fully managed cloud infrastructure.
In addition to being compatible with most applications, Azure App Service also supports a range of deployment scenarios using Windows or Docker containers, Web apps or mobile apps. App Service is also handy if you simply want to build an API, not an entire app.
Last but not least, Azure App Service provides dozens of pre-built apps that you can use as the basis for building and deploying your own app.
In short, whether you’ve already written your app or are building a new one from scratch, Azure App Service simplifies the task of deploying it in a flexible way on Azure cloud-native development infrastructure.
Azure Cloud Services
Azure Cloud Services provide similar functionality to the App Service, but with even less management required on the part of developers. With Cloud Services, you launch an app in the cloud, and Azure handles availability management, scaling and cost optimization for you.
Cloud Services also provides staging environments where you can test an app before deploying it to the cloud. In this way, the service comes in handy when building a complete CI/CD pipeline.
Azure Container Registry
If you are taking advantage of containers to build applications in such a way that they can be easily deployed across different types of environments, Azure’s Container Registry service makes your containers even more cloud-friendly. The Container Registry lets you host container images in a secure location in the cloud, then use those images in conjunction with a variety of other cloud-based services.
One frequent challenge posed by cloud-native computing is that cloud-native environments simply entail more parts, and therefore, more complexity to manage. Whereas a traditional on-premises infrastructure might consist of just a few servers, databases and applications, cloud-native infrastructure could include a variety of physical and virtual machines, distributed applications and storage systems, APIs and more.
Deploying and managing all of these components is a challenge, to say the least, if you try to do it manually. However, Azure’s Automation service streamlines the task considerably by automating most of the work required to deploy cloud-based services, even on heterogeneous infrastructure.
Azure App Monitoring
Being able to monitor applications is important in any context. However, when you want to go cloud-native, you face the risk that the monitoring and analytics tools you use for on-premises infrastructure won’t work in the cloud.
Azure Monitor addresses this challenge by providing an easy, native way to monitor cloud-based resources. What’s more, Azure Monitor lets you define data sources from on-premises infrastructure, too. That means Azure Monitor provides a holistic way of monitoring your cloud-native stack, even if it includes non-cloud components.
Conclusion: Using Azure to go cloud-native
Cloud-native is the future; it’s very unlikely that we’re going to return to an age where the cloud is not at the center of most software stacks and infrastructure. If you’re struggling to adapt to this future, consider all of the services Azure offers for making cloud-native computing painless.