Why you need to be a cloud-native enterprise

Jez Ward, head of advisory, and Dave Chapman, head of strategy and product, at cloud services company Cloudreach explain the power of cloud-native ideas

What do Netflix, Spotify, Uber and Amazon all have in common? They are all cloud-native companies.

For comparison, we could provide a list of companies in each of these sectors that are not cloud native, but it is unlikely you’ll have heard of them.

Cloud-native companies are becoming dominant. In the future, many successful companies will be built on cloud-native principles.

In this article we want to explain why cloud-native thinking is so powerful and why your own organisation should reengineer along cloud-native lines.

What is cloud native?

First, a definition. In a nutshell, cloud native means a company is built on technologies that harness the unique properties of the cloud. But it is also about company culture. The cloud allows enterprises to play and experiment, and for teams to test their theories quickly with lower costs and overheads. Cloud-native companies build their strategy around the agility the cloud offers.

One of the key benefits is known as elastic scaling. Cloud hosts such as Amazon Web Services offer almost infinite data storage and processing. And cloud-native software is built to expand and contract like a concertina. This means that, for example, a cloud-native retail company that experiences a sales spike on Black Friday will be able to expand its service to run on more servers so no sales are lost. It can then reduce that back down as traffic falls to lower costs.

Cloud-native software is also updated in real time and there is no need to go offline to implement a code change. A ‘blue/green’ deployment means a new version (green) is spun-up in parallel to the existing version (blue) and activated in a millisecond. If it works, this version stays live, but if there’s a glitch it can revert to the previous version. Amazon updates its code base in this way every 11 seconds, on average, with zero downtime. This means it can alter the shading on a button, introduce a new feature or tweak the layout whenever needed with minimal disruption for its users.

Using cloud-native software also gives teams control over their fiefdom. Traditional software is monolithic – one big lump of code - but cloud native breaks software into autonomous chunks called microservices. Each chunk runs independently and communicates with others to create a functional whole. This means teams can work autonomously on their service at their own speed. A bank, for example, can run the cash machine network independently to the mortgage operation. Both teams update their codebase as and when they wish. The idea that a cash machine team and mortgage team need to sync their updates is obsolete. Innovation runs much faster as a result.

The power of cloud native

Cloud-native companies are free to experiment and software updates can be done or undone quickly. Netflix is a master of testing theories, regularly tweaking its user interface to test what works. Should a button be bigger or smaller? Should trailers auto-play? Should the logo sit top right or top left of the screen? The team is free to play around. Successful changes are built on, while mistakes are discarded. It’s an iterative approach, with new ideas tested every day.

Compare this to the traditional approach where companies launch ‘big bang’ version upgrades every six months or so. This means multiple changes are activated at the same moment and bugs are a nightmare to spot – which one of the changes is causing the glitch? Mistakes are also retained until the next version upgrade. Creativity is all too often discouraged because it’s seen as too time-consuming and troublesome.

With cloud native, product teams are empowered. Take microservices. Suddenly product teams have direct control over their domain and code changes can be authorised by each team, reducing the need for company-wide coordination. When teams know they can conceive an idea and implement it with minimal outside interference it’s amazing how
creativity soars.

Another benefit is that the cost of failure is reduced to near zero and risk can be actively managed. A new idea can be introduced with ease, then retained or revoked. A great example is Spotify. It runs an experimentation platform to manage the constant testing of hypotheses. The user interface team recently tried a raft of new features, including providing lyrics with songs and changing how podcasts are presented. If an idea doesn’t work, who cares? Failure is part of the learning experience - necessary and encouraged.

Working with third-parties is revolutionised with cloud-native software, companies only need to plug-in a new service via an API. In banking, for example, fraud detection service Feedzai simply connects banks via a cloud API, with no software upgrades or maintenance. They encourage banks to try out Feedzai to see if it delivers results. Once again, experimentation is a key part of the philosophy.

Cloud native is thus a way of thinking - an ethos - more than a set of technologies. You can play, you can experiment. Creativity is unlocked. And teams are free to execute their own ideas.

Transitioning to cloud native

Convinced? We hope so. At Cloudreach we help enterprises of all sizes to re-invent themselves as cloud native. Above all, we help them see the potential. Our research, conducted with IDC, reveals that one in three already see the cloud as “essential for future survival” and “foundational for innovation”. Momentum is building.

Our advice is to be bold. One client said they were worried about disruption. We explained constructive disruption is part of the process. The transition to cloud native is a chance to rethink the entire enterprise. Don’t waste it.

Harness the energy of your people. Train your staff. Help them understand the potential of cloud-native ideas. Get them excited, not just nodding along. Empower them. Give them the authority to solve problems and they’ll do so.

If you do need to hire staff, being cloud native makes recruitment easier. Talented professionals want to work with the latest tools. Being cloud native means an engineer from Amazon or Spotify can walk into your office and be familiar with the culture.

Migration has never been easier. The possibilities are greater than ever.

The companies of the future will be cloud native. We recommend you join them.

To explore what cloud native means for your enterprise, visit Cloudreach.com. If you want to learn more, listen to our Cloudbusting podcast, where we discuss what it means to live, work and solve business challenges as a cloud-native organisation. Available on all major podcast platforms including iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Promoted by Cloudreach