Cloud native: Present and future

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When we started with clouds, it was all about taking existing IT structures and moving them to the cloud. Infrastructure to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), software to Software as a Service (SaaS), and so on. Then, as clouds matured, people started combining Linux and containers with the idea of assembling applications from container-based microservices. Cloud-native computing was born.

Cloud native isn’t a dominant software development paradigm yet, but you can see it happening if you look closely. A recent Cloud Foundry Foundation report found that, in a survey of just over 600 IT decision makers, “77 percent are using or evaluating Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS), 72 percent are using or evaluating containers, and 46 percent are using or evaluating serverless computing. More than a third (39 percent) are using a combination of all three technologies.” It’s in that third that we find cloud-native computing.

From the report, Where PaaS, Containers and Serverless Stand in a Multi-Platform World (pdf):

“As IT decision makers settle into their cloud journey, they are more broadly deploying a combination of available platforms, including PaaS, containers and serverless.

“In this multi-platform world, it should come as no surprise that, as they become more comfortable with these tools, IT decision makers are searching for a suite of technologies to work together. They want technologies that integrate with their current solutions in order to address their needs today—but are flexible enough to address their needs in the future.”

Increasingly, the way to address those needs is to combine tools to create or refactor software into cloud-native programs. Indeed, 57 percent of the decision makers surveyed reported that their companies mix the building of new cloud-native applications with the refactoring of existing applications. That’s an increase of nine percentage points from a few months earlier in late 2017, according to Cloud Foundry.

Containers are powering this move. Seventy-two percent of IT movers and shakers say they are using or evaluating containers. This is an increase of five percentage points since late 2017. Perhaps more telling, the percentage of respondents ‘not using’ containers has dropped significantly since 2016, from 34 percent to 19 percent.

The real question today isn’t “Who’s using containers and why?” It is instead, “Who isn’t using containers and what’s their excuse?” Whatever the excuse, it had better be a darn good one, because containers save you money and both development and deployment time. 

Containers are also empowering PaaS on the integration front. More from the report:

“IT Decision Makers credit PaaS for providing seamless integration with their current work environments and instilling the confidence to be prepared to work with new technologies in the future. Respondents spoke with clarity about comparing, selecting and using different PaaS options—a stark difference from early research done by the Foundation in 2015 and 2016, which surfaced a nebulous understanding of PaaS and limited grasp of its features.”

As containers take over, PaaS and cloud native developers are working hand-in-hand. Part of the reason for this growth is 62 percent of IT managers report their companies save substantial funds, over $100,000, by using a PaaS. People can argue themselves blue in the face over which technology is the best, but saving money always makes IT look good to the suits in accounting.

At the same time, serverless computing is also gathering steam. Only 43 percent of respondents are not using serverless approaches such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda. Compared to a late 2017 survey, 10 percent more companies have started evaluating serverless approaches.

So what are companies using all these new technologies for? Well, they were using it to refactor legacy applications. Things have changed.

Today, 20% of those surveyed said they’re primarily building new cloud-native applications, up five percentage points from last year. Simultaneously, 13 percent say they are primarily using it to refactor older applications. That’s a drop of 11 points. “There is an increasing number of companies developing new cloud-native applications at the same time that PaaS is being broadly deployed by more companies than ever,” the report states. “It stands to reason that these two upsurges happen in tandem.”

So, if you want to stay on top in a world where the corporate goal is continuous innovation to meet constantly evolving business needs, you need to join the others in picking up this next generation of cloud computing. If you don’t, well, there’s also the unemployment line.

I’m quite serious. Change is the new business normal. Cloud-native computing isn’t a competitive advantage. It’s keeping up with your rivals. To keep up, you must adopt it.

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