Creating cloud-native apps: Why strong DevOps culture is essential

DevOps has rapidly spread through the technical world since the term was first coined in 2009. Simply an amalgamation of ‘development’ and ‘operations’, the term references a culture shift that took place as the age of SaaS exploded onto the digital scene. 

In the past, the development and operations teams were entirely separate entities. This meant that any problems with code or usability issues with the software could face a serious communication gap between teams. With the advent of DevOps, the team responsible for building a service is also responsible for deployment, testing, infrastructure, and the operation of that service. In addition to the wholeview approach, DevOps also aims to instil agile work practices and a culture of continuous improvement in its developers. 

Cloud computing in the picture

The birth of and reliance on cloud computing has taken place alongside the mentioned developments, again fueled by our increased use of digital technologies. To cope with the demands of the number of software services and users, the cloud became the mode of choice to free up server space and ensure rapid and reliable products could be delivered at scale.  

As a whole, the changes have caused DevOps and cloud computing to become inextricably linked. Together, they allow companies to develop and deliver products in a continuous fashion, reduce some of the risks associated with product development and future proof the sustainability of their code.  The overall benefits of DevOps culture on cloud computing are so fierce that Microsoft went so far as to acquire GitHub - the developer community platform of choice - in 2018. The $7.5 billion deal not only cements Microsoft’s reputation in the developer community, but allows them to bring DevOps for the cloud from the world of SaaS startups to enterprise and legacy organizations.

Now it seems that any company developing cloud-native apps should aim to bear DevOps in mind. Let’s explore why this is the case and what factors may affect the success of your company cloud solution. 

Cloud-Native Apps 

As the use of cloud computing has exploded, the way in which developers produce code has had to evolve in order to deliver high quality products that function well in this new environment. A cloud-native app is one which has been designed and coded from scratch to live on the cloud.

Modern cloud-native apps rely on three main architecture pillars: 

Containerisation. A lightweight software ecosystem that encapsulates an app in a container with its own operating system. 

Microservices. An architecture which structures the application as a set of loosely coupled, collaborating services.

Serverless. A cloud-computing execution model that eliminates many infrastructure management tasks. 

By using such an architecture it becomes much easier to manage, scale and monitor the product. 

For example, it’s easier for developer teams to manage and maintain code on cloud-native apps designed with this new architecture. Let’s say there’s a bug which needs to be isolated and fixed. With traditional monolithic app architecture this process involves cumbersome code review, and deploying patch would quite likely disrupt the service. However, with a cloud-native solution it's possible for developers to isolate the problem much more quickly and fix it with zero downtime for users. 

The approach also helps to ensure product updates, software releases, and new features are delivered much more easily, promoting a better product service overall. With this approach, companies can dedicate small yet powerful teams to look after the whole lifecycle of specific software elements. Or they can use agile scrum and lean methodology to develop new features quickly and reliably - a must when trying to meet shifting consumer expectations. 

Overall, cloud-native apps bring enormous benefits, such as improved resilience, scalability, debugging & maintenance, increased ROI, and reduced total cost of ownership, but only if designed, built and delivered properly. Without strong developer practices in place the product could end-up as a monolith in disguise.  

This is why embracing a DevOps culture is essential for the success of cloud-native apps and multi-cloud solutions overall. 

DevOps Culture in the Cloud 

A cornerstone of DevOps is the culture of continuous learning and sharing best practice that teams aim to instill in their developers. And, now the overall usability of an applications’ success lies with DevOps, good or bad cultural practice can make or break the software.  

Even the most robust code requires regular maintenance to keep things running smoothly, but bad coding practices can make microservices architecture a nightmare to manage. Imagine if you had no reference system to check whether an update had been applied, or the only person who knew how to edit a particular part of the architecture was no longer with the company. 

However, on the flipside, a strong DevOps culture not only secures your software solution but can even make permanent change to the sector. For instance, in 2012 Spotify detailed how they achieved agile scaling through an organizational method called Tribes. Each of these Tribes contained a specific skill set and cross-network communities between the various roles. This system was widely emulated in the years to come by other developer teams. Netflix has also led the way for DevOps teams globally. As any downtime for the streaming giant is unthinkable, they became notorious for testing code several thousand times a day. Now the tech team have released Mantis in open-source, in an effort to improve the processes to build streaming applications for the whole developer community. 

How these practices will add benefit 

Overall, good DevOps culture can help foster secure engineering practices which will future-proof your cloud solution. However, there are secondary benefits to consider too. By tapping into DevOps’ focus on continuous learning, companies can foster a climate of education which will improve the skills of their developers and promote employee satisfaction - even better if this is supported by training budgets or side projects for staff to get creative with. 

In addition, agile scalable teams also aim to free up time by automating processes and working to lean models. This leaves the technical teams free to focus on important tasks such as architecture and security, whilst still increasing the overall performance of the software. 

Finally, secure engineering practices can also ensure that your company is technology agnostic, helping to reduce the associated risks with your business solution. This means that, as the software scales, the use of third-party APIs and platforms is distributed across many providers. 

By embracing DevOps culture, companies can not only expect to produce extremely high-quality cloud-native apps, but grow a team of curious and committed developers that will help shape the future of multi-cloud solutions.

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