A confluence of new enterprise technologies and practices promises to slash the time it takes to build and deploy business-essential applications.
Cloud native application development paired with DevOps is still congealing, but it’s shaping up to be a new best practice. According to Capgemini, adoption of cloud-native apps is set to jump from 15% today to 32% by 2020.
Cloud native is an approach to building and running applications that exploits the advantages of the cloud computing model and often entails packaging services in containers. The result is sharply reduced application development life cycles. DevOps combines software development and IT operations to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes and updates frequently.
Experts say the combination of the two practices will obsolete most, if not all, traditional enterprise development.
Replacing ‘Waterfall’ Approaches
“Traditional ‘waterfall’ methodologies are characterized by gross disconnections between developers and IT operations, with development cycles that can stretch into years,” explained Mark Lavi, DevOps solution architect at Nutanix.
Cloud native eliminates many of those burdens by exploiting the scalability and automation features of cloud computing models and combining them with newer DevOps practices, which helps align development with business objectives, he said.
Lavi noted that the combination of cloud-native and DevOps will result in removing data silos that are a major drag on development efforts. They’ll also ease the integration of new development technologies while automating the mapping of business processes to the development cycle.
“Soon we’ll have continuous application integration, delivery and deployment,” said Lavi. “Changes that once took weeks or months can be completed in hours or even minutes.”
Addressing Application Realities
Such advances in application development are vital to enterprises going forward. Deloitte Consulting predicts that within a year, 75% of applications supporting digital business operations will be built internally rather than purchased. But the costs of internal development using legacy infrastructure and tools will be prohibitively expensive, according to Deloitte.
The firm estimates that up to 80% of IT budgets is spent maintaining existing infrastructure, a task that’s greatly diminished when using public, private or hybrid cloud IT models.
The consulting firm goes on to estimate that up to 30% of in-house infrastructure, on average, sits idle. David Linthicum, managing director and chief cloud officer at Deloitte, said in a report that developers can readily access performance-boosting cloud native features such as load balancing and auto scaling, the ability to instantly spin up additional resources as demand changes. And the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) by cloud native applications optimizes the use of underlying system resources, resulting in lower operating costs.
Abby Kearns, executive director at the non-profit Cloud Foundry Foundation, an open source cloud platform company, explained that much of business in the future will rely on the continuous delivery and deployment of applications, and that requires a cloud-native-DevOps environment.
“The mobile application isn’t something a bank can update once a year,” she said. “You’re continuously developing and delivering code. More than that, you’re paying attention to what users are doing with the application and making continuous improvements. So now we have this connective tissue between the user, the developer and the business people who are watching how customers use the application.”
Moving to this brave new world involves more than integrating new technologies into the development equation. In many cases, success requires a significant cultural shift.
“DevOps requires development, testing, Q&A, IT operations and other experts to tear down long-standing fiefdoms and collaborate more than ever,” said James Governor, co-founder of the developer-focused analyst firm Redmonk.
“We’re generally seeing the emergence of smaller, product-focused teams,” Governor said. “And if we’re going to break down the monolithic platforms and have a product focus, we’re also breaking down the monolithic teams so that they can support their products.”
Once that happens, businesses can realize faster time to market with critical applications that are constantly improved, he said.
Bill Laberis is a veteran IT writer and for 10 years was editor in chief of Computerworld.
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