When HP announced July 28 that it was acquiring ActiveState's PaaS business, senior vice president Bill Hilf said it was doing so in part to bridge the gap between traditional IT and "cloud-native applications."
The term "cloud-native applications" is not only finding its way more frequently into announcements, it's also gaining currency as a phrase that sums up where a lot of enterprise developers and operations staff think they are headed. "Cloud native" is not merely a buzzword; it's also enshrined in its own foundation -- the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, launched July 21.
For those unsure of what the term means, here's a primer on why it's the term du jour and why it's often used to sum up a set of goals and priorities that used to be the province of a Google or Facebook.
At the heart of "cloud-native" lie Linux, Linux containers, and the concept of applications assembled as microservices in containers. Indeed, the Linux Foundation launched the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. But cloud-native means a lot more than implementing Linux clusters and running containers. It's a term that recognizes that getting software to work in the cloud requires a broad set of components that work together. It also requires an architecture that departs from traditional enterprise application design. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is going to try to make it simpler to assemble these moving parts.
[Want to learn more about containers? See Docker Adds Container Networking, Deployment Options.]
That task is daunting enough that Sam Ramji, CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, gave a talk on the meaning of "cloud-native" during the annual Open Source Convention (OSCON) held July 20-24. Ramji is a veteran of fitting dissimilar parts together, having once lead Microsoft's internal efforts at coordinating its code base with open source code and contributing to open source projects. If nothing else, that qualifies him to explain how to avoid some of the pitfalls of what constitutes cloud native.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation was launched on the heels of the Open Container Initiative, announced June 22, a seemingly overlapping group. Ramji kept hearing people ask why there are so many foundations and how the technologies work together, so he rewrote his OSCON address to answer those questions. And as a result, he said, "I've gotten some of the most positive feedback of any talk I've ever given."
Here are some of the points he made.
Its proponents will still need to provide more examples of how this set of ideas works in practice, but "cloud native" will enable a constantly shifting software infrastructure that keeps companies oriented toward their customers and able to compete. Since 2000, 52% of the Fortune 500 has turned over, Ramji noted. Continuous innovation and deployment of fresh software is one of the few measures that will keep a company from becoming the next to drop off the list.Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio