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Cloud Native Driving Change in Enterprise and Analytics

Software development via cloud-native resources continues to gain traction among enterprises looking for scale, security, and accessibility of business intelligence.

A pair of keynote talks at the DeveloperWeek Global conference held online this week hashed out the growing trends among enterprises going cloud native and how cloud native can affect the future of business analytics. Dan McKinney, senior engineer and developer relations lead with Cloudsmith, focused on cloud native supporting the continuous software pipelines in enterprises. Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData, spoke on the influence cloud native can have on the analytics space. Their keynotes highlighted how software development in the cloud is creating new dynamics within organizations.

In his keynote, Stanek spoke about how cloud native could transform analytics and business intelligence. He described how developers might take ownership of business intelligence, looking at how data is exposed, workflows, and platforms. “Most people are just overloaded with PDF files and Excel files and it’s up to them to visualize and interpret the data,” Stanek said.

There is a democratization underway of data embedded into workflows and Slack, he said, but being able to expose data from applications or natively integrated in applications is the province of developers. Tools exist, Stanek said, for developers to make such data analytics more accessible and understandable by users. “We want to help people make decisions,” he said. “We also want to get them data at the right time, with the right context and volume.”

Stanek said he sees more developers owning business applications, insights, and intelligence up to the point where end users can make decisions. “This industry is heading away from an isolated industry where business people are copying data into visualization tools and data preparation tools and analytics tools,” he said. “We are moving into a world where we will be providing all of this functionality as a headless functionality.” The rise of headless compute services, which do not have local keyboards, monitors, or other means of input and are controlled over a network, may lead to different composition tools that allow business users to build their own applications with low-code/no-code resources, Stanek said.

Enterprise understanding of what constitutes cloud is evolving as well. Though cloud native and cloud hosted sound similar, McKinney said they can be different resources. “The cloud goes way beyond just storing and hosting,” he said. “It is at the heart of a whole new range of technical possibilities.” Many enterprises are moving from on-prem and cloud-hosted solutions to completely cloud-native solutions for continuous software, McKinney said, as cloud providers expand their offerings. “It is opening up new ways to build and deploy applications.”

The first wave of applications migrated to the cloud were cloud hosted, he said. “At a very high level, a cloud-hosted application has been lifted and shifted onto cloud-based server instances.” That gave them access to basic features from cloud providers and offered some advantages to on-prem applications, McKinney said. Still, the underlying architecture of the applications remained largely the same. “Legacy applications migrated to the cloud were never built to take advantage of the paradigm shift that cloud providers present,” he said. Such applications cannot take advantage of shared services or pools of resources and are not suitable for scaling. “It doesn’t have the elasticity,” McKinney said.

The march toward the cloud has since accelerated with the next wave of applications to take advantage of the cloud were constructed natively, he said. Applications born and deployed with the technology of cloud providers in mind typically make use of continuous integration, orchestrators, container engines, and microservices, McKinney said. “Cloud-native applications are increasingly architected as smaller and smaller pieces and they share and reuse services wherever possible.”

Enterprises favor cloud-native solutions now for such reasons as the total cost of ownership, performance and security of the solution, and accommodating distributed teams, McKinney said. There is a desire, he said, to shift from capital expense on infrastructure to operational expense on running costs. These days the costs of cloud-native applications can be calculated fairly easily, McKinney said. Cloud-native resources offer fully managed service models, which can maintain the application itself. “You don’t have to think about what version of the application you have deployed,” he said. “It’s all part of the subscription.”

The ability to scale up with the cloud to meet increased demand was one of the first drivers of migration, McKinney said, but cloud-native applications can go beyond simple scaling. “Cloud-native applications can scale down to the level of individual functions,” he said. “It’s more responsive, efficient, and able to better suit increasing demands -- particularly spike loads.”

McKinney also wanted to make a case for security with cloud native compared with on-prem and cloud-hosted resources. Many recent security breaches, he said, targeted software deployed on-premise or hosted on private cloud. “Networks were still compromised, data was exfiltrated, and we’re still grappling with the implications.” The security of the development and build process can be more crucial than where applications are deployed, he said. “That’s where cloud-native solutions can have an advantage because cloud-native solutions need to have security concerns first and foremost throughout the entire development process,” McKinney said. “They don’t make any assumptions of the supposed security benefits [of on-prem or private cloud].”

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