The 5 Hidden Benefits of Cloud-Native

AWS consumption now exceeds that of Coca-Cola. Netflix made headlines this month when word got out that it's going multi-cloud, leveraging some of GCP's artificial intelligence capabilities. Microsoft's stock just beat the street and hit an all-time high, fueled by the 93 percent quarterly growth of Azure. And Pivotal, or PVTL, just listed on the NYSE.

There is no denying it: The world is trending toward the cloud, and organizations big and small are somewhere on their journey toward becoming cloud-native.

For simplicity's sake, I'll define cloud-native as the complex digital transformation of an organization to leverage microservice architectures and host its scalable solutions in either a public cloud or an on-premise private cloud. For argument's sake, I'll advocate that it also includes a lean product strategy, agile methodologies, and the modern software engineering practices of continuous integration and deployment.

Organizations and teams make the move to cloud-native for many reasons: necessity, the pain associated with traditional IT operations' ticketing processes, the "old way" not working, speed, cost, new capabilities, and changes in IT leadership.

Although cloud vendors appropriately highlight speed, broader capabilities, and scalability, there is another set of often overlooked benefits that cloud-native organizations achieve.


1. Sleeping better at night  

One benefit of cloud-hosted applications is the addition of a managed platform as a service. If a server goes down, it self heals and restarts. Additionally, patching, credential rotations, and frequently scheduled restarts make it significantly more secure than a server that hasn't been restarted in weeks/months and is patched manually on a "when we can get to it" schedule.

The net benefit of leveraging cloud platforms: Being less susceptible to security vulnerabilities and less likely to show up in the news as the one responsible for the latest massive security breach. If your systems are patched and restarted regularly, your hackers are losing. Ultimately, you sleep better knowing a platform — in which others are investing millions — is managing your applications for you.

2. Getting your weekends back
It's 2018, and a large segment of the enterprise is still deploying applications on a quarterly release schedule over the holidays and weekends. Cloud platforms and a culture of DevOps allow cloud-natives to push blue-green deployments during the middle of a weekday, with no customer downtime. The real crime in "our application is down for maintenance from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 3:00 a.m. Sunday" isn't the fact that the customer is locked out (although that's a shame, too), it's that your employees just lost their weekend.

I've put together weekend deployment schedules before, and I've done validation testing overnight on Saturdays. And Sundays. And holidays. But I've had a lot more fun barbecuing or off-roading in my Jeep on weekends now that we can deploy financial applications even at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday without customer downtime. Don't overlook the value of giving your employees their weekends back.

3. Keeping your employees engaged

When you remove the operations grunt work that application developers find annoying, they get to focus on doing what they signed up to do: write application code. When developers are writing business logic, the obvious benefit is delivering more business and customer value for less cost. Equally significant is the increased engagement level of your developers — letting them do what they want to do.

Sitting opposite the application developers are the IT operations folks. Do you think they like forcing application developers to open tickets and telling their customers, "We'll get you that server/environment about five months from now"? Modern cloud platforms, such as Pivotal Cloud Foundry, allow operations folks to manage their enterprise cloud platform as a product; they can also focus on automating their offerings, giving applications developers the opportunity to deploy and spin up applications in minutes. And no more tickets. Everyone wins.

4. Increasing retention rates

Historically, a developer writes a product or application and then has to maintain it forever because he or she is the only person who understands how it works. This is known as the "superhero developer syndrome." It is quite foreseeable (although, all too often, a surprise) that at some point this person will want to do something new. Unfortunately, there is no ideal person to transition that project to because of the learning curve. Naturally, feeling trapped, the developer looks outside the organization to fulfill desires of doing something new.

The cloud-native practice of pair programming and using consistent development frameworks across multiple teams reduces the reliance on an individual superhero developer and spreads the knowledge capital across a broader array of developers. This permits more movement of development team members and enables them to find new, engaging work within other parts of the organization without needing to seek an exit.

5. Giving customers more features at once

Typically, monolithic applications often take a long time to deploy, causing a frustrating customer outage. Less obvious is that their single, massive codebase becomes a bottleneck when large groups of developers are trying to push their respective changes. Merge conflicts and delays are commonplace. Monolithic organizations and teams are given the option of decreasing team sizes or having developers sit on their hands while the codebase conflicts are resolved. The net impact is reduced feature throughput.

Although microservice architectures are not perfect or a cure-all, they undoubtedly enable more streams of progress at a single time. Whereas we once had to build an application linearly, we can now have multiple small, empowered teams focusing on a single piece of the experience, without regard to what another team is doing. The result? Developer efficiency increases and your customers get more features.

Losing sleep, deploying on the weekends, battling low employee morale and retention, or slow speed to market with new digital features?  Email me at jsjohnson@solstice.com.