How Cloud Native Computing Is Evolving

The path to cloud native computing isn't just about using containers and microservices. Here's how the cloud native approach is evolving.

CNCF Dan Kohn

TORONTO—"Cloud native" is a relatively new term that isn't particularly well understood, but the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) aims to change that.

At the Cloud Native Day here following LinuxCon, Dan Kohn, CNCF executive director (pictured), detailed what his organization does and how the cloud native approach is now evolving.

The CNCF was formed in July 2015, as an effort to help unify and define the Cloud Native era. Kohn started off his keynote with a brief history of the cloud and the movement of workloads from physical servers.

The emergence of VMware in 2001 marked the initial movement of workloads from physical to virtual infrastructure, and that movement continued in 2006 with Amazon's launch of Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) that ushered in the cloud era. In 2010, OpenStack entered the scene as an open-source effort to build the public and private cloud as a potential alternative to Amazon. Docker took off in 2013 and has further helped the cloud evolve and provides tools that enable rapid development and deployment of applications.

A classic application approach is a monolithic stack that isn't agile and is fixed in place. The cloud native approach is about cutting up the various components of application delivery.

"Cloud native uses open-source software stacks to deploy an application as microservices, packaging each part into its own containers and dynamically orchestrating those containers to optimize resource utilization," Kohn said.

In the last 15 years, application delivery has moved from being bound to physical servers to running on virtual machines with a full operating system and now to containers with Docker where developers can specify every aspect of deployment, he added.

The move has also been a shift from a heavyweight application deployment model to a lightweight model that takes less time to start up and deploy applications. Additionally, there has been a move from being bound to a single closed-source vendor to an open-source model with multiple vendors, less risk of lock-in and more choice.

People are excited about the cloud native approach as it helps provide parity between developer and production environments enabling the DevOps approach, Kohn said. The cloud native model also enables component reuse and can help simplify operations.

The CNCF today is home to two projects that help enable the cloud native approach. The first project is the Kubernetes container orchestration system, and the second is the Prometheus monitoring project.

"CNCF's goal is to be the best place to host cloud native software projects," Kohn said.

The CNCF is looking to add new projects to its roster. Possible candidates include the CoreDNS naming project, the Fluental logging effort and the Heron stream processor.

"The idea is, we are trying to support individual projects, and we're also trying to stitch projects together into a narrative about cloud computing being the best way to deploy cloud applications," Kohn said.

While CNCF is working toward helping to enable the cloud native era, not all organizations are ready for the move, according to Donnie Berkholz, research director at 451 Group. He pointed to a recent survey his firm conducted that found that most IT organizations are still running lots of manual process and aren't in the DevOps world, and many aren't even using agile development methods either. For cloud native to make sense, organizations need to make use of continuous integration and continuous development technologies, Berkholz said.

"You can't do cloud native if you don't have the right processes to support it," Berkholz said. "For some of the world, it's a long way to go on the journey to cloud native, and it will take at least five years to get there."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.