Apps be nimble, apps be quick

Cloud-native apps are everywhere. No matter where apps live, though, end users need to be happy

cloud apps
Thinkstock (Thinkstock)

Application development used to happen inside an IT bubble, the purview of employees of Microsoft, for example, working on the next version of Word or Excel. Applications back in those days were built and deployed by experts onto desktop computers.

Those days weren’t so long ago, and we certainly still use applications, but the way apps are developed, deployed and used has changed dramatically. Many of them still accomplish the same goals of workers—Microsoft Word, Office 365 or Google Docs still provide me the blank pages I need to write on—but their features have expanded beyond what we could have imagined to include sharing, instant edits and updates, notifications, and more.

+ Also on Network World: 6 trends that will shape cloud computing in 2017 +

Most important, though, they’re not in a bubble. Development cycles are faster, and app users respond to a poor experience by not using the app at all.

We’ve come a long way past those annually updated, slowly evolving on-premises apps into today’s cloud-ready apps. Along the way, we’ve seen many attempts to put those on-premises apps in the cloud with some success. Many still sit in the data center, though, existing as legacy apps for some specific purpose.

I’ve seen a lot of mention of “cloud-native” apps lately. (They even have their own foundation!) These are apps born in the cloud: Developers build them specifically to run on a cloud-based infrastructure, with the slick user interface we all expect from our apps today. They’re scalable, usable and flexible, usually packaged using containers. There’s a step further in building true cloud-native apps, too, where the concept of an application reflects the way the cloud works so that the processing and data are separate and the app is based on a collection of services.

Ultimately, the goal of building cloud-native apps is that these apps will be able to run in any cloud and work together as the basis of a company’s infrastructure. They cut a lot of waste, as well, from traditional infrastructure, since there’s no excess coding of functions or use of duplicate resources as before. They are built to scale quickly and horizontally, rather than adding capacity to scale. These modern applications also make use of the supporting technologies they interact with, such as new storage tools and methods, rather than the old Microsoft or Oracle servers.

The app world is flat

With all of these developments and future paths mapped out, those old ivory towers of software development have been abandoned. Applications are distributed, as is IT, and served up from many different clouds. For IT teams building and using these apps, the sky is the limit. This cloud-native approach will make it easier to connect and manage remote locations, and it will allow cloud computing to do the work of consolidating systems.

It will also shape the IT team into consultants and big-picture innovators. Cloud-native applications can also help a company scale when it might not be able to scale internally on its own.

Whatever apps you’re providing and supporting, keep your eye on the prize of modern IT: keeping end users happy. That is what these application architectures aim for, after all: an easy, simple user experience that doesn’t require lots of help desk tickets or patches. If all goes well, users will interact with the technology they need to do their jobs without running into any bugs or other issues that get in the way.

Don’t leave any apps out in the cold. Whatever your budget or timeline, start considering now how all applications will eventually meet a few goals: positive end-user experience, scalability and flexibility.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10