Cloud Native vs Cloud Agnostic – What’s best for your organization?

Cloud native vs Cloud agnostic

As you begin to explore the Cloud for your organization, you will likely come across these terms, “Cloud Native” and “Cloud Agnostic.” At first glance they seem similar. But there are some key differences that are important to understand. In this article, we will explore and compare these approaches, providing insights to help you make informed decisions about cloud native vs cloud agnostic architectures.

Cloud Native Architecture

Cloud Native – Developing applications specifically designed for a cloud environment.

As you build an application in the cloud native architecture, you build it with the purpose of being hosted in the Cloud. The application is built to leverage the unique capabilities and benefits provided by a cloud platform (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.). A cloud native approach embraces principles like microservices, containerization, and automation.

As we continue, an important distinction to remember is that Cloud Native applications are built around a specific cloud provider. And more specifically the services that provider offers, the services, in a sense, become dependencies of your application. Something to note, it is possible to leverage multiple cloud providers but the point remains the same, you design your application around a predetermined platform(s). 

Key benefits of cloud native approach 

Availability of cloud platform services

A “service” in the cloud is where the cloud provider abstracts some functionality into a consumable service. For example: your application needs a database, instead of getting a server or compute resource and building the database on it, you could use a database service. This service would take care of all the infrastructure for your database and simply provide you with a means to interact with the schema and data. You wouldn’t need to manage the server, network, storage, the cloud provider would handle that for you.

There are hundreds of services that cloud providers offer like: database, networking, security, compute, and storage, just to name a few. Cloud services can save you time and money and are a real benefit of the cloud native approach.

Rapid development and deployment

With the use of services, it’s easy to see that development and deployment are simplified. In our previous example, instead of building a server, installing the database software, provisioning storage, and all the other tasks to deploy a functioning database to your application, you simply use the service. In some cases this means that you just register your database with the service and you’re off and running. Yes it can be that easy. Now expand that out to the many different services that are out there and it’s easy to see that development and deployment can be greatly improved.

Cost efficiency and resource optimization

Services are commonly charged by usage, so you only pay for what you use. However, notice that I said, “cost efficiency” not “less cost.” Using a service can be less expensive than a cloud server instance or a container but that’s not a guarantee. For larger applications that have a lot of usage the costs can add up using a service.

Exploring Cloud Agnostic 

Cloud Agnostic – Developing applications independent of any specific cloud provider.

Like cloud native, cloud agnostic applications are also designed for running in the cloud. The key difference is that cloud agnostic applications are not dependent on any specific cloud provider. Cloud agnostic development involves leveraging technologies like containers and container orchestration frameworks. By encapsulating applications and their dependencies within containers, you can ensure portability across different cloud environments. Additionally, utilizing common standards like Kubernetes allows your applications to run seamlessly on various cloud providers without major modifications.

Key benefits of cloud agnostic approach 

Flexibility and portability across multiple cloud platforms 

Since a cloud agnostic application is not dependent on any one cloud platform, you are free to move your application around to whichever cloud provider suits you best. As pricing models and availability change you are not restricted to any one provider.

Ability to optimize costs

Being independent from a specific cloud provider means that you can use whichever one is cheaper and move between them easily. Another optimization is that, with all (or most) of your dependencies within containers you can leverage open-source software. By definition open-source software is free. This can help you optimize your costs but the trade-off is that you are stuck supporting that software yourself (unless you’re paying for support which could offset this benefit).

Future-proofing your application

The last key benefit we’ll discuss is that, with the cloud agnostic architecture, you are protecting your application into the future. As technology changes, cloud providers are constantly updating their services. Cloud providers are usually very good about handling breaking changes within their services, but it is possible that your application could be affected by a provider changing/removing a service. Being free from any one provider allows you to go into the future with confidence that your application is protected.

Comparing Cloud Native vs Cloud Agnostic Approaches 

To determine the most suitable approach for your organization, it is essential to compare and evaluate the key factors.

Alignment with cloud strategy and business goals

Consider whether your organization aims to harness the full potential of a specific cloud platform (cloud native) or prioritize flexibility and avoid vendor lock-in (cloud agnostic).

Development and deployment considerations

Assess your organization’s development capabilities, resource availability, and the level of control required over the underlying infrastructure. Cloud native development may require your team to upskill, learning the various cloud services to employ. Cloud agnostic development relies on standard technologies and frameworks but requires you to build and configure them manually.

Resource utilization and optimization

Evaluate the predictability and variability of your application’s workload. If it experiences frequent spikes or has varying resource requirements, the scalability and elasticity of cloud native architectures might be advantageous. For more stable workloads, cloud agnostic approaches can help optimize costs by choosing the most cost-effective cloud provider.

Scalability and elasticity 

Consider the expected growth and the ability to handle sudden increases in demand. Cloud native architectures provide automatic scaling and dynamic resource allocation, whereas cloud agnostic architectures might require additional setup to achieve similar scalability.

Resilience and fault tolerance

Determine the level of fault tolerance and availability required for your application. Cloud native architectures often provide built-in mechanisms for fault recovery and resilience. AWS, for example, touts a 99.99% uptime on some of their services.1 Cloud agnostic architectures might never achieve that level of resiliency, but, with additional setup and tools, they too can reach acceptable levels.

Cost implications and budgeting

Analyze your organization’s financial goals and budget constraints. Cloud native architectures can provide cost optimization through efficient resource allocation, while cloud agnostic architectures enable cost management through vendor selection.

Migration and interoperability

Assess your organization’s current infrastructure and the potential need for future migrations. Cloud native architectures may require rewriting or significant modifications when migrating between cloud providers, while cloud agnostic architectures are designed for easier portability.

Evaluating the Right Approach for Your Organization

To determine the most suitable approach between cloud native vs cloud agnostic architectures, IT executives should consider their organization’s unique requirements, business goals, and existing infrastructure. Assessing factors such as scalability, flexibility, cost optimization, development capabilities, and vendor lock-in concerns will aid in making an informed decision.

Seeking expert guidance and engaging in thorough analysis of your business requirements can further refine the decision-making process. By aligning the chosen approach with your organization’s strategic objectives, you can harness the true potential of cloud technologies and drive innovation.

If you would like to help with your organization, head over to the contact page to send me an email.

Footnotes

  1. https://docs.aws.amazon.com/wellarchitected/latest/reliability-pillar/appendix-a-designed-for-availability-for-select-aws-services.html

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