Data Engineering
5 Minutes
May 9, 2023

What is Cloud Native?

Matt Johnston

What is Cloud Native?

We just released our “What is Cloud Native” video too, check it out below if you're interested.

As a society, we rely heavily on applications for many common things in life, like browsing social media, listening to music with Spotify, or shopping online with Amazon. All these applications need to be able to scale rapidly and not break down with millions of users flooding onto them.

If you have ever wondered how these applications are built and what allows them to be so resilient while trying to process billions of requests, it’s all in how they are designed. Today, we are talking about a popular design architecture that has been gaining traction called Cloud Native. 

Cloud Native is an application design architecture that has been growing fast and being adopted by many engineering teams over the last few years. At its core, it's about leveraging the full power and scalability of the cloud by pooling computers together in something called clusters.

And before we go more in depth on explaining Cloud Native, to really understand this, it's a good idea to have some context about what was common before Cloud Native and how it became popular.

Prior to Cloud Native we would build applications on our own servers, often using what is called a monolithic design architecture. All different parts of the application were very tightly integrated which caused many scaling issues and other problems, like downtime when features get updated, which negatively impacts the user experience.

So this pushed developers to find innovative new ways to build and manage applications at scale.

Enter Cloud Native

This is when Cloud Native was created. The term entered the world of Information Technology and started gaining traction in 2015, when the Cloud Native Computing Foundation or CNCF was founded. It was founded by many big players in the cloud space, like Google, Red Hat, Intel and VMware, to name a few. CNCF is a non-profit organization with the mission of fostering the development and advancing the adoption of cloud-native computing technologies. CNCFs initial flagship project was Kubernetes which provides a common language to develop applications across all the modern clouds.

With the rise and prolific adoption of cloud platforms like AWS, GCP, and Azure, many Engineering teams have started to leverage Kubernetes to develop scalable applications using a Cloud-Native approach.

As developers looked for more flexibility and scalability in their applications, microservices were born. And, they really took off as Kubernetes provided a platform that simplified deploying and running microservices. As an example of microservices, let’s look at a made up ecommerce site.

Now, with a traditional monolithic architecture, the dotted line reflects the application’s structure. Everything is just rolled up into one big application, making everything tightly coupled and harder to update only certain features.


With Cloud-Native architecture, we can build our applications as microservices. Each different component of the application is broken down into a microservice. In this case, we have four of them. Having each microservice containerized and built independently means that you are able to upgrade any one service without impacting the others.

In Cloud Native, services can be moved, scaled across different cloud environments, and updated easily. This is all achieved by the services being containerized and deployed using a modern DevOps workflow.

A Cloud-Native application is one designed from the beginning to best leverage the power of the cloud. It gives your engineering teams the power to ship features quickly with the best possible performance, scalability, and reliability. All of that provides a smoother user experience for both the people building and using the application.

The goal with every application is to provide users with a seamless and quick user experience. The less your users are thinking about what's going on under the hood of your application, the better. It should just work, all the time. 

If you're looking for a way to quickly deploy and maintain Cloud-Native applications, and their infrastructure, check out our open-source tool CNDI. It’s free for anyone and reduces the complexity of deploying a Kubernetes cluster.