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Four Cloud Native Trends to Watch in 2021

Mark Brewer President & CEO, Lightbend, Inc.

Lightbend’s latest cloud native survey of more than 1,000 developers, software architects, and IT leaders found that disconnects remain between developers and management when considering a cloud native migration. In addition, enterprises remain torn between the convenience of automation/outsourcing and the power of configurability. 

The following cloud native trends — derived from our survey analysis — paint a picture of enterprises in the midst of rapid technological change and faced with big decisions about their futures. They also shed light on the next steps organizations should take to succeed in a cloud native world.

1. Management Has a Clearer View of Cloud Native Than Developers

Going cloud native means more than just lifting and shifting existing applications to public or private cloud infrastructure. It means building applications in new ways that take advantage of new technologies. 

You might expect technologists to have a better sense of this reality than executives, who you might expect to think that moving applications to a public infrastructure-as-a-service provider is enough to tick the “cloud native” checkbox as “done.” But survey respondents in IT management roles were actually MORE likely to prioritize writing applications that take advantage of cloud infrastructure than developers.

2. Microservices and Containers Are Key to Cloud Portability and Performance

Those ahead of the curve on one cutting-edge technology tend to be ahead of the curve on others as well. 

Respondents in some stage of cloud native infrastructure adoption were more likely to use microservices in production than those who were still evaluating cloud native infrastructure or had no plans to adopt it (69.9% versus 34.5%) and more likely to use containers for new applications (67.2% versus 55.2%). 

Likewise, respondents that already run new applications in Containers/ Kubernetes are more aggressively moving towards cloud native infrastructure than those who aren’t (49% versus 22.6%), rely more heavily on the public cloud (42.6% versus 27.6%), and are more likely to say they’re increasing their use of automation (55.6% versus 48.1%). 

3. Enterprises Are Torn Between Automation and Configuration

The past several years has seen the rise of a wide variety of new frameworks, architectures, and cloud services that aim to relieve developers of much of the burden of configuring, scaling, and maintaining systems themselves.

But the choice between outsourcing and maintaining control over underlying layers of an application remains a tough decision. A small majority of survey respondents (52.6%) said they’re moving towards ever-more abstraction and automation, versus 47.4% who say despite the trend towards automation they expect that developers will still be responsible for maintaining underlying systems. 

But there’s a general preference for frameworks that respondents can personally configure/maintain/scale as opposed to those delivered as a service and consumed as an API: 58.1% versus 41.9%. 

4. Developers and Executives Don’t Always Prioritize the Same Things

One thread that runs through all of the above trends is a discrepancy between what developers and managers prioritize, despite a general belief among most respondents that business leaders understand the benefits of moving to the cloud. 

Developers think about cloud computing more in terms of specific technologies like Kubernetes and containers, while management thinks of cloud computing more as a new way to build applications. Management tends to prefer the idea of outsourcing as much maintenance as possible, while developers’ preference for configurability over automation reveals a desire not to lose too much control over the many layers of an application stack. 

Unleash the Full Power of the Cloud in 2021

No matter what industry you’re in, business success depends on your company’s ability to build digital services and software more quickly and with higher quality—and to deliver those applications and services reliably at scale. However, simply “lifting and shifting” this software to cloud native infrastructure (i.e., Kubernetes and its ecosystem of tools) is not enough. This approach will not deliver new applications fast enough or achieve the necessary cadence of new features and improvements without negatively impacting your organization’s KPIs. 

The answer is migrating to cloud native applications. Cloud native applications have adapted and evolved to be maximally efficient in the cloud. Not only are they designed to take full advantage of cloud native infrastructure, they provide a scalable and available application layer that delivers a holistic and consistent customer experience. 

Check out Cloud Native Adoption Trends 2020-2021 to explore why companies are migrating to cloud native applications, as well as how to navigate common pitfalls to unlock business value faster. 

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