Demystifying Cloud Native

Written by: Drew Piland
8 min read

Cloud-native applications provide organizations with greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. But what is a cloud-native application? Does it mean throwing all your code away and starting from scratch with new languages, tools, and designs? Or is it about how your application can adjust and adapt to new challenges and opportunities?

Let's explore the concept of being cloud-native, its importance in today's market, and how CloudBees can help you navigate this transition. 

Being cloud-native enables companies to make frequent changes to applications without affecting service delivery, given them a competitive edge in innovation.

Defining Cloud Native

What is cloud-native? According to Gartner, more than half of enterprise IT spending will shift to the cloud by 2025, so you'd think the answer to this question is obvious, but that's not the case.

Let’s start with a definition of cloud native from a vendor-neutral source: The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF):

Cloud-native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.

These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.

The CNCF definition is the industry standard from which all other variations should originate. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) defines cloud-native applications:

Cloud native is the software approach of building, deploying, and managing modern applications in cloud computing environments. Modern companies want to build highly scalable, flexible, and resilient applications that they can update quickly to meet customer demands. To do so, they use modern tools and techniques that inherently support application development on cloud infrastructure. These cloud-based technologies allow for quick and frequent changes to applications with no impact on service, giving companies an advantage.

CloudBees endorses both of these definitions. We believe cloud-native is an approach to building and running applications to take full advantage of cloud computing. 

While defining cloud native, it’s essential to address a common mistake we see: the perception that simply moving an application to the cloud means it’s now cloud native. Let’s be clear: if the application isn’t designed to take advantage of the cloud computing model, it’s functionally the same as how it was before moving to the cloud.  Palo Alto Networks reinforces this idea in their 2023 The State of Cloud-Native Security Report: stating that only 37% of cloud applications are cloud-native.

Let's be clear: if the application isn't designed to take advantage of the cloud computing model, it's functionally the same as how it was before moving to cloud.

Let’s now explore key characteristics which make up cloud-native applications.

Key Characteristics of Cloud-Native Applications

Cloud-native applications share properties outlined by the CNCF that help them fulfill the goals of being scalable, resilient, and flexible.

  1. Containers: When you deploy and manage an application with containerization technologies, they're easy to update and move between environments. Containers are managed through tools such as Kubernetes and Amazon’s Elastic Container Search (ECS).

  2. Microservices: Developers often build cloud-native applications using a microservices architecture comprising loosely coupled, independently deployable services. This allows for greater agility and flexibility, as you can develop, deploy, and scale each service in isolation.

  3. Service meshes: Managing the communication between services can become challenging. Service meshes, such as Istio, provide a way to manage service-to-service communication, including traffic routing, load balancing, and security.

  4. Immutable infrastructure: Immutable infrastructure is where infrastructure components (such as servers, containers, and images) are disposable and replaced rather than updated. Cloud-native applications benefit from this approach, managing and scaling infrastructure easier.

  5. Declarative APIs: Declarative APIs describe the desired state of the system rather than the steps required to achieve that state. This makes it easier to manage complex systems, as you can change the system by updating the desired state rather than executing a series of manual steps.

When evaluating your strategy, it is essential to understand that not every application should be cloud-native. When making decisions, they should be on a case-by-case basis and aligned to the outcomes you seek to deliver.  

Advantages of Being Cloud Native

There are many benefits to adopting a cloud-native approach to application development and deployment. Here are a few:

  1. Flexibility and scalability: Flexibility and scalability are the attributes most people cite when discussing cloud-native applications. That's because they're the culmination of using containerization, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and the other key characteristics of cloud-native technologies.

  2. Reliability and availability: Cloud-native architectures are highly available and fault-tolerant. Containers, orchestration, and service meshes provide automated failover, load balancing, and self-healing. These features handle failures and maintain uptime.

  3. Efficiency and time-to-market: When you can develop, test, and deploy code faster and more efficiently, you release updates more often. With cloud applications, tools like continuous delivery (CD) and orchestration enable you to automate the tasks involved in deploying and managing applications.

  4. Cost savings: By leveraging cloud computing resources and containerization technologies, organizations can achieve better resource utilization, reducing the need for costly infrastructure investments. While this doesn't always reduce costs at scale compared to on-premises, cloud technology improves cost tracking and reporting.

Disadvantages of Being Cloud Native

While the advantages of cloud native are important, it has its own set of disadvantages.

  1. Vendor Lock-in: Cloud providers offer a wide range of services, tools, and APIs specific to their platform. Once you've built your application on a particular cloud provider's platform, switching to or even supporting another is challenging. This limits your options and makes you dependent on the offerings of your current provider.

  2. Complexity: Managing, securing, and monitoring cloud-native applications creates complexity. With a microservices-based architecture, applications grow more complex, and managing them can be challenging. Cloud-native applications require sophisticated security measures, which are often difficult and expensive to implement.

  3. Network Latency: Communicating across distributed APIs and microservices adds to application latency due to network overhead. This affects the performance of your application and is a trade-off you must consider when building cloud-native applications.

  4. Cost management: This can be a significant challenge for cloud-native architecture. If not managed, costs grow unpredictable and difficult to control. Variable workloads, where resources scale up and down based on demand, can cause unpredictable and difficult-to-control costs. Proper cost management is crucial to ensure your cloud-native architecture is financially sustainable and offers the expected cost savings. To further this point, Prime Video recently cited this as the main reason why they shifted one of their systems away from cloud-native to a monolith design, helping reduce costs by 90%

While the advantages to cloud-native are important, it has its ow set of disadvantages. These should be weighed against each other on a case-by-case basis.

Considerations for Cloud Native

When it comes to deciding whether cloud native is right for your organization, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Cultural Alignment  
    Are you set up to enable the cross-functional collaboration required to deploy applications quickly, reliably, and securely? 
    How will you develop new skill sets within your team?
    How do your existing applications align with cloud-native principles? 
    Are you planning to migrate existing applications or build new ones? 

    We recommend starting small and selecting the right apps (low-risk, minimal dependencies).

  • Business outcomes
    How will you calculate and manage costs associated with cloud-native apps? 
    What goals are you trying to achieve with cloud-native? For instance: are you seeking to speed up development? Provide better products?  Gain flexibility in deployments?

    Knowing what you want to optimize for will help you effectively assign resources. 

  • Security
    What is your plan for monitoring, logging, and observing applications? 
    How are you securing applications today? How will you secure cloud-native applications spanning various APIs through service meshes? 

    Failure to understand how you will secure cloud-native applications can have significant consequences.

Having a better grasp of the cultural, business, and security impacts of cloud-native applications and how these contrast with traditional applications will ensure you are designing a system best aligned with your organization. 

How CloudBees Can Help

Whether you're developing cloud-native, traditional, or hybrid applications, CloudBees has the necessary tools. The application deployment capabilities within CloudBees CD/RO, including its Microservices Module, support cloud-native applications in various ways, such as: 

  • A set of microservices deployed to a Kubernetes cluster using Helm

  • Serverless functions running in AWS Lambda

  • A microservice running on ECS with Fargate

  • Environment inventory to simplify tracking service versions across different environments with the ability to handle rollbacks

If you're deploying to Kubernetes, whether with Helm or YAML-files, the Microservice model in CloudBees CD/RO will help you build a consistent and reliable deployment process. This is true whether you have a single app or hundreds and any number of target environments.

Our software delivery platform supports the entire SDLC process, with scalable infrastructure for CI/CD, release orchestration, feature flags, and analytics.

CloudBees supports on-premises, cloud, and hybrid cloud systems. Whether you have been in the cloud, using a hybrid setup for years, or are in the migration process, CloudBees can support you across any of these applications.

As a result, you can move at your own pace with an experienced partner to ease the transition.

Cloud-native applications provide organizations with greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency, making them highligh competitive in today's market


Cloud native is about building, deploying, and managing modern applications in cloud computing environments. It's a set of practices and technologies that inherently support application development on cloud infrastructure.

Cloud-native applications provide organizations with greater flexibility, scalability, and efficiency, making them highly competitive in today's market. However, cloud native is not a one size fits all approach. Organizations should evaluate on a case-by-case basis to determine where cloud native makes sense.

CloudBees helps organizations navigate this transition with its software delivery platform, which supports the entire SDLC process for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. When you partner with CloudBees, you can confidently and swiftly leverage cloud-based systems and enjoy a competitive advantage.

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