William Chia, Senior Product Marketing Manager at GitLab, discussed preparing for the inevitability of cloud-native transformation.
Chia began his thought leadership presentation at the 2019 CIO Leadership Deep Dive: Digital Transformation Starts with People, which was held on March 12 in Seattle by stating, “Today we live in a world of digital transformation, where digital technologies are disrupting and replacing analog technologies. My iPhone is nothing like keypad phones from the 1960s. It has zero similarities—or does it? If you look at the phone app on an iPhone, it’s almost identical to the keypad on a phone from 1963. Making a phone call today is almost exactly the same as making a phone call in the 1960s, and it even uses DTMF signaling. Why is this?” he asked.
“When we have new technologies, it’s almost a trope that we implement those technologies using the same old patterns. That’s why I want to talk to you about cloud-native transformation—why it’s important, the technologies that make up cloud-native, and how some organizations are driving successful cloud-native transformation,” said Chia.
“One area in which we implement new technologies in the same old way is software development. For example, many companies are still using waterfall. At its core, the waterfall software-development methodology delivers software like it’s a hardware product. It doesn’t take advantage of the unique properties of software that makes it so different from building and delivering physical products. One of the pain points of waterfall is that it’s a long time between developing that software and delivering it to the customer. That feedback cycle is long, so, by the time you get there, the market has shifted. It’s hard to avoid disruption,” he noted.
“World software development didn’t stop at using waterfall, and new methodologies emerged. For example, Agile diminished the development-cycle timeframe. Software is developed faster and released quicker, so we can get feedback sooner. As a result, when the market and world shift, we can make adjustments faster. However, there are pain points with Agile, too. If you’re doing Agile development, your development team is delivering software quickly, but when they ship it over the fence to the operations team to deploy, that can be a long cycle—as long as six months. This defeats the purpose of trying to get that tight feedback cycle. To address this pain point, we have DevOps, which is about having development teams and operations teams coming together—both technologically and culturally—to bridge that gap, so you’re shipping and iterating software quickly but also automating your deployment processes, so the cycle is reduced from once every six months to six thousand times per day, in some cases,” he said.
“Yet, with DevOps, there’s another pain point—you need to pre-provision the infrastructure on which the DevOps runs, so you need to figure out what your load is. If you provision too little or too much, that’s a challenge. This is where cloud-native comes in,” Chia said.
“Cloud-native is about developing new software in innovative ways and taking advantage of the cloud to deliver that software. It’s about using Agile, and it’s about DevOps, but it’s also about implementing microservices and containers to take advantage of the unique properties of the cloud to deliver specific values,” he observed.
“Companies adopt cloud-native to achieve agility with resiliency—delivering better software faster and at lower cost. With cloud-native, you’re no longer pre-provisioning. You’re dynamically scaling up and down based on load. This results in cost savings and greater speed,” said Chia.
“One of the shifts in this world is moving from servers and virtual machines to containers and container-orchestrated technologies such as open-source kubernetes. Containers are a lightweight way of packaging your application software. You can fit many more containers on the same amount of hardware. According to Gartner, by 2022, more than 75% of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production—a significant increase from fewer than 30% today,” he said.“Containers and microservices go hand in hand. This is about separating concerns of your application. We need to move from a monolithic application architecture to microservices. Dimensional Research reports that 86% of IT leaders expect microservices to be the default architecture within five years. This is the world moving to cloud-native transformation.”