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3 steps to building a cloud-ready application architecture

Javier Osorio


May 16th, 2019

The world has come a long way from the time when the cloud was viewed with apprehension. Not only have businesses embraced the idea of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), the cloud is now the primary environment major business and consumer applications run on. We’re now also seeing more and more organizations move towards Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) and Function-as-a-Service (FaaS).

Nevertheless, too many apps are still being built for the traditional on-site server configuration. That leads to major alterations having to be made later to make the app ready for the cloud. Even when an app works with few changes, it won’t work as efficiently as it could have, if it had been built with the cloud in mind from the get-go.

That’s why it’s so important to build apps from the ground up that are ready for the cloud. You’ll run into fewer bugs and will be in a better position to hit the ground running. For your app to be cloud-ready, there are a number of things to take into consideration. We look at some of the major ones below.

1. Keep logs accessible

Despite a developer’s best efforts, no application is ever completely free of bugs. Think about applications owned by the world’s largest tech corporations such as Google and Microsoft that receive regular updates to rectify errors and close security gaps. What’s important is to have a mechanism for identifying and correcting errors. It all begins with how you capture and store your application logs.

If you build an app for the cloud, make sure the logs aren’t stored in the local file system. Doing that will make it harder to access them if you ever have to troubleshoot a problem. Logs are the event trail that will lead you to what the issue is and lay the foundation for its resolution. So as opposed to saving logs locally, you can use a log aggregator such as a log file tailing solution. Not only does this ensure logs are available when you need them but you can also search and filter events fast. We’re also seeing organizations increasingly delegating logging functionality completely to a cloud service, such as AWS CloudWatch.

2. Separate data and processing

The following point may seem very simple. But it’s worth highlighting nonetheless – applications built for an on-site server configuration often have the processing and data running within the same environment. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s ill-suited for a cloud-based application. In the cloud, keeping your processing and data separate is essential for a number of reasons.

First, the overwhelming majority of private and public cloud infrastructure environments will by default assume that your processing and data are separate. Second, your app will perform better when it isn’t bogged down by data eating into server space. Third, and perhaps most important, it makes it harder for an unauthorized person to access the data.

With today’s hyper-competitive marketplace where your application’s users are always ready to switch to a rival app if their performance expectations aren’t met, ensuring separate data and processing is essential. Your app will be faster, safer, more stable and more secure.

3. Build your app for scaling

One of the reasons SaaS and PaaS have proven such a hit with businesses is the speed, ease and affordability of scaling. However, just because you’ve managed to successfully deploy your application to the cloud doesn’t mean it’s built to take advantage of the scaling PaaS offers. Many application owners have been unpleasantly surprised to discover that their cloud-based application requires plenty of configuration changes whenever they want to scale.

To avoid running into this kind of hurdle when you least need it, avoid coding your application around a specific topology. You should develop your application envisioning it growing in line with your expectations (hopes) or what is reflective of the overall market size.

That makes it easier to deploy updates and keep the application collaborative well into the future.

Bonus tip: Design the app for performance

Anyone building an application does so with the hopes that it will resonate with users and succeed. Success however comes with performance demands. The number of users logged in simultaneously will increase and the volume of data the application handles will grow in tandem. Knowing beforehand how the application will behave in the wake of this rising load is vital to ensure consistent performance over the long term.

For instance, how well does the application perform with increased network traffic, application load and back-end database load? Is the application equally responsive when 1,000 users are logged in simultaneously as it is when 100 users are logged in? No application has infinite load capacity. So the key in running a load and performance test is to establish what the application’s limits are and whether that is consistent with the application owner’s short to medium-term goals.

Note that whereas building cloud-ready application architecture requires that you pay attention to the above steps, the majority of traditional programming rules remain applicable. The development cycle remains the same with design, testing and debugging phases. Building a cloud-ready application may take longer than average but dedicating the necessary time and care at this early stage is important to avoid problems in future.

 

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