With hundreds of vendors promoting cloud-based features, navigating the marketplace can be challenging. To help, we’ve explained the distinctions between cloud-native and cloud-based solutions, demonstrating how the former is the preferred route as it offers brands more powerful capabilities.
What is the cloud?
The cloud is a colloquial term for cloud computing technology. Although popular misconception would have you believe the cloud is a single technology, the term actually refers to numerous servers located throughout the world that are accessed via the internet. Today, the cloud has become part of everyday life, with most of us using it to back up the data on our phones.
But while this tends to be stored on a private cloud, i.e. one that is privately owned and used by an individual organisation, most businesses utilise the capabilities of the public cloud. Due to more data centres and servers forming the infrastructure, the public cloud is considerably larger than its private counterpart.
Its appeal lies in how it provides high-speed access to unlimited data, all of which is stored securely across several servers in a shared environment – you just need to pay for what you use.
The difference between cloud-based and cloud-native
The powerful capabilities the cloud offers has led many traditional software systems to position their products as cloud-based. There is, however, a crucial difference between legacy systems that are hosted on the cloud, and cloud-native solutions that have been designed and built in it.
Understanding this distinction is vital – developing something in the public cloud requires a different framework; the digital glue that binds this innovative approach cannot be replicated with monolithic platforms. This modern type of architecture, therefore, requires a headless approach.
How does cloud-native technology differ?
Cloud-native technology enhances your platform’s speed, accessibility, and scalability. With unlimited access to stores of data, you no longer need to worry about capacity or scale. In ecommerce terms, for instance, an organisation with a cloud-native solution can handle Black Friday sales spikes without needing to inform the vendor about whether they can cope with increased demand.
Beyond that, if a solution is developed in the public cloud, it can easily integrate with other cloud-native solutions. This enables your teams to swap individual microservices in and out of your digital estate to suit your business needs.
Furthermore, liberating your development teams from the undifferentiated heavy lifting associated with a monolithic architecture means they can accelerate deployment timelines and deliver digital innovation faster. Indeed, adopting cloud-native solutions provides you with a foundation to customise your platform and deliver differentiated Customer Experience. From that position, you can test and learn on your front-end, finding out what delivers the best returns.
How to tell whether a solution is truly cloud-native
It can be difficult to drill down into detail when so many solutions offer cloud-based capabilities. This means you should question every vendor you speak with. Inquire into the solution’s APIs. Have they been modelled from the ground up, or have they just been bolted on to an existing platform? APIs serve a crucial role in headless architecture, so if you have concerns about the solution’s APIs, you probably have concerns about its cloud offerings, too.
Then, probe deeper. Does the solution enable you to find other cloud-native functions? Does it offer you the freedom to innovate and transition into continuous delivery? You might be uncomfortable asking these types of question, but with the help of an external partner, you can successfully navigate this discovery phase.
Remember, cloud-native solutions operate almost exclusively on a PaaS / SaaS business model. If a vendor does not offer this form of service, it is usually an indication that the solution is cloud-based, not cloud-native.
To learn more about the capabilities of the public cloud and the role of APIs in modern commerce, sign up to our headless ecommerce programme – Module 6 is available from 22 July 2020.