Cloud-Native, Cloud-Hosted, Cloud-Ready, Cloud-Based… What’s the Difference?
As Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is shifting to the cloud, different types of cloud are emerging. Understanding the subtle nuances can make all the difference when making an investment in RPA-as-a-Service for your organization. This blog will describe cloud service terminology that is commonly used today to help you make the best decision.
The importance of cloud-native
The term cloud-native is used to describe products or applications that are specifically designed for the cloud and to leverage all of the inherent advantages of the cloud, including agility, scale, and cost-efficiency. Several factors and facets make up a cloud-native application, but three characteristics are key drivers of those cloud benefits:
- A microservices architecture: Each part of the application is a self-contained service that is connected to the other parts of the product with APIs. This enables immense flexibility when updates need to occur, as only what needs to be changed can be updated without disrupting the entire application. Microservices encompass a modern approach to building a product, whereas legacy technologies use monolithic architectures where the entire application must be updated to make any changes—usually resulting in long downtimes or major operational burden on customers using the application.
- A containerized infrastructure: Microservices are in lightweight packages, agnostic of the operating system or environment. This enables faster, more secure development, testing, and deployment of features and capabilities.
- A CI/CD development framework: Continuous integration and continuous delivery are development principles that ensure that the product code is always up-to-date and ready to push to production at a given time. This framework ensures that the application is continuously improving and is stable while enabling incremental updates without the need for major upgrades.
When investing in a cloud-native enterprise application, organizations benefit from an always up-to-date product with automatic updates, fast and simple setup on the web without the need for physical infrastructure, very low maintenance, and higher value with the ability to scale horizontally and vertically.
While cloud-native can be considered the gold standard in the various types of cloud solutions, not all applications are born in or developed for the cloud. Often times, solutions are retrofitted to work in the cloud, or legacy applications are hosted in the cloud.
Here are some of the other popular cloud terms:
When an organization states it is “cloud-first,” this does not mean they offer a solution or capability. Cloud-first is a business strategy about predominantly investing in and using cloud services and technologies across the organization. The drivers for a cloud-first approach are usually tied to cost-saving, modernization, and long-term business agility goals. Cloud-first companies typically look for cloud-native products and services when seeking solutions to fulfill their strategic goals.
Delivering a real cloud-native application, especially of the sophistication that RPA requires, is no easy feat and requires a ground-up design and development strategy. To meet industry demands without going through a complete architecture redesign and a new development strategy, a cloud-based approach is often employed.
A cloud-based product or application involves starting with an existing product and making tweaks to it so that it can work similar to a cloud product, but it doesn’t support the full capabilities of a product that is built-in and for the cloud—as a cloud-native product would. Because cloud-based solutions are adaptations of legacy versions, the code and data are still based on the monolithic architecture. This has several implications, such as long downtimes when product updates need to happen, slower and fewer update and product enhancement cycles, and a lack of scalability.
Using the term “cloud-hosted” to describe an application’s foundation usually means that the application was originally developed for on-premises installation and that it has been lifted from physical servers and migrated onto cloud-based servers to make it accessible through a web browser. As with cloud-based applications, cloud-hosted solutions are limited by their legacy architecture and not being able to leverage the cloud as part of the development process. Although physical servers no longer need to be managed, system updates, integrations, and maintenance may require significant IT involvement and overhead.
Cloud washing refers to the practice of taking advantage of the fundamental concepts of cloud computing to claim cloud-native benefits or features without having built the application in and for the cloud. Cloud-based and cloud-hosted products are often rebranded with a badge of being “cloud-something” as more customers are seeking to take a cloud-first strategy and purchase cloud products and services.
While cloud-washed solutions do have some level of cloud integration, it’s crucial to look beyond the surface and ensure the type of cloud offering meets the organization’s business goals.
If you want the full advantage of what RPA-as-a-Service can offer, look to a solution that is truly cloud-native.