CompanyJune 28, 2022

Principles of Cloud Native Architecture

Thomas Been
Thomas BeenCMO, DataStax
Principles of Cloud Native Architecture

Principles of Cloud Native Architecture

Have you heard the term cloud native architecture used and wondered what it actually meant?

In this post we’ll give you the answers to all those questions you’d rather not ask in a room full of cloud computing specialists.

We’ll cover the definition of cloud native architecture, its components, the principles, methodology, and benefits.

What is cloud native architecture?

cloud native architecture is built to take advantage of the capabilities offered when running applications within the context of cloud infrastructure offered by hyperscalers and when leveraging best of breed services offered by specialized cloud-based software providers.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) definition of cloud native says the systems are “resilient, manageable, and observable.” It also notes their benefits as letting developers “build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments”.

As cloud computing has matured so has the developer's way of working. Cloud enabled is the most “old school” approach, and cloud native is the most modern. Cloud based sits somewhere between the two.

  • Cloud enabled: Many older applications built to rely on local, dedicated resources have been migrated to an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in the cloud and then dubbed cloud enabled. This lift-and-shift approach is often used to roll out application updates faster and easier. But cloud enabled applications still have their rigid architecture. This prevents them from making proper use of the scalability of cloud computing.
  • Cloud based: As cloud computing became more common it also became more common to redesign parts of applications to run smoothly in a cloud. Cloud based apps let developer teams automate large parts of their efforts to improve their app as fast and smoothly as possible using best practices like continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment (CI/CD). They also make it possible to pay for just the cloud resources needed, while always being available and ready to scale to meet demands.
  • Cloud native: Unlike cloud based applications which are existing applications redesigned to work in the cloud, cloud native apps are designed specifically for the cloud from the beginning. As such, they are able to take full advantage of all the developments in cloud computing. Developers follow tried and tested ways of working and no longer have to worry about most infrastructure aspects. Scalability and network security can often be delegated to cloud providers. With a pay-for-what-you-use approach this also makes for a cost efficient architecture.

Cloud native apps are composed of multiple, self-contained, services which are developed and deployed independently. Some services may come from a cloud provider or vendor while others are developed in-house and maintained by separate, specialized teams.

When thinking “cloud first”, developers can string together existing best in class cloud services. This makes their architecture simpler, as they can leave things like monitoring, logging, and more to the best in their respective fields. This leaves more time and resources to solve the issues with the app the cloud native developers are building.

Principles of cloud native architecture

The cloud native approach is a high-level concept made up of the following principles.

API-first design and development

Since cloud native architecture relies heavily on tying together existing microservices in public clouds, the most important principle is to pick or develop the most consistent and reusable APIs. By picking the best suited APIs, developers can secure the best user experience across all the devices that run the app.

Stateless applications

Stateful applications require more transactions, maintenance, and higher demands on connection to your database. That’s why stateless applications are foundational for the cloud native architecture. Needs for storage, cache capacity, and a request history are slashed down so scaling across multiple servers is no issue at all.

Domain-driven design

Domain-Driven design is an agile way of structuring collaborations in and around software development. It aims to clearly define the domains in every project and secure a common understanding in the internal communication about the project. The outcome is a smoother process across teams with different skill sets, levels, and even professions.

Cloud native automation

One of the biggest benefits in cloud native architecture is the ability for applications to scale on demand and developers to roll out updates everywhere at once. These benefits demand automation, as no human could keep up with all the moving pieces. In order to develop a successful cloud nativ app developers are focused on automating as much as possible. This can be maintenance, recovery, IP address assignment, discovery processes, and configuration.

Constant evolution

The time cloud native developers save by stringing together existing microservices and other cloud resources is often put into refining the application after launch. As needs change and user feedback comes in, the architecture is updated accordingly.

Benefits of cloud native development

Cloud native development is a big leap in the way we think about architecture and app development. But once you’re used to this new way of thinking, the list of benefits is impressive:

  • Higher availability: You’re not limited by your own machines, servers, network capacity, or software running on-premises. When there’s a weak link in the cloud native chain it will easily and instantly be fixed by the vendor.
  • Maximum scalability: With automatic scaling your app always rises to the challenge of peak hours and scales back to save on expenses outside of them.
  • High observability: You can create relevant dashboards and automate your monitoring tasks. Whether you focus on metrics like load times, distributed transactions, communication between services, or database analysis.
  • Fast and easy development: Teams of developers can work independently and simultaneously on their assigned parts of the app. This lets independent updates and projects run at their own pace without the need to manage them across teams. Developers can act on continuous feedback with new updates to single microservices or parameters in the app.
  • Improved security: Even though the architecture is more complex, the secure by design principle makes security a foundational aspect of any cloud service. All services use mutual Transport Layer Security (mTLS) to encrypt data end-to-end and avoid manipulations in transport. It also validates that connections between services are permitted. Cloud native projects like LinkerD and Istio can be used to handle all the configuration and validation.

Components of cloud native architecture

Cloud native architectures are designed to take full advantage of cloud capabilities. The key components of a cloud native architecture are:

  • Microservices: A cloud native application uses a set of stateless microservices, each of which is isolated from the others and performs a specific task in the application. Because they are loosely coupled, microservices provide greater resiliency, allowing developers to make changes without impacting the entire system.
  • Optimized containers: Containers are used to package the microservices that make up a cloud native application. Containers help to minimize the use of resources in their deployment by maintaining dependencies and concisely packaging the deployable unit.
  • Service meshes: Service meshes provide cloud native apps additional service, reliability and observability features as a dedicated infrastructure layer instead of an application layer. As an infrastructure layer, service meshes help to manage the way that the different microservices in the application communicate with each other. 
  • Immutable infrastructure: Cloud native apps have an immutable infrastructure. Unlike apps built on a permanent server, the virtual machines (VM), containers, and network appliances that make up a cloud native application cannot be changed once deployed. When something goes wrong with one of these components, it is simply replaced. As such, the immutable infrastructure of a cloud-native app makes it both more secure and easier to maintain.
  • Cloud native APIs: Cloud native architectures with all of the different microservices are by design complex. However, this complexity can be significantly reduced with cloud native APIs, which are designed to work with cloud native apps and across different cloud providers. With cloud native APIs, developers can more easily build applications that run more smoothly and with less risk of complications.

Going cloud native

We wrote this post to provide you with a good overview of cloud native architecture and how it is used to build modern, cloud native applications. As we’ve shown here, there are many powerful benefits to using a cloud native approach and cloud native technologies in building your applications. 

One of the most important decisions you can make when building a cloud native app is the choice of a cloud database to manage the flow of data through the microservices your application uses. You can learn more about cloud native development on our cloud native page. 

When you’re ready to pick the cloud native database service for your project, we’ll be happy to talk through your use case, and what would be right for you. We also offer a free 30-minute demo of how to simplify development and deploy our database-as-a-service Astra DB in a matter of minutes. Simply book a time that suits you.


  1. Cloud Native Computing Foundation
  2. What is cloud native?
  3. What is a cloud native application?
  4. What is a serverless database?
  5. Cloud native database service Astra DB
  6. Four Key Technologies that Enable Microservices (Ebook)
  7. How to Build Modern Applications with Microservices 
  8. What is a service mesh? And why do I need one?
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