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Volterra 2021 Predictions: Increase in Cloud-Native Apps Drives Key Challenges and Opportunities

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Increase in Cloud-Native Apps Drives Key Challenges and Opportunities

By Ankur Singla, Founder and CEO of Volterra

More organizations are evaluating or executing a move to a cloud-native environment. There are many factors driving this trend, but at a high level, three primary benefits stand out: quicker app development, greater scalability, and lower operating cost.

Like any new trend in enterprise tech, the move to cloud-native environments will come with a healthy amount of disillusionment from companies that took the plunge, did not plan or execute properly, and suffered major issues as a result. A few key trends will rise to the forefront over the next 12 months as organizations get busy identifying, addressing, and overcoming these critical challenges:

1.  API sprawl jeopardizes the security of modern applications 

As organizations continue to digitally transform business processes, they are increasingly transitioning from legacy applications to modern, cloud-native apps. These intricate modern apps feature far more APIs than their predecessors. And since these apps are built with extensive microservices, many of these APIs are deeply embedded and hidden. This API sprawl has created many new attack vectors. Few vendors address app security properly at the API level, leaving developer and security teams scrambling to protect these apps. Traditional API gateways were designed for app to web communication, not app to app communication, which is characteristic of distributed, cloud-native environments. As a result, developer and security teams must manually discover all APIs and enforce policies on them, a cumbersome and error prone process. 

In 2021, the industry will popularize a new approach for securing modern, cloud-native apps: the use of machine learning to automatically identify all APIs, no matter how deeply embedded or hidden, and then enforce policies on each one. This will eliminate the difficult task of manually identifying and enforcing policies for each API. 

2.  Growing understanding of service meshes accelerates cloud-native transition 

In 2021, organizations will become more familiar with service mesh technology to help support successful cloud-native adoption. A service mesh is an infrastructure layer used for managing, securing and optimizing communication between microservices. It's critical that organizations become proficient with the technology when transitioning to a cloud-native approach, which typically leverages microservices-based app architectures. With heavy use of microservices, cloud-native apps are much more complex and harder to manage, connect and secure than legacy apps. Existing point products, such as load balancers and web app firewalls, were not built for modern apps. To properly manage communication between microservices in cloud-native environments, enterprises will increasingly adopt service mesh technology. 

3.  NetOps and SecOps help DevOps shoulder the burden for cloud-native apps 

Successfully executing a process as complicated as cloud-native app adoption requires the involvement of many different teams. Many enterprises think they only really need developer and DevOps teams to drive cloud-native app adoption. As a result, they end up with unsecured, poorly performing cloud-native apps, if they even get that far. In 2021, DevOps teams will deploy more collaborative infrastructure platforms that will enable them to bring in NetOps and SecOps to help "share the load, but without delays" to better transition to a successful cloud-native environment. These groups will collaborate far more effectively and openly than they have in the past. 

4.  Microservices finally start moving to mainstream as a second wave of microservices adoption unfolds 

The initial wave of microservices adoption was driven by the trend towards APIs and SaaS-based products in the mid-2010s; however, microservices did not see widespread adoption during this time and mostly caught on only among advanced developer teams. Despite progress during the initial wave of adoption, it's still been historically difficult to debug and maintain apps designed with microservices. But in 2021, that will start to change for several reasons.  

One key driver is the growing emergence of Kubernetes as the de-facto option for managing containers. Microservices are part of Kubernetes' DNA - it is the primary method by which apps are developed and deployed when using Kubernetes. Also, the growing distribution of apps and infrastructure to hybrid cloud and edge environments will further boost microservices adoption. The highly distributed nature of hybrid cloud and edge settings make them a natural fit to use microservices to develop and support apps there, as the very purpose of microservices is to provide an alternative to large, often unwieldy, monolithic app architectures. The increasing rise of multi-cloud will also lead to more microservices adoption. Due to these factors, over the next 12 months, we will see microservices begin to move to mainstream usage. 

5.  Kubernetes usage continues to lag for critical business apps 

Even though Kubernetes has become a red-hot trend among tech media and influencers, few organizations are actually deploying Kubernetes for critical business apps. Even forward-looking enterprises that have widely deployed containers, such as those in the tech and financial services sectors, tend to only use Kubernetes for a small fraction of their containerized workloads. Operational difficulties are the biggest issue. Simply put, Kubernetes is very challenging to deploy, manage and run at scale.  

To make things more complicated, deploying Kubernetes in production and at scale requires massive internal buy-in. Unlike microservices, which are leveraged almost exclusively by developer teams and don't necessarily require top-down approval from IT to adopt, Kubernetes impacts an organization's entire infrastructure stack and often must be greenlit by the CIO before it can be fully deployed. Kubernetes also has a steep learning curve. It is a radical departure from VMs, which the majority of IT pros still rely on to deploy and run infrastructure and applications. Because of these factors, Kubernetes will not yet see widespread usage supporting business apps next year. Eventually, though, organizations will realize they can turn to pre-made Kubernetes clouds to overcome these challenges, and full production deployments at scale will finally take off.  

6.  Multi-cloud over multiple clouds: One lifts organizations up, the other drags them down  

Many enterprises claim they are multi-cloud today, but in reality, they are just using multiple clouds individually and paying multiple cloud providers. These organizations typically only run each of their cloud applications at a single cloud provider (even if that application may be in multiple locations with that provider). A real multi-cloud architecture is best suited for modular, cloud-native apps: for example, running microservice A of an app in Azure and microservice B in AWS. This "true multi-cloud" approach, which will continue to gain steam over the next 12 months, will help organizations better embrace the strengths of each cloud provider, allowing them to leverage critical specialties of each cloud. True multi-cloud will also yield better availability for cloud applications (if one cloud or service goes down, you have the app still running in another). Specifically, in 2021, true multi-cloud strategies will allow organizations to better leverage microservices and make them more effective.


About the Author

Ankur Singla 

Ankur is the founder and CEO of Volterra. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Contrail Systems, which pioneered telco NFV and SDN technologies and was acquired by Juniper Networks in 2012. Contrail is the most widely deployed networking platform in Tier 1 telco mobile networks (AT&T, DT, Orange, NTT and Reliance JIO), and is used in many SaaS providers' cloud deployments (Workday, Volkswagen, DirecTV). Prior to Contrail, Ankur was the CTO and VP Engineering at Aruba Networks, a global leader in wireless solutions. He holds an MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California.

Published Tuesday, January 12, 2021 7:41 AM by David Marshall
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