1 Nov, 2021 | 3 min read

Cloud-Native Computing: Not Your Everyday Paradigm Shift

  • Vishva Ahangama
  • Senior Lead Marketing Officer - WSO2

Jason Bloomberg, President, Intellyx

In my recent white paper for WSO2, Rethink the Modern Application: How to Think Like a Cloud-Native Engineer, I make the case that cloud-native computing is a paradigm shift that changes everything we know about how to code, engineer, integrate, architect, run, and secure modern applications.

What, then, is a ‘paradigm shift’? We’ve all heard the term, but in many cases, people bandy it about haphazardly, relegating it to the status of marketing buzzword.

Not so in this case. I’m using the term literally, in conformance with its original meaning, which dates back to 1962.

Understanding what paradigm shifts really are and why they’re so important can only emphasize how significant the cloud-native paradigm shift actually is – and how dangerous.

The Origins of the Paradigm Shift

In his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn coined the term ‘paradigm shift’ to mean a relatively abrupt transition between two bodies of beliefs, techniques, and values that a scientific community shares.

His focus in this book was on the notion of scientific revolutions, consisting of paradigm shifts between one scientific paradigm and another. Important examples of such revolutions are the Copernican Revolution (shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric model of the solar system), the shift from classical to quantum mechanics, and the rise of the theory of evolution.

Over the years, the notion of a paradigm shift expanded well beyond the cloistered realms of science. Today, a paradigm shift is not simply a change in opinion or technique, but an overall transition in how an entire community approaches a general problem space.

The Paradigm-Shifting Elements of Cloud-Native Computing

Paradigm shifts are difficult to get one’s head around, because so many things change from the previous paradigm, seemingly all at once. Cloud-native computing is no different.

Cloud-native computing, however, is quite different from cloud computing. Cloud computing represented a shift in the way organizations provisioned, managed and paid for compute, network, and storage resources – but as the truism says, the cloud is really nothing more than someone else’s computer.

Cloud-native computing, in contrast, is different. It includes everything special about the cloud, and then adds many other fundamental differences or ‘mind shifts.’

In my white paper I list five such mind shifts: coding; software deployment, release, and operations; integration; application architecture; and security. How we’re tackling each of these priorities has fundamentally changed from our pre-cloud-native days.

Furthermore, none of these mind shifts stands alone. They are all interrelated – and to get cloud-native computing right, you have to succeed with all of them.

But there’s more. I only listed the five most important mind shifts from the perspective of an engineer. There are, of course, many more roles with different priorities, and even for engineers, many additional priorities that require a new paradigm.

Cloud-native computing, for example, rethinks state management, as we must deal with state information in an architecturally sound way even though Kubernetes (as well as associated streaming data infrastructure) are inherently stateless.

Cloud-native computing also requires a new paradigm for governance, as organizations must be able to define and enforce regulatory and other business policies without slowing down software deployment – a task that was essentially impossible under the previous governance paradigm.

Hybrid IT also requires the new cloud-native paradigm.

The previous paradigm treated hybrid IT as a heterogeneous mix of environments that led to increasingly complex management challenges.

The cloud-native approach, in contrast, requires a comprehensive, end-to-end control plane that empowers the organization to manage a diverse portfolio of IT resources, even as that portfolio continues to evolve.

There are many other examples, and in fact, essentially no stone belonging to the old paradigm has been left unturned. Cloud-native computing requires a complete rethink of how we tackle the modern challenges of enterprise technology. That’s the reason that it’s a true paradigm shift.

The Intellyx Take

There is always more to be said on this topic. Please join me for my upcoming webinar with WSO2 on November 4th at 8:00 PDT/11:00 EDT/3:00 GMT (or listen to the recording if you can’t make the live show).

I’ll be joining WSO2 Chief Evangelists Asanka Abeysinghe to discuss the mind shifts in the white paper, including the role of low-code, GitOps, service meshes, DevSecOps, and more. We’ll also be touching upon microservices architecture and the API economy.

All of these trends are part of the new cloud-native paradigm, and we’ll do our best to talk about the new forest we find ourselves in rather than focusing solely on the trees. It should be a fascinating discussion, so be sure to bring your questions.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. WSO2 is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this article.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay