Running applications on the cloud brings numerous benefits to cost optimization, operational agility, and business scalability. However, these benefits only apply if applications are designed to leverage cloud environments effectively.

Applications optimized for the cloud adhere to a common set of principles and best practices. Although specific roadmaps differ, these guidelines set the prerequisites for developmental success and should apply to every effort.


Designing The Application

Application design should emphasize flexibility, enabling smooth adaptation to changing needs and maximum compatibility with available infrastructure services from the Cloud Service Provider (CSP). Best practices include:

Do not code applications to a pre-planned topology
Adjustments to fluctuating needs and adaptations to cloud infrastructure inevitably alter application topologies. Preconceived features and resource connections will either need re-mapping or be discarded entirely – wasting effort and delaying optimization.
To avoid this, stateless and generic applications can rapidly adopt modular systems like microservice architectures. Modular configurations enable evaluation and adjustment of functions without disrupting overall processes, enhancing efficiency and flexibility.

Build applications on standard protocols
Prioritize standard-issue HTTPS protocols and SSL encryption for database, queuing, and web service connection requirements. Obscure protocols with limited interoperability maximize the chance of misalignment with the cloud, complicating the integration process and slowing adjustment speed.
Standard protocols accelerate communications between decentralized microservices across the application’s topology. They also enhance interoperability, expanding the range of third-party services your application can integrate without compatibility issues.

Eliminate OS-specific features
Keep features as generic as possible, even when used for specific functions. Avoid features optimized for specific operating systems (e.g., OS job-schedulers like cron, which are designed for Unix platforms).
Such features introduce unnecessary complexity, as discrepancies in platforms and programming languages make adaptations like incorporating programs difficult. Standards-based services and common APIs can facilitate smooth changeovers and avoid these process complications.


On-Cloud Process Management

It is critical to let your application and CSPs work without interruption. It can be tempting to “maintain control” of your application by actively managing its processes. But manual management of application-cloud interactions only disrupts operations and causes delays. There are three key rules to follow to ensure efficiency:

Don’t use infrastructure APIs from within your application
Low-level infrastructure APIs governing interactions between application microservices should be left to CSPs. Managing them directly obscures process data from cloud monitoring tools and siloes processes, leaving the application vulnerable to disruption by preventing CSPs from diagnosing problems and resolving bottlenecks.
Keep processes transparent and offload as much of the infrastructure load as possible to your CSPs.

Avoid specific infrastructure dependencies
Regulating API endpoints by using particular host names or IP addresses increases your administrative burden, as requests will always outstrip your ability to manage them. Configuring endpoints manually also maximizes the risk of error (e.g., providing the wrong URL for a particular endpoint request), disrupting application operation.
Leave API-endpoint interactions to specialist providers. A dedicated external service registry can resolve endpoint requests, minimizing the risk of process errors.

Automate application installation
Installing applications directly only increases the likelihood of human error and disrupted operations. Instead, opt for scripted installation to ensure reliability by standardizing processes and providing documentation for diagnostics in the case of errors.


Data Storage and Transfer

Cloud applications can outsource data functions to specialist third-party service providers. Outsourcing is critical to reducing costs and achieving optimum operating efficiency. However, be mindful of these three best practices:

Outsource all cache data storage
Using local file systems as data caches occupies valuable space and complicates access for the application service functions that need it.
Outsource cache data to remote stores like SQL and NoSQL databases, which specialize in storing and organizing temporary data. Specialized providers also allow access to related competencies beyond your capabilities (e.g., SQL and NoSQL databases often offer data analytics services for stored data).

Don’t keep user session state in the application
Neither application nor user session state should be stored on local systems. Both fluctuate with application user traffic, which can cause sudden strains on local storage.
Use client browsers and other interfaces to provide session state storage, which can then be funneled to specialized web service applications that eliminate it after use. This approach is helpful to free up space and adjust to user volume in real-time.

Leave log capture to third-party aggregators
Storing logs from services can be complicated for applications with a dispersed cloud topology. Different routing and transfer arrangements make standardizing data capture, storage, and analysis challenging.
Utilize dedicated third-party log aggregators to capture, redirect, and store incoming data traffic across application services. A log aggregator prevents the need for multiple data-capturing devices, enhancing process efficiency and cost savings.

While developmental principles and best practices are helpful starting points, they are not a catch-all guide to application development. Use them, but tailor them to suit your particular needs.

This is the first blog in our 4-part series on cloud cost optimization. Stay tuned for our next blog on prioritizing applications for cloud migration!


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