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A Brief Guide to Cloud-Native Applications, Technology, and Security 

What are cloud-native applications?

According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the term “cloud native” describes systems that are specifically designed to help build and run scalable applications in all cloud environments, including public, private, and hybrid clouds. 

Cloud-native applications use the attributes of cloud architecture in ways that legacy systems can’t. They don’t need any onsite computing infrastructure and can scale quickly to meet demand. They are platform agnostic, scalable, and built on microservices that can run in any operating environment. Because they’re deployed within cloud environments, cloud-native applications have access to more processing resources than if run locally. 

Cloud-native application architectures use components such as microservices, containers, and APIs, which are managed by orchestration tools.  This approach creates loosely coupled, manageable, observable, and resilient systems. The modularity of a cloud-native application allows developers to make frequent changes with minimal effort. 

Let’s look at some prominent cloud-native tools and technologies and briefly outline some of the most important considerations for cloud-native application security.

In this article:

Cloud-native tools and technologies

Containers

A container is a standard unit of software that packages up code and all its dependencies, including everything needed to run an application: code, runtime, system tools, system libraries and settings. Containers help applications to run quickly and reliably within any computing environment and between different environments. They isolate software from its original environment and ensure that it works uniformly despite differences such as those between development and staging.  The key advantages of containers are that they’re portable, they drive server efficiency, they reduce costs, and make applications safer.

Microservices

A microservices architecture enables you to build applications as a collection of small, specialized services. It involves breaking down the application into manageable, loosely coupled components. Each microservice performs a specific business function for a certain team. Best practice is to restrict the communication of a microservice to just those services that you want it to communicate with, which makes the microservice more secure.

Service mesh

Cloud-native applications often run on hundreds of microservices that communicate within complex webs known as service meshes. Service meshes provide scalable, secure, fast, and reliable management of service-to-service communication. It involves decoupling communication protocols from application code and abstracting it to an infrastructure layer atop TCP/IP. 

Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD)

CI/CD is a popular method for delivering applications to production by introducing automation to the application development process. CI/CD creates an ongoing automation and continuous monitoring pipeline throughout the lifecycle of apps, from integration and testing to delivery and deployment. By automating integration and delivery, CI/CD lets software development teams focus on meeting business requirements while ensuring code quality and software security. CI/CD has become a best practice for DevOps teams and in agile methodology. 

Cloud-native security

Security architects must understand the core elements of cloud-native applications before designing a security solution. Because cloud-native applications run on a mesh of linked microservices, the traditional procedures and toolsets created for monolithic applications will not work for them. Instead, cloud-native security can be reinforced by applying a combination of the following elements:

  • Inventory and classification. Appropriate classification and accurate inventory of all software components are a must. They ensure that security operations teams view potential software stack vulnerabilities.
  • Vulnerability management. This involves discovering and preventing vulnerabilities over the entire life cycle of the application.  
  • Network security. An organization’s approach to maintaining the security of its network traffic must include an analysis of the network traffic flow.
  • Identity and access management (IAM).  IAM regulates who has access to different resources, machines, and microserves. This umbrella term includes privileged monitoring, and access governance driven by machine learning.    
  • Data security. This is the security of stored data and the classification of data.
  • Cloud-native security platforms. Security tools have emerged that are designed to address the needs of  cloud-native environments. They provide visibility, management, alerting, and threat remediation within cloud environments.

Reducing Enterprise Application Security Risks:

More Work Needs to Be Done

Cloud-native security with Mend

Mend integrates with leading cloud service providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google. Mend offers end-to-end open source management for containers, so you can keep your open source components secure and compliant throughout the development lifecycle from inside your containerized environments.

Mend Infrastructure as Code helps secure IaC templates by checking for security issues, compliance violations, and other misconfigurations. It enables organizations to identify security and compliance gaps earlier in the application lifecycle. Developers can detect, track, and fix these misconfigurations as part of their normal workflow without leaving their code repositories.

Read more about how Mend can help you secure the code in your cloud-native applications here

Meet The Author

Adam Murray

Adam Murray is a content writer at Mend. He began his career in corporate communications and PR, in London and New York, before moving to Tel Aviv. He’s spent the last ten years working with tech companies like Amdocs, Gilat Satellite Systems, Allot Communications, and Sisense. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. When he’s not spending time with his wife and son, he’s preoccupied with his beloved football team, Tottenham Hotspur.

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