Cloud-Native Apps Vs. Cloud-Based Applications – Yes, there is a Difference


Cloud has been a game-changer in the digital world, creating an entirely new dimension for business operations and collaboration. By eliminating the scalability, flexibility, and access limitations of on-premises systems, Cloud allows computing services to be delivered anytime, anywhere, and to any device. Although Cloud has been a global phenomenon for a while now, there are terms that end up being used interchangeably – despite being extremely dissimilar. Two frequently misinterpreted terms are “Cloud-native” and “Cloud-based” applications. So, what are these applications? How do they work? And what makes them different? 

What is a cloud-native app?

Cloud-native apps are apps that are built, designed, and managed for the Cloud. 

Designed from the ground up to operate in the Cloud, these apps enable seamless accessibility and scalability and allow developers to deliver new features and services quickly and easily. Because these apps are built specifically for the Cloud, they are developed with a mindset that is focused on failure, flexibility, and resilience. 

Designed to take full advantage of the intrinsic characteristics of Cloud technology, the cloud-native apps are usually built using a microservices architecture, which makes it easy for changes to be made to specific modules – without causing performance issues or downtime of the entire application. 

Key attributes of cloud-native apps include:

  • Accelerated innovation, without the risk of downtime
  • Quick introduction of new features and changes 
  • Seamless upward or downward scalability 
  • High resilience and reliability 
  • Robust and always-on functionality 

What is a cloud-based application?

Cloud-based applications are apps that leverage the availability and scalability capabilities of the Cloud – without undergoing a complete rebuild or redesign. Unlike cloud-native applications that are built specifically for the Cloud, cloud-based applications are existing on-premise applications that have been moved to the Cloud – and not built for it – to utilize Cloud resources. 

However, when upgrading, enhancing, or adding new functionality to cloud-based applications, the entire application will have to be paused – causing significant downtime. At the same time, to leverage the features of the Cloud, significant hardware provisioning or software setup activities have to be done, which prolong the development time of Cloud-based applications. 

Key attributes of Cloud-based applications include: 

  • Leverage Cloud capabilities – without rebuilding or redesigning 
  • Adapt to evolving needs and demand and maintain availability 
  • Reduced infrastructure and backup maintenance
  • Optimized costs via a pay-per-use model

How are they different?

Both cloud-native and cloud-based apps are built to leverage the inherent capabilities of Cloud technology, yet they are dissimilar in many ways. 

Let’s look at key aspects that make them different: 

Cloud-native Apps Cloud-based Applications
Design Cloud-native apps are designed specifically to operate in the Cloud using a microservices-based architecture and are built to handle different kinds of failure. Cloud-based applications are not designed for the Cloud but leverage the availability and flexibility of the Cloud and are built primarily for availability.
Deployment Time Cloud-native apps can be quickly as easily deployed as different modules and components can be built simultaneously – without the need for additional hardware or software. Cloud-based applications require substantial hardware acquisition and software setup and are vulnerable to potential configuration interruptions and roadblocks.
Ease of maintenance Built using microservices, cloud-native apps are easy to maintain and interruptions are minimal because edits and changes can be made to individual modules without impacting the performance or availability of the entire app. Cloud-based applications are difficult to maintain while being prone to interruptions because of the complexity of the underlying architecture and configurations.  
Upgrade complexity  As cloud-native apps are architected for the Cloud, they are extremely flexible and scalable. Any aspect of the app can easily be upgraded without disruption. Cloud-based applications are tightly integrated within their existing ecosystem, making upgrades difficult and susceptible to downtime.
Price Cloud-native apps are relatively cheaper as they are developed, managed, and run in the Cloud. Cloud-based applications require owning the whole stack and purchasing additional hardware before the application can be deployed.

As the pace of digital transformation and the shift to hybrid work intensifies, the rate of Cloud adoption is reaching new heights: the global Cloud computing market size is expected to grow to $947.3 billion by 2026. 

Cloud applications, whether Cloud-native or Cloud-based, benefit from the core advantages of cloud computing. What makes them different is the underlying design: while cloud-native apps are developed especially to run in the Cloud; cloud-based applications are traditional applications that have been appropriately adapted for operation in the Cloud. 

Although Cloud-native applications are extremely sought-after in today’s highly volatile era, what makes cloud-based applications a great option for organizations that already have a robust application in place but still want to make the most of Cloud characteristics – without completely redesigning them for the Cloud. 

While neither of the two types of Cloud apps is better than the other, what you choose depends entirely on your organization’s goals and situation. Since every organization’s Cloud journey is different, clearly defining your goals and objectives, determining your requirements, creating POCs and roadmaps, and getting expert guidance are recommended to evaluate which model makes more sense for your business. 

Irrespective of what type of apps you choose for your business, be aware that switching to a Cloud app is bound to result in reduced costs, higher scalability, availability, and performance. 

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