Ready. Set. Deploy. The excitement and anxious energy developers feel the first time a new application runs in a production environment is probably a much smaller scale version of what NASA engineers felt when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon. And while there are no space travel celebrations until the astronauts safely return home, organizations have a tendency to prematurely celebrate the deployment of cloud native applications. Organizations must develop a holistic DevOps strategy that focuses on Day 2 operations to avoid surprises when new applications are deployed in production environments.  

Day 2 is a DevOps concept that has been around for some time, referring to the phase of the development life cycle that follows initial deployment where the real application demands exist. On Day 2, organizations begin to place stringent requirements on applications such as resilience, scale, agility, security, governance and compliance. Day 2 is when an application moves from a development project to a strategic advantage to the business. 

By focusing on Day 2 on Day 0, when IT teams are first tasked with creating a new application to solve a business problem, organizations can reduce the risk of deployment and operational issues when the app hits a production environment. Application architects and developers must determine the most efficient and realistic stack of technologies to meet the outlined business goals. This often requires months of intense research on the cloud-native landscape to identify and select the right technologies from a pool of hundreds of potential options. 

Challenges in DevOps strategies
From microservices and containers to Kubernetes and Spark, cloud-native development offers no shortage of technology options. However, this plethora of choices can cause a state of paralysis, as development teams spend endless cycles trying to determine what technologies will work best within their existing IT stack and future business needs. In addition, becoming too focused on the technologies can distract from the actual business goals of a DevOps strategy.

When developing cloud-native applications, there are a number of common challenges that organizations must navigate to reach Day 2 operational success.   

  • Timing: While one of the goals of cloud-native application deployments is agility and speed, getting there should never be a blind sprint. Rushing to the finish line can cause productivity disruptions, lost revenue, employee turnover, security deficiencies, and more. 
  • Open Source Maturity and Interoperability: The state of each open-source technology varies greatly, so getting a clear understanding of maturity levels is a challenge. In addition, most open-source technologies were not built to ensure interoperability, so jamming together multiple disparate solutions from the cloud-native landscape is often complex and labor intensive. 
  • Limited Experience and Expertise: Building cloud-native applications, particularly for enterprises not born in the cloud, can be a challenging proposition. Most of the open-source technologies that power cloud-native journeys are new, meaning there is a very limited talent pool with the right experience. 
  • Complexity: The biggest overall challenge to cloud-native application development, deployment and ongoing operational success is complexity. The need to simultaneously manage technologies, people and processes requires a culture that has entirely bought into the organization’s DevOps strategy. 

Blueprint for successful Day 2 operations 
So how can modern organizations overcome these challenges to ensure that cloud-native applications are enterprise-grade and ready to scale for Day 2 operations? It begins by thinking holistically beyond implementation to how the application will perform in production environments over time. 

When defining the holistic approach for their organization, development teams should focus on the following aspects of the cloud-native journey: 

  1. Enterprise-grade scalability — Scalability, security and compliance must be taken into account from the earliest stages of a cloud-native development project. Organizations must learn how to balance these priorities as the business requirements and demands, such as scale, on the application change over time. 
  2. Infrastructure flexibility — The beauty of cloud-native applications is the ability to evolve and adapt quickly over time, empowering organizations to react to timely opportunities, competitive threats and market shifts. This agility and flexibility require an understanding of how different infrastructures, such as the cloud, data center or at the edge, can impact the application. A seamless foundation across the organization’s entire infrastructure is critical when scaling the application. 
  3. Data-driven architecture — Data fuels every application, making it critical to determine where and how you want to ingest, share, analyze and act on data before you begin your cloud-native journey. To ensure that the most sophisticated applications can operate at significant scale when dealing with massive data needs, organizations must consider the capabilities, and limits, of the selected open-source data technologies, such as Cassandra, Kafka and Spark.
  4. Testing and Training — No cloud-native application will thrive in Day 2 operations unless it has been thoroughly tested and development teams are properly trained on its maintenance. Create complex testing stacks to train development teams, determine the limits of the applications under various scenarios, and ensure that maintenance can be performed without causing downtime.  

By focusing on the pillars above, organizations can safely accelerate the development life cycle to create cloud-native applications that operate as intended over time. The key to this is discussing, weighing options and deciding on the best approach for each category before any line of code is written. Reducing production failures and ensuring the Day 2 success of cloud-native applications enables developers to prove the value of DevOps strategies while pointing to tangible business impacts that help raise their profiles, both internally and across the IT community.