As computing power continues to increase exponentially, so too is the capacity for rapidly developing feature-rich software. Less than a decade ago, software providers faced multiple challenges which limited their ability to innovate and grow. We’re taking a brief look back at those obstacles, then contrasting them with the distinct advantages cloud-native development conveys to SaaS providers. Join us for this six-part series.

The Restrictive Anatomy of Legacy Apps

Traditionally, the only architecture available for software providers was monolithic, client-server. Monolithic software consists of a large block of code with multiple modules that are tightly coupled together, encapsulating the application and business logic in a single, deployable package. Monolithic application stacks generally contain thousands of lines of code with everything running in one code base in one central place.

While many phenomenal innovations were built within this structure, it does possess inherent restrictions.

In the Beginning… There was Difficulty Updating Often

A Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s (CNCF) blog describes the difficulties making updates back in the day. “In the beginning, applications were monolithic, with all functions and code packaged together. That approach was manageable when apps were updated once or twice a year, but not when updates are expected multiple times each day.”

With Monolithic Apps, No Update is Truly Small.

Developers must update the entire monolith. You can’t modify a single function without potential impacts on the others. You can’t easily separate what needs to be tested or updated without applying it to the entire system. This means that from a management perspective, small or minor changes must be treated the same as large ones.

Additionally, the sole codebase continually grows larger with every update. As future changes and feature additions are required, it becomes increasingly complex to make updates. Testing those changes and additions becomes more difficult and the entire process ends up taking longer. Worse yet, the probability of introducing errors often goes up as well.

Scaling Limitations

Servers are expensive and of course, more servers are, well… more expensive. When adding services, the cost goes up significantly, and it’s also difficult to take them away. Elasticity is lacking with monolithic applications. Adding servers isn’t easy and they also can’t be turned off easily.

Sure, you could scale up and down, but not seamlessly, and not automatically. Scaling historically required some manual intervention.

Netflix is a well-known early adopter of microservices and an exemplary success case, but faced challenges prior to their adoption of microservices. “Back in August 2008 when the Netflix system was based on monolithic architecture, it had a database failure. Their database was corrupted, and it took them about four days to sort thisas their services were dependent upon one another. Even though Netflix had only database failure they had to fix all other services too.”

Hindering Growth

For a software provider to grow – both expanding app functionality and increasing the total quantity of users – requires building. In the monolithic age,you needed to have the internal expertise to create and manage every bit of functionality you wanted to provide. While integration of third party components predates microservices, such components were historically targeted at engineering and were much lower-level items that still required extensive domain expertise. They were not complete sets of features that could be plugged into existing applications.

By contrast, workload centric development “compartmentalizes complexity… In a workload centric world, developers declare what their workload requires to run successfully, independently of platform or environment.” CNCF contributing author Susa Tünker continues to state that, “Code is passed through the fence, rather than being thrown over it.”

The Sleek, Sophistication of Modern Application Architecture

Cloud-Native Apps Defined

AWS states, “Cloud-native applications are software programs that consist of multiple small, interdependent services called microservices.…This makes cloud-native applications more agile as these microservices work independently and take minimal computing resources to run.”

A Distinct, Superior Approach

The explosion of approaches to service-oriented architecture has evolved the way you can build SaaS applications. Cloud-native apps are a distinct, superior approach. As CNCF states , “Companies are also discovering that the cloud is not just an easier, more cost-effective way to run their applications, it unlocks new opportunities.” Let’s dive further into why themove from traditional architectures to cloud native is aspirational.

Break it Up to Build it Better

Microservices separate functions and services, making it significantly easier to grow and build out your products. Breaking up the monolith enables you to take advantage of many services. The ability to break up apps into smaller pieces has a huge impact.

Not having one single code base brings flexibility. It enables teams to start to segment how you enhance specific areas and features of your product.

A Trifecta of Technology Approaches with which 92% Experiencing Success

According to “McKinsey partners, serverless architecture is part of a “trifecta of technology approaches” that provide a “formidable arsenal for companies looking to launch new businesses more quickly, securely, and effectively at lower costs.” Software as a service (SaaS) and open-source code complete this trifecta.

An O’Reilly report found that of those respondents that have adopted microservices, 92% are experiencing success with the technologies. Additionally, “Teams who own the software lifecycle (building, testing, deployment and maintenance) succeed with microservices at a rate 18% higher than those who don’t.”

Top 6 Benefits of Cloud Native Architectures

These excellent functional advantages provide multiple benefits, which we’ve broken down into the following six categories. Below, we dive into the first, then we’ll discuss the remaining benefits in subsequent articles.

  • Reduced Barriers to Entry
  • Specialization of Labor
  • Ability to Leverage Best of Breed
  • Superior Scalability
  • Easier Growth
  • Accelerated Development


1.) Reduced Barriers to Entry

Microservices enable SaaS providers to reach a level playing field, getting to market faster and cheaper.

Competing with an established manufacturer requires substantial investments in factories and distribution – an exceedingly high hurdle. Selling software, on the other hand, has been referred to as, “Printing your own money,” due to the lack of incremental cost of goods sold. Still, building and launching an app requires investments. With microservices, those investments are smaller yet.

It can be difficult for startups to compete with well-established software companies that have large teams and a head start, having accomplished years of development. But the new cloud-native model essentially levels the playing field<

Microservices free startups from having to build it all from scratch. You no longer need to hire and retain huge teams of detailed, very skilled experts in all areas. You can very quickly reach a similar level of capabilities with products that’ve been in the market for a long time. Gain parity with apps that have thousands of developers– without making that same level of investment.

AWS describes this advantage, “By adopting the cloud-native approach, companies don’t have to invest in the procurement and maintenance of costly physical infrastructure. This results in long-term savings in operational expenditure. The cost savings of building cloud-native solutions might also benefit your clients.” Not only can you get to market faster and cheaper, but you can also potentially build things even better!


→ TOP TIPStart Small.

If you haven’t already made the move to cloud-native, it’s worth exploring for specific components or features of your SaaS applications. Don’t necessarily try to re-write your entire application from scratch – but consider investigating specific services. See if you can find some smaller efficiencies and improve over time.

One of the best places to start might be your analytics layer, and Qrvey can help you there. Register for our daily demo to see our embedded analytics in action.


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