Cloud is the future, say technology experts who are familiar with the real potential of cloud computing. Thanks to the scalability, user-friendliness, and cost-efficiency of cloud applications that attract businesses across diverse sectors and geographies. 

According to an estimate, over 60% of companies in the US store their confidential data in the cloud. Besides, more than 75% of tech leaders are now focusing on cloud application development, while 50% of US-based organizations have now become cloud-native. Similarly, the estimated worth of the global cloud applications market is expected to reach $168.6 billion by 2025 from just $30.4 billion in 2013. It is evident from these figures that cloud adoption has become crucial to thrive in today’s fast-paced digital era. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explain the cloud application development lifecycle and explore various steps involved in building next-generation cloud-based apps. 

So, let’s dive in! 

Understanding the Term Cloud 

Imagine you are the HR manager of a tech startup responsible for overseeing workforce-related tasks. You have a centralized system with a 2TB storage capacity where you store your employee records and relevant documents.  

However, as your workforce size grows, it becomes challenging to keep all these records in your office computer. There is a high risk of data loss due to physical damage of HDDs or system failure. Besides, you need human resources to maintain your system, protect data from tempering or loss, and keep the records up-to-date. Moreover, you can retrieve your data as long as you have access to your computer. This means there is no possibility to review HR documents when you are outside your office or working from home. 

There is where you need the cloud, which refers to the concept of accessing software, services, or applications over the internet. Regarding the above example, you can store your data on third-party cloud storage located outside the organization. As a result, you need not establish or maintain local infrastructure; rather, the data becomes easily accessible anytime, anywhere. 

Now, you can review, update, or manage employee records even when you are outside your office. This way, the cloud offer flexibility to access your desired resources just with an internet connection. Besides, there is no limitation of storage capacity or functionality; you can scale cloud services anytime as per your organizational needs. 

What is a Cloud-based Application? 

A cloud-based application, also known as a SaaS application, is a software system accessible over the Internet. The components of a cloud application are stored on an external cloud instead of a local server or on-premises infrastructure. Users need not install this app on their computers; rather, they can access their desired features by connecting to the internet. 

The most common example of a cloud-based application is Gmail. You can access this app by connecting your computer to the internet and opening a web browser. All your emails and important data are stored in the cloud and are accessible online without installing the app. Similarly, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox are cloud apps where you can store and access your confidential documents online. 

We use a range of cloud applications every day. For instance, millions of employees use video conference software like Zoom, Teams, or Meet to conduct corporate meetings online. Similarly, cloud-based project management solutions like Jira, Asana, and Trello increase team collaboration and drive productivity. All these applications streamline organizational operations and help companies stay agile to achieve long-term sustainability. 

Cloud Application Development: Prerequisites 

There are two major categories of a cloud applications. Web app and mobile app. As a developer, you have to choose the most appropriate and viable approach to correctly implement your project idea and deliver the expected results. Besides, understanding the required resources, including team, tools, and expertise, is also crucial for success. 

There are multiple stages involved in cloud application development. But before we discuss those steps, let’s look into some of the prerequisites every developer must consider before working on a cloud project.

1. Necessary Tools to Build Cloud Apps

A warrior without armor and proper training can never succeed in military skirmishes. Similarly, a developer with the wrong tech approach or insufficient technological stack fails to deliver the desired outcomes. Hence, make sure to select the most suitable cloud server vendor first. 

Currently, AWS, Azure, and GCP are the leaders in the cloud computing industry. Until the first quarter of 2023, Amazon Web Services (AWS) had the most market share of 33% followed by Microsoft Azure (23%) and Google Cloud Platform (11%) respectively. 

With more than 140 integrative services, AWS is the preferred choice for cloud application development. You can use this cloud service provider to build any time of custom cloud app. Similarly, Microsoft Azure offers mobile backend, ML modules, and database services and particularly targets enterprises. Lastly, GCP is more flexible and economical to provide small businesses or startups with services such as advanced analytics, NoSQL database, storage, API, and virtual machines.

2. Cloud Application Infrastructure

Another important aspect developers need to consider while building cloud-based apps is cloud application infrastructure. Start by defining the data architecture to centralize interconnected services or APIs as one unit for successful integration. The second stage is data organization to decouple the data and store the app components in the private or public cloud. 

Once you are done with data architecture and data organization, the next step is the development of a communication logic between the data and app functionality. Apply single-channel streaming or system message grouping to optimize the communication and make sure all app components are effectively communicating. 

Moving forward, build an operational model in advance to create a safety margin for your operational channels. This step will support your storage server customers and the backend components of your cloud app. 

Finally, analyze your security algorithms to identify potential vulnerabilities in your cloud-based solution. Besides, follow a cloud identity and access management (IAM) approach to ensure strong encryption and secure your final product. 

Cloud Application Development: Key Steps to Consider 

Given below are some of the key steps involved in the cloud application development lifecycle:

1. Market Research & Competitor Analysis

Effective cloud application development begins with comprehensive market research. Before embarking on building custom cloud apps, developers should conduct thorough market research to understand consumer preferences and trends. They must evaluate the current market landscape, growth opportunities, and possible gaps that could be filled. 

Along with market research, companies should also thoroughly assess their competitors and review their success stories to seek inspiration. They should analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors and tailor their cloud applicants accordingly for better results.

2. Requirement Analysis & Planning

The second important stage of cloud application development is requirement analysis and planning. It involves defining specific goals, identifying user needs, and outlining business requirements. The step gives developers a clear direction to follow and guides them throughout the development lifecycle. 

Similarly, by engaging stakeholders across diverse roles and departments, companies can better understand their expectations and drive alignment. As a result, cloud developers can optimize resource allocation, ensure scalability, and develop next-generation cloud solutions catered to the users’ needs.

3. Designing the Cloud Architecture

A robust and scalable cloud architecture lays the foundation of high-performing and intuitive cloud applications. Developers should collaborate with cloud architects to design an architecture that aligns with business goals.  

Start with selecting the most appropriate cloud platform based on reliability, scalability, and security. Next, developers should closely review product requirements to choose the application type. Common types include SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS. Moreover, they must ensure that their architecture can be scaled seamlessly and has the potential to handle high user traffic. 

While designing the cloud architecture, teams must also take robust security measures to ensure data privacy. A flexible, resilient, and scalable architecture can help them build cloud applications that perform well under varying environments.

4. Defining the Tech Stack

Defining the tech stock is another important decision developers have to make when building cloud applications. This step involves analyzing application requirements, desired features, and projected outcomes requested by the client. Besides, the IT team has to consider the scalability factor while finalizing the tech stack to deliver better results. 

Based on these assessments, developers can select appropriate programming languages, frameworks, and tools to be used in the cloud application development lifecycle. By carefully evaluating all these things, companies can get a solid foundation to build robust and next-generation cloud applications.

5. Application Development and Deployment

Once developers have defined the app architecture and tech stack, the next important phase is application development and deployment. At this stage, software engineers write codes, implement desired features, and integrate different components to optimize the application’s performance. 

Besides, companies can use cloud development frameworks for rapid development, collaboration, and testing. By leveraging these methodologies, developers can ensure continuous delivery, provide real-time feedback, and make necessary adjustments to their apps accordingly.  

It is, therefore, crucial for key stakeholders to actively participate in application development and deployment. Open communication and robust collaboration result in a collective team effort that helps companies achieve their desired objectives.

6. Software Testing and Quality Assurance

The last stage in cloud application development is testing and quality assurance. Rigorous testing enables developers to make sure the app possesses intended features, shows optimal performance, and meets user expectations. 

To achieve these goals, developers must focus on comprehensive testing coverage involving functional, performance, security, and user acceptance testing. Following this approach can significantly reduce the possibility of post-development issues and improve the application quality. 

Eventually, the application enhances user experiences and keeps customers happy and satisfied. 

Final Thoughts 

Cloud application development is the process of building scalable, intuitive, and user-friendly cloud-based applications. These tools are accessible over the internet and eliminate the need for on-premises installation. Besides, the data stored in the cloud is protected from tampering or loss due to physical damage. 

To build a custom cloud app that exceeds users’ expectations, developers should first perform market research and competitor analysis. Once they have identified the gap in the market, they should analyze application requirements and plan the next stages accordingly. Similarly, they should design the cloud architecture and define their tech stack. 

When all these milestones are achieved, they should move to application development and deployment. Finally, comprehensive testing should be performed to identify and fix the bugs and make a perfect final product.