Named as a strategic tech trend for 2023 by Gartner, Platform Engineering is gaining traction as an answer to cloud-native complexities. By investing in internal developer platforms, organizations aim to tame the intricacies of their cloud-native stacks, boosting developer experience (DevEx) across the spectrum.
Platform Engineering is rapidly emerging as a potent antidote to the complexity induced by cloud-native environments.
Platform Engineering aims to abstract away much of the infrastructural complexity that developers face by providing a simple and standardized developer experience, automating repetitive tasks, and handling underlying infrastructure so that developers can focus on what they do best - writing code.
Platform Engineering alleviates the cognitive load on developers by encapsulating best practices, maintaining toolchain consistency, and streamlining workflows, improving their productivity and morale.
Some see platform engineering as the successor to DevOps or SRE, a subset of the two, or a distinct discipline. In fact, platform engineering blends the best of DevOps and SRE, aiming to enhance DevEx and delivery.
By abstracting away cloud-native infra, platform enginering equips developers with self-service capabilities, creating an optimized, streamlined platform - the so-called internal developer platform. In this article, you can dive deeper into the differences between platform engineering, DevOps, and SRE.
In platform engineering, an Internal Developer Platform (IDP) is a self-service portal that combines all the tools and services devs need for app development. It's like your own private PaaS but built with your organization's specific requirements and workflows in mind.
At the heart of an IDP are three key components:
An effective IDP should be built around your team's needs, align with your existing tech stack, and ultimately amplify your devs' productivity. It's not about a complete overhaul; it's about orchestrating your tools and processes to propel your DevEx to the next level. We’ll be taking a closer look at the concept of an IDP later in this series.
Before dissecting how Platform Engineering can address the bumps of cloud-native adoption, let's unpack its underlying principles and their role in smoothing delivery.
Let’s break down Platform Engineering's six core tenets, highlighting their function and benefits to organizations. Plus, you'll find practical examples of how these principles come to life in an internal developer platform context.
Platform engineering paves a golden path to the core system, minimizing direct encounters with infrastructure. This approach lets devs do what they do best - write code, innovate, and ship products faster. Real-world applications of this principle can be seen in devs leveraging PaaS interfaces, effectively offloading server and database chores to the platform.
The secret sauce of platform engineering is its unwavering emphasis on standardization, whether that's tools, interfaces, or procedures. The aim is to curb the chaos caused by configuration drift and to steer clear of "works on my machine" blunders. This can be seen in practice through Docker base images or Helm charts shared across teams to ensure the same environment and minimize hiccups.
At its heart, platform engineering is all about automating the mundane – provisioning, scaling, deploying – you name it. More automation equals less human error, better resource utilization, and snappier delivery cycles. An example that fits the bill is the use of CI/CD pipelines, which automate deployments and significantly slash error rates.
Self-service portals come as standard in platform engineering. Devs can pull in resources or spin up environments quickly sans ops help. This autonomy supercharges agility, giving devs the power to fill their resource cup on demand. A prime example of this is a Heroku-like platform that empowers devs to spin up resources and environments without leaving the organization's golden paths.
In the platform engineering world, compliance isn't an afterthought. It's baked right into the platform DNA. Applications born on such a platform are compliant by design, upping security, reliability, and trust levels. To illustrate, consider CI/CD pipelines integrated with tools like Open Policy Agent, which enforce policies and halt non-compliant changes in their tracks.
Platform engineering champions component reuse and knowledge transfer, effectively nudging a collaborative culture. Reuse trims redundant efforts and enhances code quality. Plus, teams can piggyback on each other's progress. This can be realized through sharing code libraries or microservices across projects. For instance, an authentication service built once can be used multiple times.
Adoption of cloud-native principles brings along numerous benefits, no doubt. However, it has its fair share of hurdles, especially regarding DevEx. Let's quickly recap some of these cloud-native adoption pain points we previously discussed.
These pain points pose significant challenges to DevEx in the era of cloud-native. Platform engineering emerges as a beacon of hope in this context, providing tools and practices designed to alleviate these issues. Next, let's examine how platform engineering can turn the tide on these challenges.
At the core of Platform Engineering, you'll find a hard focus on enforcing compliance and boundaries. The approach is twofold - standardization and automation. These twin tactics serve to insulate your devs from any compliance missteps while also providing a clear pathway to follow, saving time and confusion.
Equipping your developers with DIY tools for end-to-end software lifecycle management is another cornerstone of platform engineering. It's a strategy that goes a long way in fostering innovation and speeding up product delivery. The key is to provide tools that simplify, not complicate. Tools that help developers manage their applications, from inception to deployment and beyond, with less friction, fewer handovers, and minimal bottlenecks.
One of the major challenges developers face is wrestling with the intricacies of infrastructure. Here, Platform Engineering's role comes to the fore, sculpting a top-notch DevEx by shrinking infrastructure complexity into approachable abstraction layers. The goal is to liberate developers from the infrastructure management quagmire and let them focus on what they do best – writing stellar code.
Now, let's look at how Platform Engineering provides solutions to specific issues developers often face when adopting cloud-native technologies.
In a cloud-native landscape, the complexity can be overwhelming. Developer platforms are designed to cut through this complexity, allowing developers to focus on their app logic rather than getting tangled up in writing YAML for Kubernetes manifests. This is the essence of driving a productive DevEx – minimize the distractions and let developers get on with developing.
One of the common challenges is dealing with a plethora of tools - a clear symptom of "shiny object syndrome." Platform Engineering counters this by providing a standard toolset that promotes consistency and curbs the chaos. By enforcing tooling consistency, we ensure a less cluttered, more streamlined, and ultimately more effective development process.
With every new technology, there's a learning curve. Platform Engineering addresses this by providing an intuitive PaaS interface, making it easier for developers to navigate unfamiliar tech. It's all about making the unknown less daunting and more accessible, catalyzing a faster uptake of new tech.
Handling cloud infrastructure chores, managing CI/CD pipelines, and other operational tasks can be a drain on developers' time and energy. By automating these operational burdens, Platform Engineering frees developers for the high-value work of coding and problem-solving, driving productivity and innovation.
The trend towards microservices increases inter-service dependencies. Without the right tooling, troubleshooting can turn into an arduous detective job. Platform Engineering provides the right dependency management tools, untangling the web of microservices and making life significantly easier for your developers.
Technology keeps evolving, and staying on top of the latest trends is a challenge. Platform Engineering teams shoulder this responsibility, ensuring developers are shielded from the fatigue of constant change. They manage tech trendspotting, keeping the dev teams focused on their core tasks rather than perpetually chasing the next shiny new tech.
By addressing these areas, Platform Engineering acts as the antidote to the complexity that cloud-native can bring, resulting in a significantly enhanced developer experience.
Leveraging platform engineering to tackle the cloud-native adoption challenges significantly amps up DevEx. It not only helps manage complexity but sets the stage for increased productivity.
Overall, improved DevEx translates to happier developers, shorter time-to-market, and robust, high-quality software. It's a win-win for both business and tech teams.
Now that we’ve established an understanding of the core principles of Platform Engineering and the benefits they provide for improving delivery overall and DevEx, we’ll be jumping into how to get started. In the next part of our series, we’ll take a closer look at how to find the right entry point for adopting Platform Engineering inside your org.
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