What is Platform Engineering?: Exploring Internal Developer Platform
  • July 17, 2023
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What is Platform Engineering?

Platform engineering is a combination of all the different tools in the delivery setup. This leads the way to the golden path which enables a reduction in developer self-service.

This includes designing and building internal developer platforms, toolchains and workflows.

The sum of these Golden Paths is generally referred as Internal Developer Platform (IDP). Golden paths are task-centric and supported paths enabling them smoothly create software. An IDP is made up of a variety of technologies and tools that have been joined together to reduce the cognitive load on developers without obscuring context or underlying technology.

IDP is developed by platform engineering team to follow platform as a approach. It allows developers to self serve proven tools and processes. These “paved roads” simplify and accelerate development while also giving developers autonomy to their own preferred tools when necessary.

The platform as a product means the platform engineering team has to treat their developers as their own customers. They set high expectations for the liability and performance of the IDP and hold themselves accountable through service level agreements. Finally platform teams track important team performance metrics like throughput, workflow durations, and incident recovery tasks to eliminate bottlenecks and tailor the platform to the needs of the developers.

How to reduce operational Complexity

Operational complexity can be reduced with 4 key areas:

  1. Building internal development platforms
  2. Standardizing key delivery processes
  3. Setting and maintaining service level agreements
  4. Monitoring team performing metrics

Why platform engineering is important?

Platform engineering acts as a safety net to top performing engineering organizations to avoid DevOps pitfalls. With the trending hot topic in the market, “is DevOps dead?”, platform engineering is the only thing that is protecting the concerns of fellow marketers. DevOps uses a theory called “while you build it, you run it” concept which, in simpler words mean, product teams deploy their own code to live traffic, launch features, track user behavior, and handle incidents on their own. “You Create It, You Operate It” changes the way IT operations are done, moving away from reactive ticket management and toward proactive continuous improvement.

DevOps used this theory but it just backfired them in their day-to-day practices. Due to their complex design and laborious nature of operation, major companies like Spotify and Airbnb were overtaken by the cloud native technology.. This meant hiring hundred of developers every month, which was worth a huge pool of money.

they finally figured out the only solution to this headache was to enable developers self-service and the so-called theory ” build it while you run it” was just simply creating a platform layer between developers and operations. This layer is what we call IDP (internet development path) which is the end product of platform engineering

Benefits of platform engineering

Platform engineering is a crucial part in any organization. Lets dig into what are the benefits of platform engineering for the operation team and developers.

Benefits of Platform engineering For operational team

Reduced Ticket Operations:

With platform engineering, the burden of handling numerous tickets is significantly reduced . Platform engineers focus on building and maintaining robust systems and platforms that are self-service and automated. This allows operational teams to spend less time on mundane tasks like resolving user issues and handling support tickets. Instead, they can focus on more strategic and complex tasks that require their expertise.

Increased Efficiency and Time Savings:

Platform engineering streamlines processes and provides standardized tools and frameworks . This eliminates the need for repetitive manual tasks and reduces the time required to perform routine operations. Operational teams can leverage pre-configured environments and automation tools provided by the platform enabling them to work more efficiently and complete their tasks more quickly. The time saved can be allocated to higher-value activities, such as improving system performance, enhancing user experience , or developing new features.

Enhanced Security and Compliance:

A well-designed platform engineering approach ensures that security measures are incorporated across the infrastructure . Platform engineers implement robust security practices, such as access controls, encryption, and monitoring, to safeguard the applications and data. By providing a secure foundation platform engineering enables operational teams to focus on their core responsibilities without worrying about security vulnerabilities. It also ensures compliance with industry regulations and best practices, reducing the risk of security breaches and potential legal issues.

Improved DORA Metrics:

DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment) metrics, such as deployment frequency, lead time for changes, mean time to recover (MTTR), and change failure rate, are key indicators of an organization’s software delivery performance. Platform engineering plays a vital role in improving these metrics across the board . By providing standardized and automated deployment processes, consistent environments, and effective monitoring and alerting systems, platform engineering enables operational teams to deploy changes more frequently, reduce lead times, recover quickly from failures, and minimize the likelihood of change-related issues. These improvements contribute to a more efficient and reliable software delivery pipeline.

Scalability and Flexibility:

Platform engineering focuses on building scalable and flexible infrastructure and tools. Operational teams can leverage these capabilities to accommodate growing user demands and handle increased workloads effectively. Platform engineers design systems that can scale horizontally and vertically ensuring that applications can handle spikes in traffic and support future growth. The flexibility provided by the platform allows operational teams to adapt and respond to changing business requirements and technology landscapes more easily.

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing:

Platform engineering promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing among different teams within an organization. Platform engineers work closely with operational teams to understand their needs and challenges and they provide guidance and support to ensure smooth operations. By fostering a culture of collaboration, platform engineering helps operational teams gain valuable insights, learn from best practices and share their experiences with others. This collective knowledge enhances the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organization’s operational processes.

Benefits of Platform Engineering For Developers

Reduced Communication Overhead:

With platform engineering, developers can significantly cut down on the time spent communicating with operations teams. By providing self-service tools and standardized processes, platform engineering empowers developers to handle their workload dependencies independently . Developers can access and provision necessary resources, such as databases, storage, or networking without relying on manual intervention from operations teams. This streamlined approach reduces delays and allows developers to ship their code faster.

Easy Environment Configuration:

Platform engineering simplifies the process of configuring development environments for developers . Developers can easily set up and manage their development environments without requiring in-depth knowledge of tools like Terraform or Helm. Platform engineers provide standardized configurations and workflows that can be easily adopted by developers. This enables them to quickly spin up new environments, replicate production setups, or create isolated testing environments accelerating the development and testing cycles.

Reduced Infrastructure Configuration Effort:

With platform engineering, developers are relieved from the burden of writing and maintaining application infrastructure configurations. Platform engineers take care of creating and maintaining standardized infrastructure templates, provisioning and managing cloud resources and ensuring consistent infrastructure configurations across applications. Developers can focus primarily on writing code and building features rather than spending time on infrastructure-related tasks . This increases their productivity and allows them to deliver value faster.

Prevention of Shadow Operations:

Shadow operations occur when senior developers or other technical personnel take on operational tasks that are typically handled by dedicated operations teams . Platform engineering helps prevent shadow operations by providing clear boundaries and responsibilities between development and operations. With self-service tools and standardized processes, developers can focus on their core responsibilities without encroaching on operations’ domain. This ensures that senior developers can dedicate their expertise to writing code, leading development efforts, and mentoring junior developers rather than getting involved in operational tasks that can hinder their productivity.

Challenges of Platform Engineering

Platform engineering can sometimes face challenges in communication and demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) to developers and executives . Here are some challenges of Platform engineering that one can face:

Lack of Feedback Loop with Developers:

It is crucial to establish a feedback loop with developers when implementing an internal developer platform. Without regular and open communication channels there can be a lack of understanding regarding the needs and requirements of the development teams. This can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings, hindering the platform’s ability to meet developers’ expectations. To address this challenge, platform engineering teams should actively seek feedback from developers, conduct regular meetings or surveys , and involve them in the decision-making process. This feedback loop allows for quick iteration and adjustment of the platform based on developers’ evolving needs, ensuring its effectiveness and relevance.

Failure to Communicate ROI to Executives:

Executives and stakeholders might have difficulty understanding the value and impact of investing in a platform engineering initiative. Platform engineering efforts often require significant upfront investment in infrastructure, tooling, and personnel. However, the benefits, such as increased developer productivity, faster time-to-market, and improved software quality , may not be immediately apparent to executives. To overcome this challenge, platform engineering teams should effectively communicate the ROI in terms that resonate with executives. This can include metrics such as reduced time-to-market , increased developer efficiency, decreased operational costs, and improved overall business agility. Sharing success stories and tangible examples of how the platform has positively impacted development teams and business outcomes can also help in conveying the value proposition.

To address both challenges of platform engineering, it is crucial to establish clear lines of communication and collaboration between platform engineering teams, developers and executives. Some strategies of platform engineering that can be employed include:

Regular Developer Engagement:

Conduct regular meetings, forums, or dedicated channels for developers to provide feedback, ask questions, and suggest improvements. Actively listen to their needs and concerns and iterate on the platform based on their input.

Developer Advocate or Champion:

Appoint a developer advocate or champion who can bridge the gap between the platform engineering team and the development community . This person can serve as a liaison, gather feedback, advocate for developers’ needs , and communicate the value of the platform to both developers and executives.

Demonstrating Value:

Continuously track and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that demonstrate the impact of the platform on developer productivity, software quality and business outcomes . Regularly share these metrics and success stories with executives to highlight the tangible benefits and return on investment.

How is platform engineering useful for businesses?

Platform engineering, coupled with the right consulting expertise, is crucial for organizations aiming to optimize their software delivery processes and achieve DevOps success. By partnering with top-tier DevOps consulting firms in Canada, businesses can gain valuable guidance and support throughout their platform engineering journey. These consulting partners bring industry-leading practices and insights to design robust internal developer platforms, standardize processes, and enhance operational efficiency. With the expertise of the best DevOps consulting in Canada, organizations can unlock the full potential of platform engineering, accelerating their software delivery and staying ahead in a competitive market. To learn more, contact us.

How to know if you need platform engineering for your business?

Platform engineering plays a vital role in accelerating development, ensuring consistency, and achieving cost control. By establishing a platform team, organizations with numerous teams working on large, distributed projects requiring complex engineering can effectively address their needs. Interestingly, even if not recognized, many organizations are already engaged in some form of platform engineering. Another indicator that an organization could benefit from platform engineering is having a mature product, a clear vision for its future, and readiness to scale up operations. Moreover, if engineering teams are involved in cloud integration and infrastructure operations, it may be a sign that a dedicated platform team is necessary. Embracing platform engineering can enhance development speed, maintain developer satisfaction, satisfy customers, and streamline costs. For organizations seeking guidance and expertise in platform engineering, our team at VaST ITES Inc is proud to offer best DevOps consulting services in Canada. We can assist you in unlocking the full potential of platform engineering for your business.

Conclusion

In conclusion, platform engineering plays a crucial role in optimizing software delivery processes and empowering both operational teams and developers. By building internal developer platforms, standardizing key processes, and implementing service level agreements, platform engineering reduces operational complexity and enables teams to work more efficiently. For operational teams, it results in reduced ticket operations, increased efficiency, enhanced security, improved DORA metrics, and scalability. Developers benefit from reduced communication overhead, easy environment configuration, reduced infrastructure configuration effort, and the prevention of shadow operations. However, challenges such as a lack of feedback loop with developers and the need to communicate ROI to executives must be addressed. By fostering effective communication, demonstrating tangible value, and aligning platform engineering goals with business objectives, organizations can overcome these challenges and fully leverage the benefits of platform engineering to drive innovation, productivity, and success.

Contact us at VaST ITES Inc, the best DevOps consulting in Canada to implement platform engineering to your firms today to skyrocket your ROIs.

If you want to know more about DevOps and its applications, check out our blog on ‘The Evolution DevOps’

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