The need for organizations to ship out applications just to maintain an edge in today’s market has increased over time. There was a need to streamline the development lifecycle in order to keep up. One bottleneck that needed to be addressed sprung from the DevOps system, where developers and operators were both made responsible for the software development lifecycle. This made the journey from code to product slower due to all the complexities that developers needed to be mindful of when developing.
A popular answer to this challenge among organizations was the development of an Internal Development Platform (IDP). By building a custom IDP for the development processes and maintaining it (also called Platform Engineering), developers were given a configured yet customizable platform with standardized components, automation capabilities, and a compatible toolkit. This tore down the delays that arose from the DevOps system, reducing the cognitive load on the developers and streamlining the development lifecycle to allow for faster application deployments.
A challenge with platform engineering is the lack of a central control plane. Control planes can offer self-service to developers by providing a single point of control for efficient use of infrastructure and services while complying with essential policies and permissions (total orchestration). This is where Crossplane comes in. Crossplane is an open-source framework to build IDPs using control planes without the need to write code. It is under the Apache 2.0 license and is openly governed.
There are essentially 3 steps to building Platforms using Crossplane
The Platform development team needs to connect the resources that need to be managed by the Cloud provider to the control plane. Offerings from multiple cloud providers can also be linked to the same Control plane.
The different resources need to be patched into a custom API for the consumption of the developers. Patching is done by configuring the required resources and combining them, this step is done by the Platform development team.
This step is for the developers to focus on the software development lifecycle without the need for expertise in infrastructure and other necessary policies and permissions.
Here are 5 ways Crossplane enables Platform Engineering.
1. Developer-friendly APIs
Crossplane helps to build control planes on the Kubernetes style of declarative and API-driven configuration and management. Platform developers can easily put guardrails in place to allow for easy consumption of resources by developers. It is made straightforward for Kubernetes developers, along with the added benefit of access to the Kubernetes tooling ecosystem. It is made accessible even to non-Kubernetes developers through GitOps.
2. Continuous reconciliation
The control planes are made of several controllers that are responsible for the entire life cycle of a composed resource and they help to declaratively manage the infrastructure. The code that details the required infrastructure is called the desired state and the resources made via Crossplane become a part of this desired state. Crossplane will continue to monitor the state of the resources and will modify the resources if necessary to make sure that the actual state of the resources lines up with our desired state.
3. A separation of concerns
Crossplane allows for the configuration of organizational concepts and policy at the API level, allowing for the developers to focus on the development lifecycle and the freedom to self-service within the guardrails that have been defined. This configuration can exist on the same control plane as the application configuration. This further reduces the complexity of toolchains and deployment pipelines of the Platform.
Self-service is the empowering of developers by equipping them to participate in the management and deployment of the infrastructure. This role is usually fulfilled by the DevOps team, as they create and manage infrastructure in response to the requirements of the development team. But, with Crossplane, the developers are given the tools to manage the most common use cases themselves. This along with the feature to prepare APIs with required policies and permissions allows for the development teams to work without the need for prior knowledge of such information.
5. Powerful and flexible compositions
Platforms can be rather complex to develop as it requires the setup of the correct Cloud provider resources like permissions, networking, and database instances. With Crossplane, the basic units are the managed resources offered by the Cloud provider. Crossplane has support for major cloud providers like AWS, GCP, and Azure. The managed resources are bound together to form the Crossplane compositions and provide implementation to the API given by the developers. This model is called the Crossplane resource model that is based on the Kubernetes resource model. This feature allows for powerful and flexible compositions that free the developer to focus on the properties of the service requested.
Platform Engineering is an effective option to tackle the problem that the DevOps system has presented. As more organizations start adopting this option to streamline their code-to-product journey, the need to use control planes to build Platforms that allow for maximum control over the development lifecycle and the operations specificities will also increase. Crossplane can be used to build a Platform through control planes with high accessibility due to its open source and openly governed nature. Features like continuous reconciliation and composition allow for it to be a consistently reliable tool. The options of Self-service, separation of concerns as well as developer-friendly APIs help Developers move their code to production faster than ever before.
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