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How to augment your CI/CD and DevOps pipeline to resolve developer experience challenges

An internal developer platform is crucial in the evolving landscape of cloud-native architectures and DevOps practices. With the increasing complexity introduced by technologies like Kubernetes and the advancements in DevOps, developers face the challenge of mastering various tools and frameworks, diverting their focus from writing code.

To address this, DevOps teams focus on creating a robust platform that encompasses automation, infrastructure as code, and cloud services. This platform is the backbone for development, ensuring high automation and quality assurance. However, recognizing that developers are not necessarily DevOps experts, there’s a need for a user-friendly interface through which developers can interact with this platform seamlessly. This is where a developer portal comes into play.

A developer portal is designed to cater to developers at their level of understanding, abstracting away the intricacies of the underlying infrastructure. The portal allows developers to consume resources and services easily, shielding them from the complexities of the automation and pipelines managed by DevOps.

Difference between platform and developer portal

The distinction between a platform and a developer portal is essential in understanding the holistic approach of platform engineering. While a platform focuses on provisioning resources and controlling access, the developer portal plays a crucial role in reducing cognitive load for developers.

The developer portal serves as an opinionated layer on top of the platform, unifying various components and presenting them in a way developers can easily comprehend. It acts as the “how” in platform engineering, providing an intuitive interface for developers to interact with the underlying infrastructure, which may involve technologies like Terraform and Kubernetes.

The key point is that platform engineering aims to make self-sufficient development a reality, and the developer portal practically implements this concept. It breaks down silos and allows developers to consume resources and services seamlessly without being burdened by the complexities of the underlying platform.

Choosing the right developer portal is crucial, as it needs to adapt to the uniqueness of each organization’s software development life cycle and engineering practices. Customization is key, ensuring that the portal aligns with the organization’s needs and allows developers to be self-sufficient.

Developer challenges without a portal

Without a developer portal, organizations often grapple with several pain points that can impede the efficiency of their development and operations. Some common challenges include:

  • Ticket Overload: Developers frequently submit tickets for tasks such as provisioning infrastructure, performing certain actions, or seeking information about application versions. This influx of tickets can overwhelm support teams and slow the development process.
  • Knowledge Fragmentation: Organizations may maintain knowledge in static spreadsheets or stale documentation. This fragmentation of knowledge can lead to inconsistencies, and the information may become outdated, making it challenging for developers to stay informed.
  • Dependency on Tribal Knowledge: There may be a reliance on a few individuals with specialized knowledge, creating a bottleneck. This “tribal knowledge” can be risky if these experts leave the organization or if the information is not effectively shared with the broader team.
  • Lack of Democratization of Knowledge: Developers might struggle to access the information they need to operate and understand the application lifecycle. This lack of accessibility hinders autonomy and self-sufficiency among developers.
  • Manual Processes: Organizations may resort to manual processes to address queries or perform certain tasks, leading to increased effort, potential errors, and delays in the development pipeline.
  • Stale Documentation: Static documentation can quickly become outdated, especially in dynamic development environments. This poses a risk as developers may rely on inaccurate information.

The introduction of a developer portal addresses these pain points by providing a centralized, intuitive interface. It democratizes knowledge, streamlines processes, and empowers developers to operate more independently. Through a well-customized portal, organizations can reduce the dependency on manual processes, tribal knowledge, and outdated documentation, fostering a more efficient and collaborative development environment.

Different developer portal options in the market

  • Crossplane operates on the platform side, focusing on infrastructure as code. It integrates with Port as part of the infrastructure layer, providing capabilities in infrastructure management.
  • Backstage serves more as a portal, unifying various components and providing an open-source solution for developers. Backstage is an excellent choice for companies that prefer building their own solutions. It provides a framework for companies to create a customized portal according to their specific preferences and requirements.
  • Port is designed to enable organizations to establish a developer portal without the need to navigate complex UI libraries or spend significant time understanding the tool itself. Port is particularly well-suited for companies looking for a commercial product that balances speed and flexibility.

Port developer portal

Port offers a toolset that empowers product managers to tailor the portal to your developers’ needs. This customization uses a unique feature called “The Blueprint.”

The Blueprint gives you the flexibility to define the structure of the data model in the software catalog, configure the appearance of self-service actions, and establish defined scorecards within the portal. This approach ensures that the portal aligns seamlessly with your organization’s requirements.

Port allows users to control the blueprints, allowing you to shape the developer experience according to your organization’s development lifecycle. Developers gain clarity on the entire development process, enabling them to execute actions, automate workflows, and ensure compliance with organizational standards. This includes quality assurance, production readiness checklists, security standards, and more.

Future of platform engineering and developer portals

The future of platform engineering and developer portals is moving towards inclusivity across different roles within the organization and incorporating a wider range of data sources to provide a holistic view of the software development and operational landscape. This evolution is driven by the goal of enabling self-sufficiency and empowering individuals across various teams to contribute to the software development process.

This blog post is based on a recent podcast with Mr. Zohar Einy, CEO and Co-Founder, Port. The podcast addresses how a company with a CI/CD and a DevOps pipeline can augment its platform with a developer portal.


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