Applications are not being shipped fast enough for organizations to stay competitive in the current dynamic market. The undesirable delay stems from the bottlenecks that developers often face. DevOps unified the software development lifecycle by making both developers and operators accountable for the entire lifecycle. While it made the process scalable, the complexity only shot up. Now the developers have to manage multiple environments and even more tools to manage applications in multi-cluster setups.
Developers struggled with configuring repositories and managing infrastructure, slowing down the journey from code to production. Although developers play a critical role in the process, they were frustrated and their productivity was dented.
Organizations like Netflix overcome this challenge by building an internal developer platform. It puts developers in the driver’s seat and automates the end-to-end lifecycle of software. This idea took the form of Platform Engineering. It is a brilliant concept that can streamline the collaboration of developers and operators resulting in faster software deployment. Gartner claims that 80% of software organizations will have platform teams providing reusable components and tools for application teams by 2026.
Let’s understand platform engineering before learning its significance in modern software development.
What is Platform Engineering?
Platform engineering is described as a technology discipline of building and managing an internal platform to accelerate application delivery and improve developer productivity. It means developer experience is put at the center of the software development process by offering self-service capabilities to automate infrastructure operations.
In essence, platform engineering is an attempt to give your developers a configured & customizable ‘paved road’ platform with standardized components, automation capabilities, and a compatible toolkit.
Caption: High-level overview of platform engineering
It is touted as an evolutionary step that comes on the heels of DevOps practice. While DevOps eliminated siloes of development and operations teams to streamline application deployment, platform engineering further tears down the involved complexities. With a self-service platform, developers can avoid several delay-prone manual processes to move their code to production.
Evolution of Software Development
In over 20 years, software engineering has seen several development practices and technologies. It began with a siloed process where developers reached out to system admins for any requirement to run their applications. This led to the evolution of DevOps for seamless collaboration between the development and operations teams With the rise of cloud-native ecosystems and ‘shift left’, application setups became more complex. With this Kubernetes became the go-to microservices orchestration system to manage software spread across multiple environments in multiple clusters. Now developers had multiple tools and components like Helm charts to handle, making the developer experience a challenge.
Platform engineering has now emerged as a brilliant concept to reduce developers’ laborious efforts and cognitive load by using reusable components and specific toolsets.
Significance of Platform Engineering
Platform engineering garners wide acceptance from organizations looking to accelerate their software delivery lifecycle. It provides frictionless, self-service, responsible developer experience, significantly decreasing cognitive drain.
It appeared in Gartner’s lists of ‘Hype Cycle for Software Engineering 2022’ and ‘hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.’ The research agency defined it as an ‘internal developer platform’ that reduces developer frustration and attrition while speeding up software delivery.
Self-service platforms are of great value to your development approach as discussed below:
It enables developer autonomy
With a centralized control plane, developers don’t have to wait for or depend on other teams to provision infrastructure or resources. This is unlike the ticket system, where developers have to raise requests for resources. Instead, platform engineering gives them a golden path to greater autonomy and enhanced experience devoid of waiting and endless back-and-forth. Further, it enables them to work faster, making them more productive with faster application delivery.
It facilitates honing of infrastructure
You free your platform team from the burden of provisioning tickets by providing developers with repeatable resource components. They can now instead focus on improving infrastructure by regularly upgrading infrastructure components and tools. The platform team will continuously monitor and optimize performance by managing the platform load. This will also allow the application team to focus on building and shipping new features rapidly.
It implements standardization across the organization
Self-service platforms help you enforce a standard set of compliance and governance policies Even if your application follows different processes across different infrastructure stacks, it will have the same, pre-approved rules. It will allow you to rally your developers to follow the same standards and interoperability.
In its State of DevOps Report 2020, the DevOps Research and Assessment Group (DORA) revealed that over 63% of organizations already have an internal developer platform. It only shows the growing importance of building a self-service platform for a better developer experience. However, there are a few other things that you need to keep in mind when adopting the discipline of platform engineering. We listed them below:
Build your platform as a product
Platform engineering reduces the cognitive load on your developers to the level experienced in the monolith era without compromising on speed, scalability, and availability. However, you need to invest your time and effort to build a self-service platform as a product. It should have a dedicated team of engineers continuously building, improving, and monitoring the performance of the platform.
Developer experience begins with user experience
It is critical that you understand your developers’ pain points and needs since it is for them that you build the platform. The user experience must match your developers’ requirements and workflow specifics. Application of concepts like empathy maps will help you design a superior user experience for the developers.
Workflow and interoperability are crucial
No two internal developer platforms will be alike. Your workflows and toolchains will be different from other organizations. Therefore, it is important to build a platform that makes your developer’s life easy and ensures interoperability to easily access the solutions they need.
Way ahead with platform engineering
It won’t be a surprise if platform engineering becomes a norm in software development for companies regardless of size. Primarily because internal developer platforms are specific to each organization and developer requirements. Developers are responsible for building, testing, and shipping applications, which makes their experience critical in faster delivery cycles. To maximize the benefits of self-service platforms, it is important to note the following points:
- Build your platform with your developers at its center
- Developer experience hinges on the empathy you show through the platform
- Commit to building and improving the platform like your flagship product
- Constantly evolve the platform to improve its longevity & usability
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