The arena of software development is seeing the advent of newer technologies every other day. As interesting as it may look, it is adding complexities, costs, and burdens on the team, be it developers, designers, architects whoever. Organizations are looking forward to ways and means by which they can smoothen the entire software development lifecycle and bring out optimal business output.
There is a real need for an innovative approach that can take away the burden from the task force and let them focus more on their periphery, leading to maximized revenue and a high-quality product. This process is called Platform Engineering – the modern-day route to effective Ops. Platform Engineering is often compared to DevOps but there is a difference between their ideologies, and we will see that in the coming paragraphs.
This article focuses on Platform Engineering, its key features, and all that is associated with this innovative approach.
What is Platform Engineering?
Platform engineering is the discipline of designing and building toolchains and workflows that enable self-service capabilities for software engineering organizations in the cloud-native era.
It is a promising approach in the technological world that possesses the capabilities to fasten the delivery of applications and the rate at which they can maximize business value. It creates workflows, platforms, and documentation that offer enhanced developer experience and increase their productivity level by offering consistent self-service competencies.
The Platform Engineering team operates horizontally, looking at requirements across cross-functional units, and encouraging the vertical units to serve their clients well. It decouples the application development layer from the infrastructure layer, hiding complex tasks. This offers free and relaxed time to application development teams, not having to worry about infrastructural hassles. This also provides team synchronization since all processes operate similarly at the organizational level.
Certain tools that are commonly leveraged for Platform Engineering are:
- Cloud computing platforms like Azure, AWS, GCP, etc.
- Configuration management tools like Puppet, Ansible, Chef, etc.
- Containerization and orchestration tools like Docker, Kubernetes, etc.
- Collaboration and communication tools like Jira, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.
- Logging and monitoring tools like Splunk, Datadog, Prometheus, etc.
What Does a Platform Engineering Team Do?
There is a dedicated Platform Engineering team that is responsible for effectively implementing this innovative approach. Here are some of the tasks that they do:
- Design, create, and maintain the technology infrastructure including databases, APIs, message queues, cloud-driven components, etc.
- Build CI and CD pipelines, and testing frameworks and ensure a secure, accurate, and scalable platform by regular monitoring of performance and security measures
- Look for technical issues and fix them on a routine basis, by implementing newer features and keeping the platform up to date with the organizational goals
What is IDP?
IDP stands for Internal Developer Platform – the primary toolset that is used by the Platform Engineering team to create the output. They are tools that focus on fastening the entire development process by removing errors and enhancing the onboarding process. IDP will keep changing as per the needs of the organization.
There could be repetitive activities that will be automated and simplified by IDP. It is needed to offload the burden from the developers and make the entire cycle more mature and experienced. With IDP, the task force can delegate more time and effort to activities that come under their ownership, without having to worry about other operations like CI/CD, container orchestration, etc.
The IDP also contains important data and documentation, infrastructure and application information, pipelines, repositories, coding languages, etc. This entire chunk of information is centralized in one place so that it is easy and secure to access. It becomes a front-ending interface for the operations team to manage and handle all their further steps.
Major Benefits of Platform Engineering
The following are the major benefits of Platform Engineering:
- Faster and frequent releases with continuous delivery
- Standardized and consistent business workflows
- Enhanced developer experience and productivity
- Increased agility and less time to market
- Capability for creating, replicating, and updating the environment
- Reduced duplication of work, the complexity of infrastructure management, and cutting down on costs
- Planned and independent segregation of work and responsibilities, increasing efficiency and control
- Fastened hiring and training of newcomers with quicker output
- More developer satisfaction since they are involved with what they like
- Compliance with security standards, privacy regulations
Key Challenges in Platform Engineering
As we start off implementing such a huge technical setup, some challenges must be taken care of. If thought of in advance, they can be overcome and avoided. Below mentioned are some of the hurdles that are anticipated:
- Alignment of a task force to centralized approaches since each will possess its characteristics
- Since there are so many areas involved, estimating costs for all of them is difficult
- Taking ownership of problem areas is tricky, with both – the platform and team being involved
Best Practices to Make Platform Engineering a Success
For this concept to work well, certain key guidelines must be followed by the teams, to get guaranteed results:
- Have a Clear Business Vision and Objectives
You must set your business goals perfectly well right from the start. The IDP must be well thought out, concerning the organizational objectives so that businesses are clear about what is going to be achieved. It must also give a futuristic perspective of how the output will look and how synchronous it will be with the business goals.
- Set Up a Solution Abstract
Once your objectives are in place, you can start visualizing what output you want to achieve, keeping in mind the tough challenges that may come the way. You can chart out the features and key applications that will be a part of the IDP so that there is a skeleton of a solution that is framed up. It must be as simple as possible so that even new joiners can grasp it well.
- Offer the IDP for Initial Usage
Once the IDP reaches the stage of a prototype with minimal features that can be tested, it can be opened for all to test. There may be late responses since it is new to all and users are not yet familiar with all the functionalities. Hence, the IDP must be treated as a trial product on which enhancements and experimentation are bound to happen, to make it a better output.
- Think of Involved Costs from the Start
Creating an IDP for the Platform Engineering approach is a long, tedious process with multiple costs involved. Hence, a deep study of the costing part must be done upfront right from the beginning. Looking at the budget availability, certain organizations may decide to create their in-house IDP, or some may think of purchasing it. The decision lies in the cost factor and must be taken right from the start.
DevOps vs. Platform Engineering – Comparing the Two
DevOps has been at the forefront for years and hence is more established than Platform Engineering. Both focus on less time to market and increased productivity. Still, DevOps enhances the collaboration between development and operations teams whereas Platform Engineering lessens the need for collaboration, creating and maintaining the technical infrastructure for the deployment of applications.
On a practical note, some businesses realize the worth of both and adopt a hybrid approach as they complement the goodness of each other and together, offer a highly effective output.
As We Conclude
Platform Engineering is a novel concept that includes support, contribution, and responsibilities from all sides. It needs continual inputs from software developers, DevOps teams, and other IT stakeholders so that the best is delivered, in sync with the organizational goals and vision. It will be interesting to see how this modern-day approach with assist software development teams in delivering applications and products.
At Atrina, we are dedicated to assisting organizations to take a futuristic leap with bespoke technological solutions wholly aligned with a legacy business’s operations. We aim to simplify business through technology that helps our clients realize exponential growth in the industry.
Approach us if you are interested in staying abreast of the latest modernized moves in the IT world and if you wish to implement the latest approaches like Platform Engineering. Our expert task force will be more than happy to help!