DevOps have transformed the traditional software life cycle completely. By emphasizing collaboration, automation, and continuous delivery, DevOps brought about a paradigm shift in how software is developed and deployed. However, a new concept called Platform Engineering has emerged, that adds a higher degree of self-service, empowerment, and agility to the development process.
80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams as internal providers of reusable services, components, and tools for application delivery – Gartner
Some believe that Platform Engineering will replace the DevOps methodology. But does it really do that, or does it take the DevOps approach and the developer experience to the next level? Does DevOps adaption now even matters to companies? In this blog, we will explore the relationship between Platform Engineering and the DevOps approach, plus how these concepts can coexist to boost efficiency and innovation.
What is Platform Engineering and Why Does It Matter?
Platform Engineering is a DevOps approach to improve the developer experience, reduce operational complexity, optimize processes, and accelerate the delivery of applications through a self-service platform with automated capabilities. Platform Engineering helps modernize your software delivery through reusable tools & capabilities, enabling easier development and maintenance of software.
Platform Engineering matters because you want software development to be as frictionless, consistent, and productive as possible. The ultimate goal is to empower developers with the best pre-built components, standardized tools, and services to manage the technical debt of delivery pipelines. Such a platform improves collaboration, reduces errors, and facilitates knowledge sharing.
DevOps vs. Platform Engineering
- An organizational philosophy, bringing development and operations closer
- Project Management approach – lays a cultural foundation for effective teamwork
- Stresses collaboration, communication, & shared responsibility to shrink the feedback cycle
- Integrates development, testing, and iterative processes to accelerate output
- Enables Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Delivery (CD), and rapid deployment
- Involves practices like version control, automated testing, and infrastructure as code
- A platform-centric philosophy to building and maintaining toolchains and workflows
- Product Management approach – enables a technical ecosystem for development & delivery
- Focuses on scalability, automation, security, compliance, and standardization
- Reusable components, frameworks, services, and tools for efficient development & testing
- Enables self-service infrastructure capabilities and deployment automation
- Involves infrastructure provisioning, containerization, and deployment pipelines
The Role of Platform Engineering in DevOps
Platform Engineering aims to support DevOps services through an autonomous centralized platform. The idea is to improve the developer experience, boost the velocity, and lower the cognitive load & delivery time through centralized tools that simplify the complexity of development. It aims to avoid the common pitfalls of the fragmented DevOps methodology through efficient delivery, optimized speed, and reduced failure rates to deliver value reliably.
- Empower developers, improve autonomy, and reduce lead times
- Define standards, guidelines, and templates – ensure consistency in tooling & processes
- A central and standardized repository for best practices and documentation
- Enforces elevated security checks and compliance protocols from the start
- No manual Docker files creation, terraform scripts implementation, and Git pipelines build
- Implements a scalable and resilient platform with load-balancing mechanisms
- Implements Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) pipelines
- Implements observability solutions to gain insights – logging, metrics collection, and alerts
- Integrates automation tools and frameworks to streamline development processes
Implementing Platform Engineering in Your Organization
1. Identify Challenges:
Conduct extensive developer research, solicit feedback, and get internal buy-in from stakeholders (for longevity). Get a holistic depth of pain points and common challenges across different teams that can be mitigated to streamline the pipeline. Understand the recurring theme across the organization to develop a customized platform skeleton.
2. Have a Vision:
Articulate a strong mission statement that lays out the objectives and the meaningful value you hope to unlock. Define the scope, the needs, the role, and how the platform will support the organization’s overarching purpose. It could be standardizing workflows, reducing tickets, shortening time to market, or any other concrete goal.
3. Identify Capabilities:
The features and capabilities of the platform will remain an extension of the frequent issues and strategic goals. Scalability, automation, extensibility, security, integration, and ease of use will factor in selecting the right tools and technologies, such as Kubernetes, Docker, Jenkins, GitLab, and more. The goal is to make the platform a value-driven asset for developers.
4. Set up a cross-functional team:
Develop a dedicated team of experts from different verticals, including software engineering, infrastructure, security, and operations. This team of veterans will oversee the designing, building, and maintaining phases of the platform. Ensure the team sticks to a checklist and has a clear mandate, besides being equipped with adequate resources and decision-making authority.
5. Implement the platform gradually:
Don’t go all out; start by implementing the core elements of the platform first. Prioritize the aspects that deliver the most immediate value, then branch out into secondary areas. Adopt an iterative approach, stay nimble, aim for Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), and gather feedback to enhance the platform and introduce newer capabilities in small phases. Link
6. Optimize and evolve:
Platform engineering is an ongoing journey of continuous learning. Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of your architecture. Continuously analyze these metrics to identify areas for improvement, reassess your strategy, adapt to changing business goals, and incorporate emerging industry technologies.
Tools and Technologies for Platform Engineering
Kubernetes, or K8s is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates and simplifies the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It lets you automate networking, scaling, and security. Kubernetes integrates with Prometheus, Istio, Helm, etc., and offers a diverse community & documentation.
- Offers automatic scaling, load balancing, and self-healing to handle varying workloads
- Promotes portability and avoids vendor lock-in – deploy on multiple machines
- Facilitates the roll-out of CI/CD pipelines – customize & automate the deployment process
- Service discovery & networking to ease communication between various microservices
- Supports monitoring and logging capabilities to oversee the health of an app
GitLab is a web-based centralized repository that offers a complete set of tools, source code, configurations, and documentation to reduce silos and expedite the processes by handling all aspects of an SDLC. It provides end-to-end support, from planning to collaboration and security.
- Supports vulnerability scanning, code analysis, and access controls
- Improves coordination through issue tracking, wikis, and project boards
- Built-in CI capabilities, and that too from a single interface
- CI/CD pipeline features help define and automate the entire deployment process
- Supports code reviews and merge requests, reviews and validates changes before merging
An open-source infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tool that allows platform engineers to provision and manage resources such as firewalls, servers, networks, and more across IT operations and developers. Being vendor-neutral, you can manage infrastructure across various cloud providers, data centers, or hybrid environments.
- Supports various infrastructure providers, like AWS, Azure, and GCP, or even private clouds
- Version, collaborate, and track changes to infrastructure configurations
- Supports policy enforcement, audit, and role-based access controls
- Establish security, cost management, and compliance regulations
- Promotes code reuse and standardization across different organizational projects
Doppler, as a secrets management tool, offers an intuitive UI, powerful CLI, and integrations that make it easier to automate and securely store, manage, and access sensitive API keys, credentials, and configuration settings through a token-based secure cryptographic function. Sync secrets across projects, development environments, CI/CD tools, hosting platforms, and cloud providers.
- Offers immutable history with alerts with the ability to roll-back changes
- Robust encryption and access controls, only accessible to authorized individuals
- Doppler CLI intelligently fetches secrets based on the project directory
- Supports Workplace Permissions across 3 tiers – Owner, Collaborator, and Admin
- Manage configuration and variables of serverless apps more easily
Platform engineering represents a natural evolution of the DevOps landscape rather than a complete replacement. It embraces the principles of collaboration, automation, and infrastructure-as-code to enhance the efficiency and reliability of software delivery. The robust and scalable infrastructure empowers teams, letting them focus on innovation and lowering the time-to-market.
Platform engineering streamlines the deployment, management, and monitoring aspects of applications. It enables platform engineers to coordinate better through a flexible and standardized infrastructure that supports the diverse needs of software development. To know how Platform Engineering can help you deliver high-quality software at scale, reach out to the experts in ISHIR.
Q.1) What are some best practices to get the most out of platform engineering?
Keep the developer feedback loop open, maintain a certain degree of flexibility, practice a DevOps culture, treat the platform as a product, and focus on elevating the developer experience through innovative new capabilities. Plus, build the platform with scalability and resilience to handle varying workloads and recover from failures.
Q.2) How to address the need to repeat the configuration tasks in platform engineering?
Invest in automation tools such as Ansible, Puppet, or Chef to assist with the provisioning and configuration of software resources, ensuring consistency in configurations across multiple instances, simplifying the process, and eliminating repetitive manual steps. Also, you could implement configuration templates or scripts, use containerization technologies, or use orchestration tools like Kubernetes, OpenStack, etc.
Q.3)What is the role of platform engineering in cloud-native application development?
Platform engineering leverages cloud technologies, containerization, and orchestration platforms to build scalable and portable applications. You can enable efficient utilization of cloud resources, implement automated deployment pipelines, and design architectures optimized for the cloud environment.