In the ever-evolving landscape of software development, there’s a concept that’s been gaining traction—Platform Engineering. This intriguing concept aims to simplify the lives of both development and maintenance teams by shifting their focus from configuring technical intricacies to what truly matters: their business applications feature developments to deliver business value.
What is Platform Engineering?
Platform Engineering revolves around the idea of relieving Application Teams from the burden of setting up their own environments and tools for delivery and maintenance. Instead, it provides these services as a seamless solution. In simple words, Platforms are addressing technology & organizational Cognitive Load of Application Teams, allowing them to focus on development & operations.
The Anatomy of a Platform Engineering Service
A Platform Engineering service operates as follows: when an Application Team wants to create a business application with specific characteristics (like programming language, team size, application sizing), they approach the Platform Team.
Within minutes, the Platform Team provides a production-ready environment tailored to the application’s needs. This includes:
- A code repository;
- Artifact and secret repositories;
- An environment for running the application, whether it’s a cluster, namespace, or virtual machine;
- Databases, queues, and API exposition;
- Observability tools and deployment utilities.
Ideally, this service also includes a demo application, written in the Application Team’s preferred programming language, complete with CI/CD pipelines for production deployment, seamless integration with databases, queues, and secret repositories.
The ultimate goal is to establish an Internal Developer Portal within the Platform, where developers can self-service without requiring continuous interaction with the Platform Team. Routine environment setup and access requests are automated, saving valuable time.
Building Platform Engineering: A Three-Layered Approach
Internal Developer Platforms can be divided into three logical layers:
- DevSecOps Layer – with Foundational Tools: These tools cover the entire Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), from repositories and databases to clusters, network configurations, CI/CD tools, and observability, all securely managed.
- Service Layer – with Orchestration: This layer orchestrates creating or modifying resources in the foundational layer. It ensures that services are delivered within minutes or even automatically.
- Developer Layer – with Interface: At the top layer is the Developer Interface, which serves as the UI for Platform services. This can be an Internal Developer Portal or simply a standardized process like a Jira ticket or a Teams channel through which Application Teams can request Platform Team assistance.
Can You Buy a Ready-Made Platform?
The feasibility of purchasing a pre-built Platform depends on various factors. Commercial solutions like those offered by RedHat or Loft can work well for organizations familiar with the components they need and willing to adjust to the Platform characteristics. However, for organizations with diverse needs, levels of maturity, or unique requirements, there might not be a one-size-fits-all product. An ill-fitting Platform can add more cognitive load rather than alleviating it.
What the ideal development platform is for one company may be useless to another company. Even within the same company, different development teams may have entirely different needs.
Designing a Platform tailored to the organization’s needs is often the better approach. Each organization is unique, and the path to Platform Engineering success may involve a more bespoke solution. This thesis is not only verified by BlueSoft during our 5 years of Platforms delivery experience – but also supported by common market practices & research, like Humanitec & PlatformEngineering.org community: link
When Does Building a Platform Make Sense?
Four primary scenarios suggest the need for Platform Engineering, all linked by a common denominator—organizational scale.
- Many Development or Maintenance Teams: Organizations with numerous development or maintenance teams will benefit from a Platform.
- Custom Solutions: Organizations building custom, dedicated software – or a customized one.
- Scalability Requirements: Organizations requiring scalable IT solutions.
- Multi-Cloud Environments: Organizations operating business applications across multiple cloud environments.
In conclusion, Platform Engineering is a transformative approach that streamlines the development process, allowing application teams to start work in minutes rather than days – and focus on what is most important, which is business features. It’s a cost-effective solution for organizations with substantial development needs, and it empowers teams to focus on what truly matters—business value.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the key benefit of Platform Engineering?
The key benefit is rapid environment provisioning, enabling development teams to start working on their applications within minutes – and addressing technology-related Cognitive Load, so developers focus on business features fully.
Can any organization benefit from Platform Engineering?
While it depends on the organization’s size and needs, Platform Engineering is most advantageous for organizations with multiple development or maintenance teams.
Are there commercial solutions for Platform Engineering?
Yes, some commercial solutions are available, but their suitability varies depending on the organization’s maturity and requirements. Research & market practices suggest that enterprises should build their own tailor-made Platforms as a combination of multiple tools (opensource or commercial).
BlueSoft has a battle-proven framework to do that smoothly – called Starboost, used in 5+ large enterprises since 2018, supported ~700+ production microservices already.
How can organizations ensure the success of their Platform Engineering initiatives?
Success hinges on tailoring the Platform to the organization’s specific needs and fostering collaboration between Application and Platform Teams.
Is Platform Engineering only suitable for large enterprises?
While larger organizations may benefit more, smaller organizations with complex development needs can also find value in Platform Engineering.
In the fast-paced world of software development, Platform Engineering is the key to unlocking efficiency and agility. Simplifying the technical complexities empowers teams to focus on innovation and delivering outstanding applications. So, whether you’re a large enterprise or a growing startup, consider the potential of Platform Engineering to accelerate your development journey.
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