As the craze for software development is increasing dramatically, researchers are incorporating new approaches to developing software. Among all the software development methodologies, the DevOps technique is quite popular across the software development market. DevOps is a development principle where the developers and the IT professionals work in tandem using a set of tools & practices. DevOps combine the power of collaboration, culture, development tools, and processes. It focuses on agility and quick deployment.
However, we are in an era of native cloud app development. In this era, the uncertainty in software delivery is high. That is a challenge that the DevOps technique faces when the product needs to scale. That is where Platform Engineering comes into the picture. Platform engineering is a term that has got hype within the DevOps space. It has become the new socio-technical discipline. It is an old but more mature approach to development.
This article is a complete walkthrough of what platform engineering is. It will also highlight how platform engineering addresses some of the massive issues of DevOps and business priority-based agile development. We will also clearly outline the differences between platform engineering and DevOps.
What is Platform Engineering?
Platform engineering is a booming discipline comprised of emerging technologies that help developers accelerate the delivery of software products at a high pace. It reduces uncertainty and complexity in modern software development to induce business value. It can manage some of the most significant challenges encroach when DevOps gets leveraged at scale. It comprises business-aligned development approaches that stick to business priorities. For various application life cycles, platform engineering lessens the hindrance caused due to the management of intricate web tools and infrastructure.
Through platform engineering, companies can enhance the developers’ experience & operational productivity by enabling self-service capabilities. Platform teams automate infrastructure operations and allow developers to follow workflows & reliable tools. It promises to optimize the experience of developers, enrich customer value, and enhance team productivity.
According to Paul Delory, VP Analyst at Gartner, “Platform engineering emerged due to the increasing complexity of modern software architectures. Today, non-expert end users are often asked to operate an assembly of complicated arcane services.” “To help end users, and reduce friction for the valuable work they do, forward-thinking companies have begun to build operating platforms that sit between the end user and the backing services on which they rely.”
According to Gartner’s report, by 2026, 80 percent of software engineering firms will incorporate platform engineers as internal providers for reusing services, and provide business-centric application delivery. Platform engineering can help solve the issues of software development firms that involve the cooperation between software developers and operators.
How Platform Engineering Works?
Platform engineering offers a disciplinary workflow wherein the developers can self-serve various tech tools they require for running apps and services without having any dependency on operations teams and other technical colleagues. The platform engineers build the product, which they call – an “Internal Developers Platform (IDP).” The intent is to modernize enterprise software delivery for digital transformation.
The skills and capabilities of platform engineers will vary depending on the business app requirements and the end users. In platform engineering, the platform is the product. A team of expert software engineers and full-stack developers build the platform. They then deliver the end product to the customers, who might be data scientists, developers, tech engineers, or general end users. During the platform development phase, the developers must understand the users’ needs, prioritize the project modules, and build it with agility.
During the development phase in platform engineering, the IDP supplies a curated set of tools and processes necessary for the developers to build the platform. The subject matter experts select these tools & processes and package them into a single unit to developers can utilize them. The primary objective of the “Platform Engineering” approach is to build a self-service, frictionless development experience. The aim is to provide a suitable approach and environment that boosts productivity while reducing cognitive workloads.
Principles of Platform Engineering
Since platform engineering combines several methodologies, approaches, and technologies, leading to a holistic software development experience, it follows numerous principles for delivering productivity and state-of-the-art development efficiency. This section explains the four principles of platform engineering.
- Automated Infrastructure and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC): For increasing developmental productivity, the infrastructure should remain reproducible & automated. The platform engineers use IaC tools to define what the product should look like. The infrastructure should create new instances of demand & manual actions should remain less to increase development flow.
- Efficiency through uniqueness: Another principle of platform engineering is to deliver efficiency through uniqueness. Platform engineering provides space to solve the most well-known challenges the developers encounter. The focus remains on supporting the unique needs of the platform engineers need rather than following a definitive approach that works well with previous development teams. This principle says – if the unique approach, suitable tools, and techniques become efficient for a particular platform and align with the business goals, then developers should opt for it.
- Access to Self-service: The platform engineering principle declares that every part of the platform development asset should remain accessible to the engineers. It is like providing a toolbox of control that developers can use freely according to their requirements. The platform engineering approach also avoids prescribing explicit tools or how to use them, as every engineer has a unique working style. This flexibility enables developers and engineers to work without barriers or pre-determined tools and techniques. It again increases productivity in application development.
- Continuous evolution: Another principle of platform engineering says that the platform or product should remain in continuous development. Developing and updating the product constantly with the same product-driven mindset can help improve the platform as per the customers’ requirements. The customer-facing functionalities must get implemented promptly so that the platform meets the customers’ holistic needs. The principle also ensures that the developers working on the platform development should remain productive over a considerable period.
Benefits of Platform Engineering
Through platform engineering, organizations can enjoy numerous benefits in development and operations. It also benefits cloud-native application development to a great extent. The primary purpose of platform engineering is to entrust the platform engineers and developers to consume the service through better tools and self-service. Let us explore some benefits platform engineering provides to a software development business.
Speed up the development cycle
The development process does not remain automated and self-served in the case of other software development approaches like DevOps. Various tasks like managing any cloud repository, configuring the repository, constructing CI/CD development pipelines, etc. But with the advent of platform engineering, the focus resides on automating software development processes.
Various automated tools and platforms help migrate the code easily without delay. Again, since developers can spin up the release of projects or tweak the development environment because of self-served tools, the deployment and release cycle happens tremendously fast. Integrating automated test cases also helps deliver products on time, valuing customer deadlines. The increased speed through automation and self-served tools do not hamper the quality of the product.
Eliminate complexity in operations
The use of developer-specific tools & self-service deployments eliminates complexity. Self-served platform infrastructure & apps remove the overall complexity associated with software development processes. In traditional DevOps techniques, the DevOps team is responsible for creating & maintaining all app deployments. The developers had to follow the tools & techniques built by the DevOps team.
Modern software development approaches like platform engineering reduce such complexities. Platform engineering offers self-served portals where developers can choose their toolkits & portals for rapid deployment and releases. Thus, it reduces the overall bottleneck in the development & deployment process.
Seamless scaling is possible
CI/CD pipelines & setup in DevOps focus on updating the containers and product functionalities. In the case of Continuous Integration, the server builds and revamps the image path. But it becomes complicated when tasks like creating another new environment, changing the existing configuration, adding or removing resources from a new environment, or rolling back to a fresh provisioned environment. That is where environment automation is necessary.
Through platform engineering, developers can design full-fledged automation for the environment. Through this, developers can create, remove, replicate, and update the development and deployment environment without disturbing the platform development process. All the tasks will happen in the background. So, anyone – be that person a junior developer or a senior design architect can self-service the environment. It will allow the business to develop products efficiently & quickly.
Monitoring key performance metrics
Monitoring the development and performance of a product is essential for any business to understand the scope, throughput, and other factors in a quantitative form. Traditional software development lacks performance monitoring. However, with platform engineering, the team members can keep track of various metrics like throughput, performance, memory bottleneck, latency, workflow duration, etc.
It can also notify about the incident and incident recovery time that can help platform engineers tailor as per the developers’ needs. Situations like enhancing monitoring and notification capabilities and increasing the number of automated tests are possible through platform engineering techniques. Again, tracking data around developers’ performance and productivity can also help the team leaders align with the business goals.
Platform Engineering vs. DevOps
DevOps was a buzz term back then. DevOps unlocks new levels of productivity and pace to software engineering approaches. But in the cloud-native era, software engineering techniques are becoming complex. So, it is necessary to have operational excellence throughout the software development process. While multiple organizations rely heavily on the DevOps principles, a study named “The State of DevOps Report,” by Humanitec’s Benchmarking, reveals that many team members get stuck in the middle of the development cycle because of rigid and complex development. They named it the DevOps Mountain of Tears.
That is where platform engineers introduced Internal Developer Platforms (IDP). It helps software development teams access reliable tools & techniques so that they can drive their applications in production. Such platforms also facilitate developers to self-serve and work efficiently without requiring them to comprehend the whole ecosystem.
Initially, it might seem like both DevOps and Platform Engineering are interchangeable. However, the principles of DevOps involve the development of a centralized platform. But developers can integrate platform engineering into app development when an organization or software development firm adopts the DevOps environment. Also, platform engineering supports DevOps by providing reliable tools, consistent strategies, self-service tools, and workflow automation to develop software. In practice, for any DevOps approach, platform engineering works as an additional power to DevOps.
Professionals are adopting platform engineering because it specializes the team with breadth and depth of tools and methodologies that developers did not possess through DevOps. Let us explore some crisp differences between DevOps and platform engineering.
DevOps engineers need a software project development mindset.
Platform engineers require a platform or product mindset.
DevOps is an application development approach.
Platform engineering deals with creating platforms for DevOps tools and workflows.
DevOps professionals have the goal of producing the technical functionalities of an application.
Platform engineering focuses on identifying & providing the tools, methods, or workflows required for development.
DevOps connect the dots for planning, coordinating, coding, testing, releasing, deploying, and following the approach as an operational cycle.
Platform engineering converges the dots for deployment, operation, and monitoring components required for a software development or DevOps cycle.
Though both platform engineering & DevOps are distinct, both exist to simplify software development and delivery. Platform engineering goes one step ahead by conforming self-service tools and automating various tasks like deploying infrastructure from a central platform. This is where VE3 emerges as a transformative force. Our cutting-edge solution seamlessly integrates platform engineering principles, empowering organizations to enhance their software delivery capabilities. With us, you gain access to a comprehensive suite of tools and functionalities that foster collaboration, streamline workflows, and automate critical tasks. From facilitating seamless interactions among development teams to automating deployment processes, we empower your platform engineering journey. As you navigate the dynamic landscape of software development, we stand as your partner, propelling innovation, efficiency, and excellence.