What is platform engineering and what are the benefits?

What is platform engineering and what are the benefits?

Platform engineering is a rapidly emerging technology that has been identified as one of the contemporary top trends by the leading technological research and consulting firm Gartner. Gartner expects that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams as internal providers of reusable services, components and tools for application delivery.

Platform engineering can be seen as a technology that emerged in direct response to the increasing complexity of modern software architectures. Hybrid cloud environments and the rise of cloud-native applications are prime examples of this. The growing complexity of IT-environments and applications forces developers to master an ever larger and more diverse plethora of different tools. This is necessary to deploy and test code changes to one of multiple environments in a multi-cluster microservice setup.

But what does platform engineering actually entail? How does it work? And how can the technology benefit your organization and development teams? Read on to find out!

What is platform engineering?

Platform engineering is the practice of building and maintaining so-called internal developer platforms (IDPs), which act as flexible and supported abstraction layers between developers and the underlying technologies that these professionals use to design and build their applications. The goal of platform engineering is designing and developing toolchains and internal workflows or processes that enable the employees of an organisation to become self-sufficient in all software engineering activities.

Platform engineering typically binds the tasks that are part of a development workflow (adding environment variables, services and dependencies, changing configurations, rolling back and debugging, refactoring, adding and changing resources, enforcing RBAC) into a paved road. Rather than letting everybody operate everything and having to understand the entire toolchain to do so, platform engineers provide the glue (the IDP) to seamlessly integrate all the distinct elements of the workflow into a consistent self-service experience.

How does platform engineering work?

The engineering platform is created and maintained by a dedicated product team. The team and platform are designed with one important goal in mind: supporting the needs of software developers and others by providing common, reusable tools and capabilities. A well-developed IDP offers developers the necessary capabilities to produce valuable and process-specific software with minimal overhead.

A platform team is made up of select SREs, DevOps engineers and product managers. They collaborate to solve common problems across the organization and glue together toolchains and workflows into easy-to-navigate “golden paths”. The IDP, which is the end result of the platform engineering work, covers the operational necessities of the entire lifecycle of an operation.

The principles of platform engineering

Without the right approach and framework, platform engineering can be tricky. To get the most out of this technology and mode of operation, it’s important to adhere to a certain set of principles. Let us take a look at the main pillars and most important best practices of platform engineering.

Define a clear mission and role

Platform engineering only works if the platform team has a clear goal and mission. The ideal development platform for one team or organization may be utterly useless for others. Be sure to establish a well-defined development goal and a clear role for the platform team from the get-go.

Foster flexibility

One of the basic principles of platform engineering is that it doesn’t enforce a specific toolset or approach. Platform engineering should be about making it easy for developers to build and deliver software while not abstracting away useful and differentiated capabilities of the underlying core services.

Focus on the common problems

What are the most important and common problems that you and other teams face? Figuring out the common and recurring issues, pain points and friction areas is key. Feedback from developers and closely looking at engineering KPIs allows you to gather this vital information.

Treat your platform as a product

Platform engineering calls for a product-driven mindset. Try to focus on what provides real value to the app developers, based on the feedback you receive. Make sure they ship features based on this feedback loop and don’t get distracted by playing around with a trendy new technology that just came out and has little added value.

The benefits of platform engineering

When properly implemented, platform engineering can benefit your company and development teams in numerous ways.

  • Platform engineering allows you to increase developer productivity and reduce the cognitive load.
  • You get the opportunity to quickly develop and deploy applications while maintaining superb quality standards.
  • Platform engineering reduces duplication of effort. Why? Teams don’t have to re-create components every time they need them in a new project.
  • Well-built platforms enable teams to easily collaborate on projects since components are already established and documented in an organized manner.
  • Platform engineering provides a single source of truth for software development practices and tools, enabling teams to collaborate and share knowledge in a more effective fashion. The result? A more integrated and cohesive approach that helps organizations deliver better results and drive business growth.
  • Platform engineering automates and speeds up the development cycle.
  • Because platform engineering automates the entire DevOps cycle, it unburdens developers and takes away much of the operational complexity.
  • Platform engineering creates cohesiveness by bringing all of the tools together and ensuring a painless development and deployment experience for their engineers.

Start engineering!

As platform engineering grows in popularity and more and more developers recognize the benefits, a growing number of organizations are seeking resources and best practices for platforming their setups.

Would you like to get started with platform engineering and experience its benefits? Techspire is happy to help you. Would you like to find out more about our company, services and specializations? No problem! Give us a call at +31 (0)85 06 07 656 or send an email to info@techspire.nl.