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The Power of Platform Engineering: Transforming Ideas into Action

23 days ago

5 mins read

Software companies have seen a dramatic transformation over the past ten years, going from big teams to smaller, more independent divisions. Businesses have reacted to this trend by streamlining their operations through best practices like DevOps, CI/CD, containerization, and cloud-native technologies. These approaches—DevOps, SRE (Site Reliability Engineering), and platform engineering, among others—have been instrumental in accelerating the release of software products by reducing the gaps between roles and responsibilities, encouraging teamwork, and guaranteeing more efficient workflows throughout the development lifecycle. 

Traditional to DevOps

The traditional IT method consists of distinct phases and divided teams. In this model, development teams write the software, testing teams verify that it is error-free, and operations teams deploy and maintain it. 

Development and operations are combined to form DevOps. It’s about cultivating a culture where these two teams are two sides of the same coin, working together throughout the entire software development lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support. Simply put, this methodology follows Amazon’s quote, ‘You build it, you run it’ in action. In this model, teams that build the software also deploy and maintain it. 

Issues in DevOps

This is where a tech team will manage a project from conception through completion. So, they need to plan the tech infrastructure on their own. And maybe there are 10 more such teams in an organization, and all of them need to figure out the stack for their project, which means 10 DevOps teams building and operating 10 different platforms to deliver and run their application. This can be hugely inefficient and wasteful, and have a high cognitive load on individual engineers in those teams. Plus, each team should have expertise in these stacks, and setting up infrastructure becomes more complex than building up the application, and the human cost of keeping a separate team is also very high.

Today’s highly complex multi-cloud, multi-cluster or hybrid cloud with thousands of microservices is a bit too much to ask developers to integrate into their work.

Standardize usage of tools and introduction to SRE 

Then the method to standardize the tools that are needed for deploying and running an application emerges. SRE builds practices and procedures, like the Borg cluster management system and Monarch monitoring system, to ensure that software can handle the stress of real-world demands. 

Other than standardizing the tools, they also need to follow up on the maintenance of the services. For example, over a product, customers rely on the Service Level Agreements (SLA), which are nothing but a document with a bunch of service level objectives, like whether the application can withstand 1 million requests per second or whether it will be available 99.9% of the time. SRE ensures that these objectives are met with the customers using some service level indicators. 

SREs wear many hats too! They sometimes build tools to simplify processes for developers, stepping into the territory of a platform engineer. 

Platform Engineering

The Platform Engineering team develops a solid, reliable platform that enables developers to produce high-quality software quickly. But it’s not just about the technology, it’s about aligning the entire lifecycle of product development with broader business objectives. 

These engineers help developers reduce their operational efforts by providing a platform after abstracting the actions. For example, developers can come to this platform, click a button, and under the hood, the terraform gets run or click a button that says, get me an EKS cluster with VPC configurations. All of that said, developers only must know how to handle this platform. The abstraction layer has a user-friendly interface like a UI or API so that application teams can come and self-service whatever services and tools they require is a platform, and this is called the Internal Developer Platform, or IDP (for example, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce), service fulfillment (example: ServiceNow), and communications (example: Twilio).

In real-world 

Let’s imagine the platform offers GitLab CI/CD as a standard solution, but what if application team A says they want to use CircleCI instead? The platform engineers can set it up, configure it with best practices, and integrate with the platform.  So that other teams can also use it. Thus, this integration becomes the standard for the organization. In real-life, there could be cases where one specific tool may only be needed by one team, and the team can integrate it separately without being available on the platform. 

IaC 

Platforms should give developers flexibility in the usage of the tools as well, not only in the selection of tools. The main roles of platform engineers include taking off the operational load from the application teams and creating consistency across the organization, in the same way they’re helping the product team correctly use the tools by introducing automated guardrails integrated as part of the platform. IaC (Infrastructure as Code) templates carry out this implementation. Platform teams can leverage IaC tools like Terraform, Ansible, or Pulumi to create the templates. These templates will be baked in best practice configurations; they will be used to automate the provisioning of resources and additionally offer the flexibility for product teams to pass in various parameters based on their individual project needs to create and configure those services.

Wrap up 

Platform engineering provides a solid foundation for software development, which is evident in the field's future. By 2026, 80% of engineering firms should have specialized platform engineering teams, according to a forecast by Gartner. This suggests that the industry is heading toward automation and standardization. Platform engineering serves as the unifying factor, with DevOps and SRE playing critical roles in optimizing workflows and guaranteeing dependability. Through cooperation, automation, and eventually a new degree of efficiency throughout the whole software development and operations lifecycle, the invisible hand makes it possible for all these activities to function together. Organizations that adopt platform engineering are not only keeping up with the trends, but also positioning themselves for faster innovation and success in the future.

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