Platform Engineering vs. Developer Platform

Shani Shoham


June 20, 2023

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Every successful software organization stands on the shoulders of its developers. Their productivity is critical and directly affects the experience that your customers receive. The need of the hour? Providing developers with the right tools and frameworks to help them excel. Enter: Platform Engineering and Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs).

Unlocking Efficiency with Platform Engineering

Most developers are problem solvers. Yet, they often spend time wrestling with tools and infrastructure, rather than writing code. 'You build it, you run it', the DevOps mantra, often leads to developers being buried under the weight of the tools they're supposed to master. The solution? Let's focus on Platform Engineering.

Platform Engineering is all about supporting developers. It brings together experts from various fields in your organization to form a powerhouse team. Their mission? To equip your developers with the tools and infrastructure they need, while stripping away the complexities. This setup boosts developer productivity by keeping their focus on code, not tool wrangling.

Source: Image by author

The Rise of Internal Developer Platforms

Platform Engineering has led to the creation of Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs). These platforms are like all-you-can-eat buffets for your developers. They're packed with pre-configured tools and frameworks, allowing your developers to bypass the setup process and dive straight into their work.

In Gartner's 2022 software engineering hype cycle, Platform Engineering is on the rise. It's no surprise. The sophistication brought by IDPs is becoming increasingly appreciated by teams looking to maximize their efficiency.

Source: Twitter

A Look Back: From Sysadmins to IDPs

Remember the 90s? Sysadmins were once the gatekeepers of all things tech. Developers were reliant on them for everything. Then along came cloud giants like AWS, Google, and Microsoft. These companies revolutionized how developers work, providing documented tools like Docker, Kubernetes, Helm, and Terraform. But learning to use all these tools was daunting. It's time to step up the game with IDPs.

Components of internal developer platforms

IDPs: Streamlining the DevOps Process

The motto 'you build it, you run it' began to be seen as an anti-pattern. It was a burden on developers' productivity. That's when IDPs came into the picture. An IDP is a self-service supermarket of tools, services, and infrastructure for developers. With IDPs, your DevOps teams can focus on what they do best - developing. No more waiting around for an Ops team to provision infrastructure. They have everything they need at their fingertips.

Companies like Twitter, Google, Spotify, and Airbnb are already using IDPs. They let their developers focus on feature development, rather than waiting for the Ops team to catch up.

AI and Developer Platforms

The recent advances in AI has left to the introduction of conversational AI based IDPs which are platforms that require little DevOps knowledge to manage infrastructure and can even exist as a SlackOps inside your existing chat tool.

Takeaways for Engineering Managers

As an engineering manager, implementing IDPs can transform how your team works. Here's what you need to know:

  • IDPs free your developers to focus on writing code, reducing the time spent setting up and managing tools.
  • By implementing IDPs, you eliminate the need for your DevOps team to be experts in every tool, reducing cognitive load.
  • Real-world examples like Twitter, Google, Spotify, and Airbnb demonstrate the value of IDPs in speeding up application development.

Remember, the implementation of an IDP requires thoughtful consideration of your team's specific needs and potential trade-offs. It may demand an initial investment in time and resources, but the potential to boost developer productivity and streamline processes could yield significant returns in the long run.

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