How to prepare for platform engineering

Code on a monitor
(Image credit: Shutterstock / DaLiu)

For nearly a generation, DevOps has dominated the world of software development and operations. It is a set of skills and methodologies that no developer can do without. Pearl Zhu described its importance in her book ‘The Digital Master’, highlighting that “Agile and DevOps are for harnessing integration, interaction, and innovation.” This is especially important in today’s hyper-competitive market, where IT management teams are under huge pressure to deliver the next innovative technological solution.

But change is in the air. As organizations look to move faster and take steps to make developers' lives easier DevOps is moving towards a more standardized approach: Platform Engineering. This evolution in software development methodology reflects the need for improved consistency and alignment, now being adopted across organizations. While not wholly new, it signifies meaningful progress in how we design, build, and deliver software.

This transition creates opportunities to optimize processes in this modern era of technology. But businesses must carefully consider how to navigate the gradual shift from DevOps to Platform Engineering – retaining advantages and minimizing inconsistencies. The emphasis rests more on enhancing existing investments rather than an outright replacement. With prudent change management, there is opportunity to take DevOps sophistication to the next level.

Saiyam Pathak

Field CTO for Civo.

Definitions, definitions

The arrival of a new approach to software development can quickly get lost in confusion about terms and definitions. Establishing this understanding early on will ensure developer teams have everything they need to succeed. Education around the topic is currently lacking in the industry. Civo research observed this divergence in action: while most DevOps engineers classed their understanding of DevOps as “very good”, only 41% said that they were familiar with Platform Engineering.

Let’s consider DevOps. It is, in essence, a set of skills and methodologies that help bridge the gap between development and operations in an organization. To call it tools is to narrow down its scope. It is nothing less than a cultural shift in the delivery of the software. This is built on a range of key principles to aid continuous, swift delivery including automation, constant improvement, and close collaboration between teams.

One of the most famous examples of DevOps success has been at Netflix. Its cloud-native approach has been enabled by a DevOps culture that prioritizes innovation and delivering solutions that ensure excellence for customers. Just look at the success of Netflix’s cutting-edge, personalized UX, built on the ‘Netflix algorithm’ and its deep, granular understanding of user data.

Getting the processes right

Transitioning from siloed DevOps implementations to a unified platform engineering approach is key to reducing complexity. Without company-wide consistency and standards, individual teams end up picking their own tools and processes. When multiplied across projects, this quickly becomes an unmanageable security and efficiency nightmare.

Platform engineering solves this by creating internal developer platforms for shared leverage across the organization. A centralized team focuses on providing the skeletal infrastructure, deployments, CI/CD, and managed services that all applications rely on through self-service APIs. This foundation means projects can simply plug-and-play instead of reinventing the wheel.

The benefits of this are wide-ranging. On an organization level, it reduces tool sprawl through standardization, connecting up operations with improved security, governance and oversight. With this structure, it lets everyone work faster (as teams will no longer be duplicating efforts) and, crucially, it frees up developers to focus on code and deliver innovative solutions to market at pace.

To reach this future state, companies must take concerted steps including:

  • Auditing and aligning on current practices
  • Defining needs and goals for the developer platform
  • Reskilling talent on emerging technologies
  • Fostering transparency, learning agility and user focus
  • Gradually implementing platform capabilities
  • Continually refining the platform with user feedback

Following this structured pathway, platform engineering can move development into a new period characterized by rapid, reliable delivery of innovation. Smoothly installing new technical capabilities while strategically updating processes, teams can consolidate the gains of DevOps into a more scalable model to tame growing complexity.

Putting it into practice

Platform engineering is moving from theoretical potential into a real-world application. Organizations are already seeing the benefits of increased standardization, faster delivery speeds, and more empowered developers.

The journeys of the organizations already utilizing platform engineering underscore how the approach is coming of age as a viable, valuable next-generation software delivery model. For forward-looking companies, ignoring this shift risks ceding competitive advantage to quicker movers.

Embracing this transformation requires an emphasis on going beyond piecemeal efforts – as significant investment pays dividends. Companies transitioning from DevOps can look to high-profile success stories for best practices, inspiration, and validation. The evidence makes a compelling case – platform engineering powers competitive advantage.

A new era for software development

Platform engineering represents the next phase in software development, enabling unprecedented speed and scale. Platform engineering directly addresses DevOps challenges like lack of standardization. By enhancing automation, it boosts efficiency and reliability.

The shift is being driven by complex, cloud-native systems that demand greater flexibility. As organizations tackle intricate software and strive for innovation, platform engineering is the next logical step. The companies that embrace this transition will be poised to capture more opportunities and meet rising customer expectations.

Though overcoming inertia can prove difficult, the benefits make it worthwhile. Investing in new skills, standardized tools, and gradual implementation will ease the transition. With careful preparation, organizations can unlock the advantages of this new era.

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Saiyam Pathak is Civo’s Field CTO. He works on defining the Civo cloud platform for simplifying Kubernetes and improving developer accessibility.