Everything you do online, from browsing social media to streaming TV shows and online banking, is a smooth experience. In most cases, you don’t even realize that you actually connect to a platform that offers the service you consume.
The “invisibility” of the platform is an indicator of platform engineering powering online presence.
In this article, we’ll demystify the core concepts of platform engineering and show how developers build and deliver robust architectures by leveraging APIs and cloud technologies. Whether you’re a tech-savvy developer, an aspiring entrepreneur, or simply curious about the tech landscape, you’ll get valuable insights into the platforms that drive your favorite apps and services.
Let’s start with the definition of platform engineering.
Table Of Content
- What is Platform Engineering?
- What are Internal Developer Platform (IDP) Tools-in-Platform-Engineering
- Containerization Platforms
- Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) Tools
- Version Control Systems
- Configuration Management Tools
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools
- Monitoring and Logging Tools
- API Management Platforms
- Service Mesh
- Environment and Dependency Management
- Collaboration and Communication Tools
- Security and Vulnerability Scanning Tools
- Artifact Repositories
- DevOps vs Platform Engineering vs Site Reliability-Engineering
- Applications of Platform Engineering
- What Businesses Use Platform Engineering?
What is Platform Engineering?
Platform engineering is a multifaceted software-building approach that involves designing, constructing, and managing the fundamental infrastructure necessary for the seamless development and operation of online applications and services.
Its core objective is creating and maintaining a cohesive environment that empowers developers to create, deploy, and scale software across diverse platforms and devices. At its essence, platform engineering revolves around offering tools, services, and protocols that facilitate collaboration, streamline workflows, and ensure consistent performance under variable workloads.
In practical terms, maintaining a high-performing platform engineering environment is all about overseeing critical resources like computing power, databases, networking capabilities, and security protocols. Platform engineers enable development teams to innovate while ensuring a stable foundation for the product development workflows. This often requires maintaining a balance between custom-built solutions and standardized components.
Platform engineering is pivotal in building software products and services familiar to everyone. The role of platform engineering is to bring agility and adaptability to meet ever-evolving market needs. Platform engineers work with various technologies, including cloud infrastructure, microservices architecture, and containerization. As a result, platform engineering allows businesses to build and distribute robust digital ecosystems, benefit from cutting-edge innovations, and deliver superior user experiences.
The Origins of Platform Engineering
Platform engineering’s roots can be traced back to the early days of software development when developers started using interconnected environments. It emerged as a response to the challenges of building complex digital services. Developers required supporting processes, tooling, and environments that helped them leverage seamless multi-service/component integration and scalability.
The rise of the internet being the primary medium of accessing and using services (for instance, SaaS and PaaS) further accelerated the need for cohesive support frameworks. The idea gained prominence as developers needed to manage intricate ecosystems, streamline software deployment, and provide consistent user experiences. With the advent of cloud technology, platform engineering found further applications where developers need to deliver flexible and scalable infrastructures for social media, entertainment, middleware products and services, and fintech.
Today, platform engineering is a crucial discipline, shaping how applications and services are developed, deployed, and maintained globally.
How Platform Engineering Works
Platform engineering creates a robust ecosystem that facilitates the seamless development, deployment, and management of applications and services. Platform engineers design a uniform foundation with standardized tools, services, and protocols. Product developers build their services and products upon this foundation and deliver consistent performance without worrying about conflicts and the structure of underlying layers.
At its core, platform engineering focuses on providing resources like computing power, storage, networking, and security measures. These resources are orchestrated through various technologies, such as cloud computing and microservices architecture.
Platform engineers build environments that balance customization with standardization to deliver a stable development layer to other team members. They continually monitor and optimize these environments, responding to changing requirements and technological advancements.
Modern software development relies on platform engineering to respond rapidly to market needs, improve team collaboration, and deliver consistent user experiences. Software developers use platforms to provide user experiences that evolve seamlessly, adapting to new challenges and opportunities in the dynamic digital landscape.
What are Internal Developer Platform (IDP) Tools in Platform Engineering
Internal Developer Platform (IDP) tools are the main working blocks in platform engineering. They provide developers with the necessary resources and capabilities to streamline workflows and facilitate application development, testing, and deployment.
Some key IDP tool types include:
Tools like Docker and Kubernetes enable developers to package applications and their dependencies into isolated containers. This ensures consistent behavior across different environments and simplifies deployment.
Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) Tools
CI/CD platforms like Jenkins, GitLab CI/CD, and Travis CI automate code building/compiling, testing, and deployment, ensuring rapid and reliable delivery of updates.
Version Control Systems
Git, delivered from platforms like GitHub and GitLab, allows for efficient version control, collaboration, and code review among multiple teams of globally dispersed developers.
Configuration Management Tools
Tools like Ansible and Puppet help manage infrastructure configuration, ensuring consistency and reducing manual intervention.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Tools
Terraform and CloudFormation enable developers to define and manage infrastructure using configuration files and code, promoting reproducibility and automation.
Monitoring and Logging Tools
Platforms like Prometheus, Grafana, and ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana) assist in monitoring and analyzing application performance and logs.
API Management Platforms
Tools like Apigee and Kong facilitate the creation, publishing, and management of APIs, enhancing communication and integration.
Tools like Istio and Linkerd manage communication between microservices, enhancing security, reliability, and observability.
Environment and Dependency Management
Developers use tools like Docker Compose and virtual environments (Python virtualenv) to manage dependencies and replicate development environments.
Collaboration and Communication Tools
Teams use platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Confluence for efficient communication, collaboration, information management, and sharing.
Security and Vulnerability Scanning Tools
While not strictly part of the IDP stack, tools like SonarQube and Snyk help identify and address security vulnerabilities in the codebase and dependencies.
Tools like Nexus Repository and JFrog Artifactory manage and store binary artifacts, ensuring efficient sharing and distribution.
Development teams mix and match these tools to come up with customized IDP stacks to build the platforms for product development. Product developers use these platforms to innovate, iterate, and deliver high-quality applications while adhering to the best software development and platform engineering practices.
DevOps vs Platform Engineering vs Site Reliability Engineering
DevOps, Platform Engineering, and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) are intertwined yet distinct approaches.
DevOps emphasizes collaboration between development and operations teams to streamline software delivery.
Platform Engineering focuses on creating a robust foundation for application development, offering standardized tools and services.
SRE ensures the reliability of systems by applying software engineering principles to operations.
While DevOps aims at cultural and process changes, Platform Engineering centers on infrastructure, and SRE emphasizes reliability through automation and monitoring. These disciplines collectively drive efficiency, scalability, and reliability in modern software development and operations landscapes.
Applications of Platform Engineering
Platform engineering is a transformative approach with diverse applications in modern software development and operations. It establishes a structured application creation and management foundation, offering standardized tools, frameworks, and practices. The development teams get the proper infrastructure and software support to better write and test code with reduced time-to-market.
Scalability is crucial as platform engineering sets the foundation for applications to handle growing user demands. Moreover, it ensures consistency across development, testing, and production environments, minimizing discrepancies and errors resulting from scaling the codebase.
Platform engineering reduces the risks associated with manual interventions. Most IDP tools automate deployment, scaling, and management tasks with much higher reliability and security. Platform engineers customize development environments for strict enforcement of the best practices.
Economically, it optimizes resource utilization, leading to cost-effectiveness. Most importantly, platform engineering empowers organizations to innovate by relieving developers of infrastructure management tasks, enabling them to focus on creating inventive solutions that address evolving market needs.
What Businesses Use Platform Engineering?
Major companies like Google (with SRE), Netflix, AWS, Microsoft (Azure), Salesforce, Uber, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Spotify have adopted platform engineering. These businesses employ standardized tools and practices to enhance their digital services’ scalability, reliability, and innovation.
In many cases, these organizations set the benchmark for platform engineering capabilities. You can find detailed descriptions of their IDP stacks, automation capabilities, and efficient management of complex systems. We recommend you study the Platform Engineering leader in your industry and try to replicate their processes and tooling with your organization.
Platform engineering has become an indispensable cornerstone in modern software development and operations. Its role in providing standardized tools, fostering collaboration, and ensuring scalability is a testament to its significance. Platform engineering remains a driving force as organizations strive for efficiency, reliability, and innovation. Establishing robust foundations and automated workflows paves the way for streamlined processes and optimized resource utilization. With its ability to adapt to changing technological paradigms, platform engineering continues to catalyze the future of software delivery and user experiences across industries.
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Q.Why is there a need for platform engineering?
Platform engineering is essential for building a solid foundation for efficient software development and operations. It streamlines workflows, ensures scalability, and promotes collaboration, enabling organizations to deliver high-quality applications.
Q.What is the impact of platform engineering?
Platform engineering profoundly impacts software development and operations. It enhances efficiency, fosters collaboration, and ensures scalability. By providing standardized tools and streamlined workflows, it accelerates innovation, improves user experiences, and empowers organizations to navigate the complexities of modern technology with confidence.
Q.What are the challenges of platform engineering?
Platform engineering faces challenges in balancing customization with standardization, adapting to evolving technologies, and meeting diverse application needs. Ensuring seamless integration, managing complexities, and maintaining security are key hurdles. Additionally, fostering collaboration between development and operations teams while optimizing resource utilization requires careful navigation.
Q.What are the pillars of platform engineering?
Platform engineering rests on scalability, automation, collaboration, and reliability pillars. It ensures systems can expand seamlessly, automates tasks efficiently, fosters teamwork among developers and operations, and prioritizes the stability and availability of applications and services to uphold user experiences.
Q.What is the future of platform engineering?
The future of platform engineering holds transformative potential. Technology will increasingly integrate AI, edge computing, and automation as technology advances. Customization and standardization will harmonize, fostering rapid innovation and ensuring robust, adaptable infrastructures. Platform engineering’s pivotal role will shape industries, enhance experiences, and drive digital evolution.