Platform Engineering is the science and art of creating robust, scalable, and flexible software architectures. It’s not just about building software; it’s about constructing the very platform that allows your software to scale, adapt, and thrive. If you want to learn more about “What is Platform Engineering?” in details please continue reading.
Platform engineering is a relatively new field, and it is not clear who invented it. However, there are a number of people who have contributed to its development. Some of the early pioneers of platform engineering include:
- Paul Delory, a Research VP at Gartner, who has written extensively about platform engineering.
- Luca Galante, a Principal Engineer at Google, who has defined platform engineering as “the discipline of designing and building toolchains and workflows that enable self-service capabilities for software engineering organizations in the cloud native era.”
- Evan Bottcher, a Principal Architect at Thoughtworks, who has described platforms as “a foundation of self-service APIs, tools, services, knowledge and support, which are arranged as a compelling internal product.“
What is Platform?
The term “Engineering” has a broad and ubiquitous meaning, but what exactly is the “Platform” that requires engineering? In the context of platform engineering, a “Platform” typically refers to a foundational architecture or framework that serves as a base upon which applications, services, and technologies are built and operated. It can be a combination of hardware and software resources that provides the essential services used by applications to deliver functionalities to end-users. As this platform evolves, it often leads to the emergence of an IDP, or Internal Developer Platform. This IDP functions as a self-service portal for software developers within an organization.
The selection of a platform in platform engineering hinges on various factors such as your organization’s specific needs, requirements, and budget constraints. Typically, platform engineering specialists assemble a tailored mix of platforms to maximize robustness, scalability, flexibility, and developer experience, all while staying within your budget. This customized set of platforms becomes your organization’s platform foundation. Common platforms often utilized in this field include:
- Infrastructure platforms: These platforms provide the underlying infrastructure for applications, such as compute, storage, and networking. They are typically provided by cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
- Software platforms: These platforms provide the operating system, middleware, and development tools that are needed to build and deploy applications. They can be either open source or commercial. Some examples of software platforms include Linux, Windows, Java, and .NET .
- Middleware platforms: These platforms provide services that are used to connect different components of an application, such as messaging, data integration, and security. They are typically used to improve the performance, scalability, and reliability of applications. Some examples of middleware platforms include Apache Kafka, RabbitMQ, and MuleSoft Anypoint Platform.
- Development platforms: These platforms provide tools and services that are used to develop and test applications. They typically include IDEs, version control systems, and build tools. Some examples of development platforms include Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, and Visual Studio.
- Testing platforms: These platforms provide tools and services that are used to test applications. They typically include unit testing frameworks, integration testing frameworks, and load testing frameworks. Some examples of testing platforms include JUnit, Selenium, and Gatling.
- Monitoring platforms: These platforms provide tools and services to collects and analyzes data from multiple sources to provide insights into the performance and health of an IT infrastructure. It can be used to monitor servers, networks, applications, and other IT assets. Read more
- Data platforms: These platforms provide tools and services for managing, storing, and analyzing data. They are typically used to support business intelligence, machine learning, and other data-driven applications. Some examples of data platforms include Hadoop, Spark, and Snowflake.
- Security platforms: These platforms provide tools and services for securing applications and data. They are typically used to protect against cyberattacks, data breaches, and other security threats. Some examples of security platforms include Palo Alto Networks, Check Point Software Technologies, and Symantec. Read more
- Infrastructure as code (IaC) platforms: These platforms provide tools and services for managing infrastructure using code. They are typically used to improve the consistency, scalability, and reliability of infrastructure. Some examples of IaC platforms include Terraform, Ansible, and Chef.
- Continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) platforms: These platforms provide tools and services for automating the build, test, and deployment of applications. They are typically used to improve the speed, efficiency, and reliability of software delivery. Some examples of CI/CD platforms include Jenkins, Spinnaker, and GitHub. Read More
The Role of Platform Engineers
Platform engineers are the architects, designers, and builders of these platforms. Their responsibilities go beyond just software development or systems administration. They often wear multiple hats, tackling complex tasks that involve various disciplines, including architecture design, security measures, data modeling, scalability concerns, and even the developer experience.
- Architecture Design: One of the primary roles is to design a robust and flexible architecture that can accommodate future growth and changes. A sound architectural design minimizes technical debt and makes it easier for other developers to understand and work with the system.
- Infrastructure Management: Platform engineers are responsible for setting up, maintaining, and optimizing the infrastructure where the applications run. This can include server configurations, database management, and networking issues.
- Automation: Efficiency and speed are crucial in today’s fast-paced tech world. Platform engineers often write scripts and use tools to automate mundane tasks, be it server provisioning, application deployments, or database backups.
- Security: This is a critical aspect that platform engineers must address. This includes implementing firewalls, handling data encryption, and ensuring that all components interact with each other in a secure manner.
- Monitoring and Observability: Platform engineers set up systems to monitor the health and performance of applications, databases, and infrastructure. The information gathered helps in proactive troubleshooting and optimizing system performance.
- Developer Enablement: A good platform empowers the developers. It should be designed to make it easier for developers to focus on writing code, without worrying about how it will be deployed or scaled.
- Compliance and Governance: Ensuring that the platform adheres to various compliance norms and regulations, especially in sectors like finance and healthcare, is often part of a platform engineer’s job.
The Skills Required
Platform engineering is a multidisciplinary field, and the engineers often need to possess a wide range of skills. These can include:
- Cloud Services: Familiarity with cloud services like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud is essential as most platforms are cloud-native nowadays.
- Containerization: Knowledge of containerization technologies like Docker and orchestration tools like Kubernetes is absolutely required.
- Database Management: Understanding of both SQL and NoSQL databases is essential for data storage and manipulation tasks.
- Networking: A good grasp of networking concepts like DNS, Load Balancing, and VPN can be invaluable.
- DevOps Practices: Understanding of DevOps principles and tools for CI/CD, configuration management, and IaC.
- Soft Skills: Good communication skills, problem-solving ability, and a penchant for continuous learning.
Platform Engineering is a dynamic and evolving field that plays a crucial role in today’s software development landscape. It serves as the backbone, allowing software applications to perform at their best while meeting the requirements for scalability, security, and robustness. The stakes are high, but the rewards, in terms of organizational efficiency and effectiveness, make it a pivotal function in any modern tech-enabled organization.