Platform Engineering is gaining momentum as organizations seek ways to modernize their software delivery pipelines and enhance user experiences. We explore the core concepts, the influence of Generative AI, its response to the complexities of modern software, the future of Platform Engineering teams, how it works, and its practical applications.

What is platform engineering?

Platform Engineering is an emerging technology approach that’s all about accelerating application delivery and increasing business value. At its core, it focuses on enhancing the developer experience and productivity. In essence, it seeks to make developers’ lives easier by offering self-service capabilities and automating infrastructure operations. The driving force behind the rise of Platform Engineering is its potential to optimize the developer experience and expedite the delivery of customer value.

Generative AI and the new role it plays

One of the key enablers of Platform Engineering is Generative AI, playing a major role in democratizing technical work and knowledge across various roles and business functions. It’s all about leveling the playing field, allowing individuals with varying levels of technical expertise to leverage the automation and artificial intelligence – and the ecosystem of cutting-edge tools that surround them. This democratization of technology is a key part of modern software delivery and, by extension, Platform Engineering.

Managing complexity in modern software

To understand why Platform Engineering has become a focal point in modern software delivery, we must first acknowledge the increasing complexity of software architectures. Modern applications are intricate beasts, often composed of numerous microservices, APIs, and components. This complexity poses a challenge not only to developers but also to end-users who must grapple with operating these services effectively. Platform Engineering comes to the rescue by creating operating platforms that act as intermediaries between users and the underlying services. These platforms simplify the user experience while taming the underlying complexity.

The future of Platform Engineering teams

The growth of Platform Engineering is not a short-lived trend; it’s a fundamental shift in how organizations approach software delivery. By 2026, it’s anticipated that 80% of large software engineering organizations will have dedicated Platform Engineering teams. These teams are the bridge between software developers and operators, providing reusable services, components, and tools for application delivery. This shift highlights the critical need for cooperation and collaboration between these traditionally distinct roles within an organization.

How platform engineering works

Building the engineering platform

At the core of Platform Engineering is the Engineering Platform itself. This platform is created and maintained by a dedicated product team. Its purpose is to support software developers by offering a set of common, reusable tools and capabilities. These tools interface with the often complex underlying infrastructure, providing a seamless experience for developers. The key here is that the platform’s specific capabilities are tailored to the needs of the end-users, ensuring that it directly addresses the challenges they face.

The role of Internal Developer Portals (IDPs)

One of the initial efforts in building a Platform Engineering setup often involves the creation of Internal Developer Portals (IDPs). These portals are typically the most mature aspect of the platform. They offer a curated set of tools, capabilities, and processes, all selected and packaged for easy consumption by development teams. The ultimate goal here is to provide a frictionless, self-service experience that enhances developer productivity while reducing the cognitive load associated with navigating complex development ecosystems.

How platform engineering tools have evolved

The development of new tools and practices has propelled Platform Engineering into the spotlight within the DevOps community. These tools are designed to simplify the building and maintenance of platforms. They range from infrastructure as code (IaC) solutions that automate the provisioning of resources to container orchestration platforms that streamline the deployment of microservices. The evolution of these tools is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of Platform Engineering.

Applications of platform engineering

Tailoring to specific needs

It’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Platform Engineering. The ideal development platform can vary significantly between companies and even among different teams within the same organization. The overarching goal of Platform Engineering is to enhance user experiences and productivity, encourage organizational consistency and efficiency, and relieve developers from the burdens of managing delivery pipelines and low-level infrastructure. This adaptability to specific needs is one of its greatest strengths.

Final thoughts

Platform Engineering is a fundamental shift in how organizations approach software delivery in the digital age – a response to the increasing complexity of modern software and a commitment to enhancing the developer experience. With Generative AI democratizing technical knowledge, dedicated teams building Engineering Platforms, and a growing ecosystem of tools, Platform Engineering is set to become central for successful digital transformations in the years to come.

Tim Boesen

January 11, 2024

4 Min