In our previous blogs in this series, we demystified DevOps, showing you how it emphasizes deeper collaboration between development and operations teams to release more high-quality software faster. We then went on to demystify Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) using methods such as automating operations to support infrastructure and the highest appavailability and performance. Now, we will delve into the realm of platform engineering to explore the DevOps and SRE relationship further and connect the last piece of the puzzle.
The intersection of DevOps and SRE: a holistic approach
Ever wondered how major tech companies like Google consistently operate massive, hyper-complex systems with boundless efficiency and reliability? It's all down to the incredible synergy between two crucial models in platform engineering: DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE).The dynamic duo: DevOps and SRE
Both DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) aim to bring development and operations knowledge closer. DevOps accelerates the delivery of faultless software to operations, while SRE's goal is to ensure essential software gets to operations seamlessly, limiting system downtime risks.
DevOps nurtures collaboration between development and operations, while SRE focuses on system administration tasks with high service availability. When combined, they produce a holistic approach for efficient, reliable, and innovative software delivery systems. Incorporating the perfect blend of control, speed, and stability .
Shared values and principles of DevOps and SRE
DevOps and SRE both value good quality software and speed, inspiring collaboration between the two. Both models strive towards a shared vision of flawless software in a production environment and engage in automation for faster software delivery and operations tasks such as server resources provisioning and patch applications.
Collaboration, automation, and continuous improvement are the shared values that unleash the true power of DevOps and SRE.
The role of platform engineering in bridging the gap
Platform engineering revolves around creating self-service toolchains and workflows, culminating into a cohesive unit titled an Internal Developer Platform (IDP). By 2026, Gartner predicts platform engineering will see 80% of software engineering organizations adopting IDPs.
IDP is a significant component of how platform engineering helps harmonize DevOps and SRE. IDP helps DevOps by reducing the load on developers and streamlining workflows from testing to production environments. Whilst with SRE, platform engineering lends itself by bringing related development and operations data into a unified toolset, for easy access to performance and reliability outcomes.
The role of platform engineering bridges the gap between these models to simplify the deployment process and mitigate software failure risks.
Bridging development and operations
Platform engineering fosters collaboration between development and operations by creating a shared understanding of variables such as environments, configurations, and dependencies. It forms a suite of tools aligning everyone's needs, thus enabling necessary adjustments without requiring specialist intervention for software delivery.
Platform engineering encourages communication that produces a comprehensive product lifecycle across teams where everyone understands the development and operations direction, anticipated and implemented changes, and the rationale behind them.
Refer to Mesoform's implementation of NGINX packages to see this ethos in action.
Core components of platform engineering
Wherever platform engineering is practiced, you’re likely to find the following components:
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) – Here, the actions involved in installing and maintaining infrastructure are largely delegated to code, such that efforts like provisioning extra computational resources (CPU cores/processing power, RAM, and storage) are handled automatically by software.
- Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) – This approach is primarily about achieving a sequence of software improvements where each piece goes from being built to being tested and deployed with minimal stops. Teams can follow an order related to issues tracked and use automation to reduce the amount of manual effort involved in rolling out the next feature.
- Monitoring, Observability, and Incident Response – Observability speaks to the ability to detect issues in a system and understand what's causing them. Monitoring involves pinpointing the metrics and other indicators to watch, having them registered within a monitoring tool, and instituting a routine for checking up on them.
Incident Response focuses on suggesting solutions to a system problem, categorizing them based on relevant factors like effectiveness and cost, drawing up a plan for implementing them, and choosing whether to continue down the same road or deviate according to the results.
You can learn more about the nuances of these platform engineering components in our recent DevOps explainer.
Implementing platform engineering: practical insights
Platform Engineering has brought significant success to companies like Adidas, Electrolux, and Adobe:
- Adidas faced delays in accessing software tools, but with platform engineers implementing Kubernetes and Prometheus, they achieved faster load times, migrated their e-commerce site, and increased release frequency. Daniel Eichten, Senior Director of platform engineering, highlights the improvements in building efficient e-commerce stores.
- Electrolux struggled with Terraform changes and infrastructure provisioning. After building an internal platform integrating cloud and toolchains, their developers could produce code with minimal infrastructure knowledge, reducing delivery time and enhancing security and governance.
- Adobe created an Internal Developer Platform serving 5,000+ developers. Following a cloud-native expansion in 2015, they now boast high resiliency, improved CI/CD capabilities, and better reliability. Their ongoing enhancement of the Kubernetes (K8) cluster fleet will further reduce yearly costs.
Navigating challenges and best practices
While platform engineering is quite promising, getting it right is not as easy as snapping your fingers, so let’s discuss some of the challenges platform teams face:
Platform engineering challenges
Platform engineering comes with several challenges, but by understanding these obstacles and implementing appropriate solutions, organizations can navigate this complex field and build more efficient, scalable, and reliable software systems.
As systems grow more complex, managing and maintaining them becomes increasingly challenging. To tackle this, adopting a microservices architecture allows for more manageable services. Additionally, automation tools and agile development methodologies can help simplify processes and reduce complexity.
Scaling software systems is essential for growing businesses but can be daunting. Using cloud-based infrastructure supporting load balancing and auto-scaling is crucial. Implementing Infrastructure as Code (IaC) with tools like Ansible and Terraform enables teams to manage cloud resources efficiently and scale resources automatically.
Reliability and Resilience
Reliable, resilient software systems recover quickly from failures. Automated testing and monitoring tools help detect issues early, preventing escalation. Deployment methods allowing rollbacks also mitigate downtime caused by faulty updates.
Automation can introduce complexity. Platform engineers must carefully evaluate automation requests, ensuring they don't disrupt overall infrastructure. Streamlining configuration is necessary to maintain consistency and avoid later issues. Automation tools like Ansible can assist in this process.
In platform engineering, managing configurations, especially in multi-cloud architecture, is challenging. Platform engineers must ensure configurations are stored securely, consistently, and centrally.
Choosing the right tools and technologies is crucial, and organizations should evaluate each option based on specific requirements. Popular platform engineering tools include Kubernetes, Docker, Ansible, Jenkins, Terraform, GitLab, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Puppet, and ArgoCD.
Best practices that keep platform engineers winning
For organizations looking to establish a successful platform engineering practice here are some best practices to stay on the right track and reap maximum benefits:
- Set clear goals and metrics: Define your goals and objectives before embarking on a platform engineering journey. Establishing measurable success criteria will help track progress, identify pain points, and assess improvements.
- Adopt incremental changes: Start small and make incremental changes. Gradually tackle one problem area at a time. This approach can minimize disruption, allowing for continuous feedback, evaluation, and adaptation.
- Leverage existing technologies: To ease the adoption process, leverage existing technologies and tools that already work well within your organization. Integrating familiar tools can save time, minimize resistance, and ensure a smoother transition.
- Develop a shared understanding: Encourage collaboration between development and operations teams. A shared understanding of each team's responsibilities, workflows, and goals helps create a cohesive ecosystem that fosters a true platform engineering-driven mindset.
Remember, the journey to successful platform engineering adoption takes commitment and collaborative effort. By understanding the challenges, learning from the experiences of others, and investing time and resources into best practices, your organization can embrace platform engineering and the benefits of streamlined workflows, increased efficiency, and enhanced collaboration.
Wrapping platform engineering up
Platform engineering plays a big role in converging all the valuables used in serving the end user and ensuring that the internal users encounter minimum friction and expend less cognitive effort when using them to improve the end-user experience.
To maximize IDPs, it's crucial to know how platforms tie into DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) so that everyone in the equation wields only the necessary influence on the others while being as helpful as possible in achieving the shared goal of delivering higher quality and more reliable software more efficiently.
Accordingly, we'll work to further the conversation by expounding on topics like developer experience (DevEx), DevSecOps, agile development derivatives, and more. So, feel free to check out our resources and join our growing community on our social media pages to follow these conversations.