Why we talk about platform engineering

Platform engineering is the practice of designing, building and operating software platforms that enable the delivery of applications and services at scale. Platform engineering is a complex and multidisciplinary field that requires a combination of technical, business and organizational skills and competencies. Platform engineering is not a new concept, but it has gained more attention in recent years as organizations face the challenges of digital transformation, cloud migration, microservices architecture, DevOps culture and data-driven decision making. Platform engineering is also a dynamic and evolving field that requires constant learning, experimentation and improvement. By talking about platform engineering, we can share our experiences, insights and lessons learned, and we can collaborate and innovate to create better platforms for ourselves and for others.

In the world of software development, there has been a growing trend towards platform engineering. Platform engineering refers to the development of technology platforms that provide a foundation for multiple applications, services, and systems. It has become increasingly important for companies to leverage platform engineering to create scalable, flexible, and efficient technology solutions.

One of the reasons why we talk about platform engineering is because it helps us learn from the success stories of companies like Netflix, which has built a highly resilient, scalable and innovative platform that supports its streaming service and content production. Netflix’s platform engineering team is responsible for providing the core infrastructure, tools and frameworks that enable the development, deployment and operation of hundreds of microservices across multiple regions and clouds. Netflix’s platform engineering team also fosters a culture of experimentation, feedback and learning, which allows the company to continuously improve its platform and deliver value to its customers.

Another reason why we talk about platform engineering is because it helps us understand the main principles and best practices that guide the platform engineering discipline. Some of these principles are:

  • Layers of platforms: Platform engineering involves creating different layers of platforms that serve different purposes and audiences. For example, a platform layer can provide the foundational infrastructure and services, such as compute, storage, networking, security and monitoring. Another platform layer can provide the application development and delivery capabilities, such as code repositories, pipelines, testing, deployment and observability. A third platform layer can provide the domain-specific functionality and business logic, such as user interfaces, APIs, data processing and analytics. Each platform layer should be modular, composable and interoperable, and should expose clear and consistent interfaces to the consumers of the platform.
  • Dynamic layers moving: Platform engineering also involves adapting and evolving the platform layers according to the changing needs and demands of the platform consumers and the market. Platform engineering should not be a static or rigid process, but a dynamic and flexible one, that allows the platform layers to move up or down the stack, or across different clouds or regions, as needed. For example, a platform layer that provides a specific functionality or service can be moved up the stack to become a higher-level abstraction or a reusable component, or it can be moved down the stack to become a lower-level implementation or a specialized service. Similarly, a platform layer can be moved across different clouds or regions to leverage the best features or capabilities of each cloud provider or to optimize the performance or availability of the platform.
  • User driven interfaces: Platform engineering should also focus on creating user driven interfaces that enable the platform consumers to easily and effectively use the platform capabilities and services. User driven interfaces can include graphical user interfaces (GUIs), command-line interfaces (CLI), application programming interfaces (APIs), software development kits (SDKs) or any other means of interaction or communication with the platform. User driven interfaces should be designed with the user’s needs, preferences and expectations in mind, and should provide a simple, intuitive and consistent user experience. User driven interfaces should also provide feedback, guidance and documentation to the user, and should allow the user to customize, configure and control the platform as desired.
  • Differentiation between internal and external platforms: Platform engineering should also recognize the differentiation between internal and external platforms, and the implications of each type of platform. Internal platforms are platforms that are built and used within an organization, and are typically aimed at improving the efficiency, productivity and quality of the internal processes, workflows and operations. External platforms are platforms that are built and offered to external customers, partners or stakeholders, and are typically aimed at creating value, differentiation and competitive advantage in the market. Internal and external platforms may have different goals, requirements, constraints and challenges, and may require different strategies, approaches and techniques to design, build and operate them.

For platform engineering to be a success, a number of teams need to collaborate effectively. Some of the key teams involved in platform engineering include:

  • UX Design team: The UX design team is responsible for creating user-centered designs that provide a seamless and intuitive experience for the users. They work with the development team to ensure that the platform meets the needs of the users.
  • Stakeholder teams: Stakeholder teams include the teams that use the platform and those that are impacted by its development and operation. They provide valuable feedback and insights that help to guide the development and operation of the platform.
  • Product management team: The product management team is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the platform. They work with the other teams to ensure that the platform is aligned with the overall business strategy and goals.
  • Security team: The security team is responsible for ensuring that the platform is secure and that sensitive data is protected. They work with the development team and the operations team to implement appropriate security measures and to respond to any security incidents.
  • Operations team: The operations team is responsible for the day-to-day running of the platform. They ensure that the platform is available, secure, and performing optimally. They work with the development team to resolve any issues that arise and to plan for future growth.
  • Development team: The development team is responsible for building and maintaining the platform. They work closely with the other teams to ensure that the platform is scalable, flexible, and efficient.

By collaborating effectively, these teams can work together to build a platform that meets the needs of the business and its users. This requires clear communication, a shared vision, and a willingness to work together to achieve common goals. When these teams work together effectively, platform engineering can be a powerful tool for driving business success.