What Is Platform Engineering?

Platform engineering is a specialized field of software engineering that focuses on creating an internal development platform (IDP) to help app and software developers self-serve the operational needs of their projects.

The IDP provides an interface that sits atop the technology and tools that devs need to build quality apps quickly and within the nonfunctional guardrails (security, resilience, performance, etc.) set by ops.

Platform engineering is a relatively new field within the overall umbrella of software engineering. While some of the largest tech companies have employed it for years, it is now trickling down and is being heralded as a solution to some of the continued challenges that face DevOps organizations.

Explore the top 5 software development trends for 2023.

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Why should you care about platform engineering?

Based on recent surveys, platform engineering is likely to become DevOps 2.0 and proliferate across most software development teams as they are expected to work faster while meeting important reliability and security goals.

The GitLab 2022 Global DevSecOps survey found that 70% of surveyed teams release code daily or every few days. Yet devs also spend a tremendous amount of time on toolchain integration and maintenance: one-third are spending at least half their time, and about 44% (double that of 2021) spend one-quarter to one-half of their time on it.

Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of respondents said their teams currently use a DevOps platform or plan to use one within the year.

This aligns with Gartner’s prediction that by 2026, 80% of software development organizations will institute platform development teams.

What does a platform engineer do?

Platform engineers focus on creating a solid foundation for software development by designing and implementing scalable, reliable, and efficient infrastructure.

platform engineering

Here are a few activities performed by these teams:

  • Infrastructure provisioning: platform engineers set up and manage the underlying infrastructure needed to support software development, including servers, networks, storage systems, and cloud services.
  • Automation and configuration management: they develop and maintain tools and frameworks for automating the deployment, configuration, and management of infrastructure components.
  • Continuous integration and deployment: platform engineers build and maintain systems for automating software application integration, testing, and deployment. They create pipelines that enable developers to deliver their code changes and ensure smooth deployments continuously.
  • Reusable components: these teams are responsible for implementing reusable tools and self-service capabilities with automated infrastructure operations to improve developer experience and productivity.
  • Scalability and performance: platform engineers design systems that can handle increasing workloads and ensure optimal performance. They implement strategies like load balancing, auto-scaling, and caching to improve the scalability and responsiveness of the platform.
  • Monitoring and alerting: platform engineers set up monitoring tools and systems to track the platform's health, performance, and availability. They create alerts and notifications to identify and address issues proactively.
  • Security and compliance: platform engineers implement security measures to protect the platform and its data from unauthorized access. They work on securing network communications, managing access controls, and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.
  • Documentation and support: platform engineers document the platform architecture, infrastructure configurations, and best practices for developers. They support to developers and operations teams in troubleshooting issues and optimizing the platform's usage.

What are the benefits of platform engineering?

While creating an internal development platform can be a large investment of time and skill, it reaps many benefits:

  • Common frameworks and components that enhance both the speed of software delivery and reliability, performance, and security.
  • Faster development with fewer roadblocks.
  • Less repetition as devs and ops don’t have to rebuild the same components again and again.
  • A single source of organizational truth for software development practices.
  • A more integrated and cohesive approach to development, no matter how many devops teams the organization has.

What skills does a platform engineering team member need?

Platform engineers need a broad base of knowledge and serious coding chops. Many operate within a DevOps team and are expected to have familiarity with infrastructure as code, networking, containers and other cloud-native technologies, secure coding practices, CI/CD pipeline and best practices, and more.

Additionally, they need great interpersonal and communication skills as the platform they are building and maintaining is really considered a product that bridges development and operations and perhaps other functions, like data science and security.

The complexity of the IDP build may vary depending if the company is cloud-native and greenfield vs. a company with legacy systems.

How can low-code help you implement a platform engineering approach?

With the right low-code platform, the more you build, the less you have to build.

Modern low-code platforms, like OutSystems, support composable architecture, a design pattern that allows developers to create reusable components to build applications more quickly while also supporting an engineering approach that ensures these components meet the most stringent non-functional requirements like security and scalability.

To learn more about it, take a look at our blog post Top Low-Code Platforms Evaluation.