What is Platform Engineering?

Joseph Sibony
Joseph Sibony reading time: 5 minutes
January 31, 2024

Software development is getting more complex – both in positive and challenging ways. One important outcome of this complexity is that architectures for development teams have become too massive and multifaceted for individual developers to handle on their own.  

In addition to building applications and writing code, they would also need to manage an array of tools, platforms, and other components that make up their technology stack. The problem is becoming more pronounced as the need to develop software faster – and tools like AI, which accelerate the process, continue to improve – increases. So, what are development teams to do?  

The answer lies in platform engineering.  

What is platform engineering? 

Platform engineering is an emerging field focusing on the design and construction of workflows and toolchains that give developers and software engineering organizations self-service capabilities. The discipline emerged as a response to the increasing complexity of software and the sharp need for infrastructures that give developers the ability to access the tools they need themselves without considering the back-end work that goes into enabling and maintaining them. 

This (not so) new discipline is quickly picking up steam across industries and is set to become a major focal point for development organizations. According to Gartner, nearly 80% of large software engineering organizations will have their own platform engineering teams to provide internal development platforms (IDPs) and enable faster development work.  

Why is platform engineering necessary?  

More complex apps mean more complex development environments. Organizations are being pushed to deliver bigger and better applications faster than ever before, and margins for error are decreasing. So too is the ability for developers to manage an ever-expanding toolchain that includes CI/CD pipelines, DevOps tools, version management, cloud resources, acceleration tools, and more.  

Cognitive load management is an often-overlooked part of keeping developers happy. On top of managing codebases that can reach millions of lines of code and development cycles that are getting shorter by day, they have also been expected to manage their existing tools. This has led to the emergence of IDPs as a viable solution. But there needs to be someone manning the tower, so to speak.  

More importantly, developers need access to the tools they require without having to worry about fit, integration, and whether they will work well once they’re deployed. Platform engineering is about creating a layer of abstraction between developers and these tools. The goal is to build a fully self-service IDP that is standardized, secure, and adaptable. Instead of having to worry about how to make toolchains work, developers simply need to access the tools required to accelerate their development.  

At its essence, though, platform engineering is about two things: enhancing developer experience and accelerating developer productivity. Happier developers are faster and more productive.  

How acceleration and observability fit into platform engineering 

One issue developers (and platform engineers) have is visibility into the build process. Most builds today are still largely a black box for developer organizations. Aside from reading build logs and finding issues manually, it is difficult to create systems that optimize builds when there is little observability into what is impacting them, how they’re performing, and where bottlenecks are.  

Another is keeping up speed-wise with competitors. Tools like AI and more are evening the playing field for development organizations, and speed is at a premium. Teams that can build and release software faster are at an advantage, but that’s easier said than done. Builds are still a major hurdle for development cycles, whether they’re incremental or full.  

This need means that build acceleration and observability tools are a critical part of platform engineering success – to give developers a better experience, as well as allow them to be more productive, platform engineers need to provide the tools to enable these two outcomes.  

By adding observability, platform engineering teams can also find bottlenecks in the process and potentially find the right services, platforms, and vendors that can remove these hurdles.  

How Incredibuild helps 

A platform like Incredibuild, can provide IDPs with a tool that is both beneficial to developers – by providing acceleration to a critical part of the development process – as well as to engineers themselves. We do this thanks to: 

  • Unmatched build accelerationThere’s no DIY build distribution, no bootstrapped caching, and no complicated workarounds. Incredibuild lets you easily deploy a compute availability grid with an efficient caching system providing acceleration that works, giving you 8x to 10x acceleration on most builds and significantly shortening your iteration cycles. No need to wait for an overnight build. New idea? You can try it out in minutes, not hours.  
  • Visual build observability and troubleshooting – Incredibuild’s Build Monitor gives you real-time insights in a visual UI, right out of the box. You can gain build-level insights, dive into specific tasks to see where errors occur, and identify common bottlenecks. You can integrate with tools like Splunk and Prometheus, or have individual developers explore their own builds on the fly.  
  • Seamless integration into your existing toolchains – There’s no complex integrations or two-month deployments. From your IDEs to your CI/CD suites and cloud environments, Incredibuild is built to be easy to install, and easy to use. We work the way you already do.  
  • Automatic scalability and flexibility – Incredibuild helps development teams automatically scale to the build resources they need, exactly when they needed – both on prem and in the cloud. Need more instances at crunch time? Incredibuild can automatically accommodate dynamic needs within your policies and parameters so nothing gets over- or under-provisioned.   

Embracing the future of platform engineering 

Beyond being a new buzzword, platform engineering is a new way of thinking about the development process – and the infrastructure required to sustain it in a feasible way. Acceleration will always be a critical part of happier and more productive developers – less time spent waiting for builds to finish means developers can have time back that would otherwise have likely been wasted or less productive.  

More importantly, by making it easy to integrate, platform engineers enable developers to be faster and keep up with the changing ecosytem and shifting consumer preferences.  

Joseph Sibony
Joseph Sibony reading time: 5 minutes minutes January 31, 2024
January 31, 2024

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