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Platform Engineering: The Future of DevOps or Just Another Buzzword?

Is platform engineering the future of DevOps? Wrap your head around this topic with a rich reference guide that aims to determine if this is just another cool buzzword.

Mahesh Iyer


May 17, 2023

Everyone and their moms on the internet have jumped on the bandwagon of ‘DevOps is dead, long live platform engineering,' all thanks to this Twitter thread by Sid Palas.

Recently, I was reading an article on ITPro Today titled 'Platform Engineering Is the Future of DevOps & SRE,' which highlighted the shortcomings of DevOps and why the adoption of platform engineering is growing.

The increasing trend of platform engineering is a clear indication of the frustration that developers and DevOps engineers have with DevOps practices. Jan Harasym's blog, 'DevOps: A Decade of Confusion and Frustration,' explains in-depth some of the issues with DevOps.

But let's look beyond clickbait blog titles and controversial tweets. Is platform engineering truly the future of DevOps, or is it simply another buzzword?

Why is platform engineering a significant trend?

Let's go back to the basics: what is platform engineering? Everyone has a different explanation for what they think platform engineering is (I've seen so many), but I particularly like the definition from the Puppet's State of DevOps 2023: 'Platform engineering is the discipline of designing and building self-service capabilities to minimize cognitive load for developers and to enable fast-flow software delivery.'

The magic word, self-service.

You build it, you run it!

In 2006, Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon Web Services introduced the concept of ‘you build it, you run it,’ which became a founding principle in DevOps. This concept emphasizes that the team responsible for building an application should also be responsible for running and operating it. This means only one thing: developers have to write code, deploy it, test it, monitor it, and maintain it in production.

But that was 2006.

There’s a lot of complexity involved in deploying modern applications in 2023. While ‘you build it, you run it’ might have worked back then, it doesn’t work as well today because it means developers have to spend too much time and energy learning new tools, which leads to an increase in burnout and cognitive load.

While some developers advocate for the approach, most developers argue otherwise. Emily Freeman, the author of DevOps for Dummies tweeted that ‘devs don’t want to deal with operational concerns.’ She wasn't alone on this, as she got over 100 comments agreeing with her.

This Twitter post by William Kennedy highlights the entirety of this issue! We are simply asking developers to know way too much! Specialization shouldn't be frowned upon in 2023, and this is why platform engineering is on everyone’s lips.

Platform engineering increases developer productivity and experience by providing self-service capabilities and reducing cognitive load on developers. This allows developers to focus on their specialized skills instead of trying to do everything.

Puppet’s report showed that 93% of respondents believe that the adoption of platform engineering is a step in the right direction for their team. Additionally, 37% of respondents at organizations with platform engineering report being ‘very satisfied’ with the effectiveness of their product delivery process.

So, is DevOps dead now?

The short answer is no. DevOps is not dead and is not going anywhere soon. Why? This reddit comment put it nicely. DevOps is a philosophy, it is not a technology or platform that can die - it's a way of thinking about development and operations.

DevOps, at its core, is all about collaboration, communication, automation, and continuous delivery - these are all essential in today's software development landscape, and many organizations continue to benefit from adopting the DevOps movement.

Based on my research and observation, what has died is the DevOps concept of ‘you run it, you build it,’ not DevOps itself. Instead, I’d say DevOps is maturing and evolving, and the rise of platform engineering is evidence of that.

A promising future

Platform engineering is the new kid on the block and still evolving, but one thing is certain - it has a promising future for development teams, operations teams, and business leaders.

Over the next few years, we are likely to see a new generation of platform engineers who are not 'jack of all trades' and collaborate with multiple teams. The Puppet’s report also revealed that 71% of organizations will hire more people with platform engineering experience over the next 12 months, with the majority (53%) planning to hire within the next 6 months.

I wasn’t surprised when the first-ever conference dedicated to platform engineers, PlatformCon 2022, hosted over 6000 attendees and received over 78 talks. A new era has come!

Nick Durkin, Field CTO at Harness, expressed what everyone was thinking when he said, "We're going to witness a significant shift from DevOps to platform engineering in 2023. The industry will rely heavily on platforms that enable teams to put their best foot forward by operating as a team in a platform, rather than overburdening one group with specific tasks."

Platform teams can also help scale up the benefits of DevOps - improving developer productivity with organizational visibility, reliability, and confidence. If you can’t beat them, join them!

You may want to check out Faros AI - an Engineering Intelligence Platform that provides a single-pane view across your software development organization so you can improve quality and speed up software delivery.

Final Thoughts

So, in conclusion, it would be fair to say that platform engineering is not just a hot buzzword. Will it replace DevOps? No, but is it here to stay? Absolutely.

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