Platform engineering is a strategic approach embraced by mature organisations to optimize their development practices, streamline workflows, and enhance productivity. By establishing dedicated platform teams, companies can free up developers' time from routine maintenance tasks and enable them to focus on releasing new features, bringing products to market, and building innovative functionality. The customer is the developer team (devs, managers, DevOps, SecOps etc.) and platform engineering’s focus is on providing tools that abstract the underlying infrastructure. This Solve article explores the growing significance of platform engineering, as supported by industry research. Additionally, it delves into some of the key benefits that organisations can achieve through the implementation of platform engineering best practices.
In today's fast-paced software development landscape, organisations strive to maintain a competitive edge by delivering new features and products rapidly, but this can place a heavy burden on DevOps teams that are responsible for developing software and the underlying infrastructure that goes with it. Even with the best agile and lean methodologies, developers can find themselves entangled in a web of maintaining DevSecOps tool chains, reviewing changes, and performing repetitive tasks. This problem is more pronounced in large organisations, and it can result in cognitive overload for developers, hampering their ability to innovate and deliver value to customers promptly. And bottlenecks also appear at management level with ever growing queues of work to review.
Figure 1. Developers can be overwhelmed by all the tool and processes.
The need for developer focus
Developers are most effective when they can focus on their core responsibilities, i.e., problem solving and building software, applications and tools to facilitate the aims of the business. Development operations benefit greatly when developers are relieved of the burden of repetitive tasks that are required for security, infrastructure deployment, monitoring and maintenance activities. When this happens, developers can channel their expertise into building new functionality and driving innovation without compromising standards. In fact, platform engineering leads to higher standards being achieved, consistently. This shift in focus ensures that development teams can stay agile, responsive, and productive. And this leads to significantly accelerated time-to-market for new products.
The rise of platform engineering
In response to the challenges faced by developers, the concept of platform engineering has emerged as a powerful solution, and it is increasingly being adopted by large organisations with great results. Platform engineering has evolved from DevOps, builds on the work of Site Reliability Engineers and involves establishing dedicated platform teams responsible for maintaining and evolving the underlying infrastructure, tooling, and frameworks that support the entire software development lifecycle. This is fulfilled as infrastructure as code (IaC.) Tools used are typically open source. Platform Engineering teams work closely with development teams to provide abstractions such as APIs and templates via software catalogues such as Backstage, OpsLevel, Publishizer or Pathloss to enable developers to work more efficiently. The illustration below shows how Backstage abstracts the infrastructure layers thus freeing up product teams from the burden of managing all the associated tools and processes in the layers below them.
Figure 2. Platform Engineering abstracts the infrastructure layers using tools like Backstage
Industry research supporting platform engineering
Gartner® has recognized Platform Engineering as one of Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2023 . Also, “Gartner expects that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams as internal providers of reusable services, components and tools for application delivery,” . This shift reflects the growing recognition of the benefits that platform engineering can bring to organizations. Puppet's research further highlights this trend, revealing that 51% of companies are expected to establish platform teams by the end of 2023. As for the benefits, 94% of respondents to Puppet’s 2023 State of Platform Engineering survey agree that the concept is helping their organizations better realize the benefits of DevOps .
The Benefits of Platform Engineering
By implementing platform engineering practices, organisations can unlock several notable benefits:
- Increased Developer Velocity
Platform engineering teams take responsibility for managing the underlying cloud infrastructure. This allows developers to focus on core development activities, resulting in heightened productivity and faster delivery of new features and functionalities.
Additionally, automating repetitive tasks, such as creating databases, Terraform repositories or microservices, can significantly speed up time to ‘Hello World’ for developers. ‘Lead Time for Changes’ and ‘Deployment Frequency’ are the performance indicators that can measure this benefit.
- Streamlined Workflows
Platform engineering teams establish standardized processes, workflows, and toolchains that streamline the software development lifecycle. By providing pre-configured, reliable environments and tools, developers can work more efficiently and collaborate seamlessly, reducing friction and bottlenecks. Managers spend less time reviewing MRs.
By empowering developers with a robust platform and freeing them from non-value-added tasks, platform engineering enables faster iteration cycles, reduces time spent on maintenance, and improves overall development speed. This accelerated time-to-market allows organisations to seize business opportunities more effectively, stay ahead of competitors, and respond to customer needs promptly.
- Improved Software Stability and Security
Through platform engineering, organisations can enforce best practices, automated testing, and security measures across the development process. Abstracted infrastructure with security and quality controls incorporated into the platform allows developers to ensure that their code meets rigorous standards, which in turn enhances the overall reliability and security of the software. Furthermore, this is delivered via auditable infrastructure as code that can be utilised using APIs, plugins or templates. Key metrics for this are ‘Change Failure Rate’ and ‘Mean Time to Recover.’
- Cloud Enablement of Legacy Systems
Mature companies have been migrating legacy systems to the cloud for more than a decade now, but many of the early migrations were poorly considered lift and shifts to the cloud which delivered no real benefits and, in many cases, increased the cost of hosting and increased complexity of managing these old systems. Specialist expertise in cloud and container orchestration, Kubernetes and infrastructure as code can significantly improve the outcomes of these legacy migrations. When done well it can unlock huge benefits such as service discovery and scaling.
Companies born recently, or ‘born in the cloud’ do not face the same challenges. But older companies are beginning to realise that the most efficient and effective way to tap into these benefits is by forming platform engineering teams to take care of the underlying infrastructure which frees up legacy system developers to continue focussing on their traditional skill sets.
Platform engineering has emerged as a critical strategy for organisations seeking to enhance their development practices and gain a competitive edge in the market. By establishing dedicated platform teams and relieving developers of deployment and maintenance tasks, organisations can unlock the full potential of their development teams, improve productivity, streamline workflows, and achieve accelerated time-to-market.
 Gartner, “Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2023”, David Groombridge., 17 October 2022
 Gartner, “What is Platform Engineering?”, Lori Perri, 05 October 2022
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
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About the Authors
Cloud Delivery Lead for Elastic Engineering +
Meet Simon Mohr, a technical team leader with 15 years’ experience of delivering infrastructure transformation and cloud migration programmes. Simon has worked with Rackspace as an award-winning migration partner from 2008 – 2014 and has worked with Rackspace Cloud solutions since their inception. He is now a Cloud Delivery Lead for EE+ in EMEA leading among other things a platform engineering team building developer portals for one of Rackspace’s largest customers. Simon’s passion is the people he works with and supporting his engineering teams to work to their full potential. He also builds strong relationships with his customers, always striving to make them and us better!Read more about Simon Mohr