Platform engineering: creating customer value and enabling meaningful work

Kimmo Kekkonen Product Management & Development Lead, Solita

Published 05 Jul 2023

Reading time 5 min

You have probably heard about platform engineering, haven’t you? Platform engineering has gained a lot of visibility this year. But what is it, why does it matter, and why should you know something about it?

Let me briefly tell you what it is about. Platform engineering is an emerging approach that ultimately helps businesses accelerate application delivery and the speed at which applications are developed as defined by Gartner. Platform Engineers are needed to make this happen. This approach creates a work environment where Platform Engineers can create more value and make a bigger impact while businesses save time and money.

Platform engineering is a modern way of packaging and delivering services that development teams need to develop and run applications in the cloud. This approach produces more value, saves time and money, and makes work more streamlined for developers. These results are achieved by providing development teams with reusable components, self-service, standardised platform services, and tools.

Improving developer experience while saving time and money

It has not been said for nothing that platform engineering scales DevOps pragmatically. For the first time, there is an affordable business case for adopting DevOps, not only for a few teams but for the whole organisation.

When customers have several teams developing applications and working in the cloud, it makes sense to have a centralised team that takes the bigger responsibility for creating models, frameworks, and shared platform-level services for all the different development teams. This way, we can cut overlapping and inefficient work and find automated solutions that support all parties involved in application development and operations.

Adopting a platform engineering approach is beneficial for businesses, as it produces more value but also saves time and money. On the other hand, it also makes the work more meaningful for everyone involved. With a platform engineering approach, one can improve the developer experience and productivity by building self-service capabilities, automated cloud infrastructure deployments, and automated operations.

This approach helps businesses accelerate application delivery and the speed at which applications produce business value – while keeping cloud compliant, secure, and governed. As a result, business units can enjoy faster deliveries, and IT-units can ensure governance and security without extra hassle.

Scaled automation and bigger impact

When offering centralised services to multiple teams, one needs to ensure the scalability and quality of the services. That means that continuous development and maintenance need to be planned well.

If we have, for example, ten development teams using the platform services, the value impact is huge compared to individual development teams creating solutions for their own needs. Additionally, the platform engineering approach of providing central services as “products” leads to a highly professional and structured release/deploy mechanism that scales. Moreover, it will lead to better quality and higher value with less work.

Let me give you a few brief examples of what platform engineers can do to help development teams. The first is backup as a self-service, and the second is automatic DNS registration.

Backup as a self-service – For every production application, there is a need for a backup mechanism. Backup of cloud resources can be provided for a development team as a self-service in a very simple way. The development team will tag cloud resources they need to back up with a backup-level tag. Tags can be e.g. BackupLevel = 0, BackupLevel = 1 or BackupLevel = 2. For example, BackupLevel = 1 class can mean that backup is taken daily, and backup will be stored for two weeks. And that’s it; backup is activated! Once the cloud resource has the tag, it will be automatically backed up based on a predefined backup level class.

Automatic DNS registration – If a developer wants to access, e.g., a managed database via internal networking in Azure, one needs to have a private DNS name for it. This name can be, for example, Usually, the developer needs to contact IT or the cloud support team to get a working DNS name for the cloud resource. Typically this can take days or even weeks. However, utilising the platform engineering approach, this can be solved as a self-service. Once the developer creates a cloud resource, it will trigger an automation job in the background, automatically creating a DNS record for that particular cloud resource. For the developer, there is no need to understand DNS zones, how to map zones to networks, or even know what DNS records are needed in the first place.

These are just two simple examples of the platform engineering approach we have done for our customers. And they are already available to our customers via Solita Cloudblox managed service offering.

Different levels of experience work well together

With the platform engineering approach, senior platform engineer experts can focus on more value-adding tasks than always solving the basic issues. Less experienced colleagues, on the other hand, have clear models and structures to follow, which makes learning for them smoother. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel repeatedly per development team basis but can focus on creating actual value for the businesses.

We always have different experience levels in our teams, creating a good environment for less experienced team members to learn and grow. In the case of platform engineering, the key is understanding the framework and models. That requires some understanding of software production. But all this can be learned with some basic understanding of IT and cloud and the motivation to learn more.

Many career changers outside of IT have become successful in platform engineering within three to six months of onboarding; after getting three weeks of basic IT and cloud training to set the fundamentals. I’ve seen that motivated people can learn fast, feel the meaningfulness of what they do, and become team members who can create value for customers in a rather short time.

Why work with platform engineering at Solita?

We are privileged to be surrounded by top-level professionals in digital business. At Solita, Platform Engineers work together with top Designers, Scrum Masters, Project Managers, and Developers, to name a few. We prioritise continuous development, as evidenced by our AWS MSP, Microsoft Azure Expert MSP, and GCP Infrastructure specialisation. We have also been recognised with the AWS Migration Competency award, the first in the Nordic countries.

When I talk to people who work with the platform engineering approach in our customer accounts, they appreciate our ways of working and the will we at Solita have to be at the top of our game. We want to do things that create value and impact that lasts for our customers while making sense for our talented people. Packaging cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCP into easy-to-understand services and making the services to scale are doing just that!

We are looking for new colleagues to join our platform engineering community! Take a look at our open positions!

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