Many businesses are in the process of shifting toward digitization and faster time-to-market in order to strengthen their competitive advantage. Digitization of internal processes, products, services and customer interactions drives more software development, whereas faster time-to-market supports shorter, more agile software development cycles. Combine the two, and the old request-response interaction patterns and bureaucratic change management processes of IT Operations quickly break down. Ultimately, a new paradigm is required that empowers organizations to both reduce lead times to utilize infrastructure services and embrace constant change.
New technologies enable new dynamics
In a typical Enterprise IT organization, there are two major departments, one focused on Infrastructure and Operations, and the second on Applications. Traditionally, the Infrastructure team supported the Applications team in a request-response fashion when new hardware was required. A long provisioning cycle would ensue, followed by ongoing operations focused on a static deployment and avoiding change. With the move to virtualization, Infrastructure teams were able to provision faster in software and manage pooled capacity more efficiently across workloads and projects. However, IT largely kept the same processes, static architectures, and aversion to change as before.
New technologies and operating models are enabling IT Operations to transform in response to digitization and agile software development. IaaS and cloud computing provide infrastructure services as pools of capacity through an API and are accessible in seconds, rather than the days or months for traditional or virtual infrastructure. PaaS and microservices also provide common application services that can be assembled on demand to build apps rapidly. Infrastructure as code approaches enable developers to build entire hosting environments on the fly, which facilitates parallel blue-green deployments and rapid experimentation with new architectures.
The challenge is that each of these examples provides components of a solution rather than a coherent whole. Platform Engineering addresses this challenge by rationalizing these components into an enterprise architecture that application development teams can depend on.
In the end, the benefits of a Platform Engineering team are wide ranging. Application teams can rely on services not just as components to bring in and manage as part of their products, but as outsourced functions provided and maintained by the Platform Engineering team on their behalf. This allows Application teams to spend more time focusing on business functionality, increasing velocity and reducing time to market. Moreover, the enterprise can better scale across its applications with similar platforms and shared microservices, making it easier to staff engineer assignments, as well as access enterprise information.
While this shift for Infrastructure and Operations professionals may not be comfortable, it should be embraced. Many team members will find it empowering to be more fully involved in a product, as opposed to being handed a set of conflicting requirements for a siloed infrastructure function and expected to make magic happen.
In addition, learning about new technologies and application-level architecture can immensely help individuals grow their marketability and career opportunities. Just as virtualization before it, this new operating model increases the scale of what a single engineer can manage, subsequently growing his or her value to the organization.