DevOps vs Platform Engineering

DevOps and Platform Engineering appear to be the same. In this article, we'll highlight how DevOps is evolving into Platform Engineering.

November 13, 2023
Brad Sickles
Co-founder & CEO of Nullstone


## Introduction

DevOps promised to mend the rift between developers and operations, and now, a new concept called Platform Engineering has emerged. At first glance, it might seem like a mere rebranding of DevOps, but there's a twist—it wholeheartedly embraces tools and platforms, something that might raise eyebrows among devout DevOps enthusiasts. So, is it just a rebrand, or does Platform Engineering chart a distinct course from DevOps? Let's explore and find out.

## What is DevOps?

DevOps, a juxtaposition of Development and Operations, emerged as a response to the historical divide between development and operations teams. It introduced a culture-driven philosophy that emphasized collaboration, communication, and shared responsibility for software delivery and infrastructure management. DevOps aimed to break down the silos that hindered IT organizations, allowing for faster development cycles, enhanced quality, and improved collaboration between teams. The DevOps lifecycle shows how development and operations provide feedback to each other to deliver software.

## How did DevOps fall short?

While DevOps brought about significant improvements, it was not without its limitations. In many organizations, DevOps started with a reactive approach, where operations teams served as a direct response unit to developer requests. DevOps emphasized a “you build it, you run it” philosophy and empowered developers to take ownership of their codebases. While this collaboration improved the delivery pipeline, it still relied on a central operations team to manage infrastructure and address developers' needs. In many organizations, teams swapped out modern tooling only to leave developers with little insight and visibility into their apps. In other organizations, DevOps engineers were on the hook for reliability and uptime with little input into the codebases. As a result, the resulting ecosystem of DevOps did not fully address the need for proactive, self-sufficient development teams.

## Platform Engineering is an evolution of DevOps

Platform Engineering represents the natural evolution of DevOps. It recognizes that achieving true operational excellence requires more than just collaboration—it demands empowerment. Platform Engineering introduces a dedicated Platform Team, acting as "another" software team within the organization. This team takes a proactive approach, building and vetting practices, tooling, and workflows that other software teams can adopt. The key shift here is moving from a reactive model to a proactive one. Instead of acting as gatekeepers to developer needs, these platform teams anticipate and aggregate needs across the organization. Developers can pick and choose what works best for their specific needs.

## Developing a product mindset

In the Platform Engineering model, organizations foster a product mindset within their operations teams. These teams curate an Internal Developer Platform that serves as a product for in-house developers. This platform includes a suite of tools, services, and best practices designed to enhance developer productivity. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, software teams have the autonomy to choose whether to adopt the tooling and practices provided by the Platform Team, giving them flexibility and ownership of their development process. The following shows the shift in mindset for DevOps engineers as they shift into Platform Engineering roles.

| From (DevOps) | To (Platform Engineering) |
| Collaborate on delivery process | Provide tooling and templates for common workflows |
| Provision/Maintain infrastructure | Provide software catalog of infrastructure components for self-service |
| Optimize time-to-production | Optimize developer experience, reduce cognitive load |
| Scale infrastructure for testing and prod environments | Build leverage for developers to scale |
| Reduce infra costs by maximizing infra utilization | Provide cost visibility, provide templates for sharing infrastructure |
| DevOps embedded in product teams | Separate platform team as another product team |

## Conclusion

The shift from DevOps to Platform Engineering represents a significant evolution in IT operations and software development. DevOps broke down silos and improved collaboration, but it fell short in empowering self-sufficient development teams. Platform Engineering takes this a step further. It introduces dedicated Platform Teams that proactively provide practices, tools, and workflows. Developers gain autonomy and flexibility to choose what suits their needs. Platform Engineering isn't a mere rebrand; it's a transformative progression. It amplifies DevOps principles, driving innovation and efficiency. It's the promise of a more agile and innovative future for software development and operational excellence.