What Is Platform Engineering?
Platform engineering is a rising discipline where dedicated teams of engineers help to develop and manage common tools and applications that can be used by IT teams throughout an organization.
Often, these are applications and tools that in the past might have required custom coding to access, but now have been distributed as applications that offer access to necessary infrastructure. This differs sharply from a project-based approach, as the tools are not custom-built for each specific need. Rather, the applications can be rolled up, offering access to the company’s technical resources.
Growing trends like the rise of containerization have fueled platform engineering further. Tools such as Docker and Kubernetes, which package cloud-driven applications in a simple, repeatable stack. The growing uptake of infrastructure as code, is another trend that supports the platform engineering model.
Platform engineering also benefits from technologies for deployment, package management and IT automation. A few examples include Red Hat’s automation platform Ansible, its container application platform OpenShift and VMware’s Tanzu application management platform.
By packaging access to infrastructure in a repeatable way, platform engineering gives companies an opportunity to simplify its processes. By 2026, Gartner predicts that 80 percent of software engineering organizations will adopt platform engineering practices.
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What Does a Platform Engineer Do?
At the center of this discipline is a role called the platform engineer, who takes steps to standardize tooling and make information accessible to relevant teams. In the past, this information might have been buried within a complex application programming interface that only technical teams could access.
The engineer builds tools against common use cases. Teams would then be able to access the pre-packaged tools from a dashboard and then deploy them through a cloud infrastructure such as Microsoft Azure. Platform engineers take on much of the complexity so that other development teams have a smoother path forward. The role requires understanding the frustrations their teams face and anticipating what a given project needs ahead of time.
The problem is that IT specialists with experience in Kubernetes or container management— which are both key to implementing a platform management discipline—are in high demand right now. An Evaluator Group study found that more than a third of organization’s are having difficulty finding and keeping talent skilled in container management, while more than a quarter struggle with the operations of their container environment operations.
“The scarcity of Kubernetes talent is a well-known issue particularly given how many of the architectural concepts are new to operations staff experienced with virtual machines,” the Evaluator Group study notes.