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What Is Platform Ops and Why Should Developers Need to Watch Out?

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There’s a new name popping up in the developer circles: platform operations or “platform ops”. But what is it? What can it do? Well, in a nutshell, we’re beginning to find that DevOps struggles to scale and are in need of something that can scale and form a viable strategy for cross-organization adoption of practices. That something is platform ops.

It used to be believed that building the right culture would create effective DevOps which would result in fast, efficient app development that could generate a good app store rating. But it has become clear that enhancing key capabilities instead brings about effective DevOps. So, instead of focusing on creating a “culture of DevOps” we should focus on improving capabilities to enable faster and reliable code delivery to production.

This shift of focus in DevOps from building a culture to enhancing capabilities, and a need to scale DevOps lead to the creation of platform ops.

What Is a Platform?

Before we can properly define and explain what platform ops are and what platform ops teams do, we need to first define what a platform is. 

The definition of what a platform is is different from company to company but there are a few commonalities. A platform encompasses a span of technologies involving different engineering stakeholders, for example, voice analytics software that has a front-end dev team, as well as an AI dev team. A platform may be physical or virtual infrastructure and networking. A company’s platform can include many tools such as telemetry, container deployment, Kubernetes, CDNs, and CI/CD tooling.

The platform is essentially a technology stack and environment within which organizations build, deploy, and deliver the applications. Platform teams build and maintain a portfolio of technologies that maximize engineering and networking teams’ efficiency, and establish best practices so the company can scale more easily.

What Is Platform Ops?

Platform ops grew from DevOps and its popularity. In order to scale DevOps capabilities as well as retain our knowledge, we need to rethink how we structure DevOps teams. We need to turn the capabilities of DevOps into products and services with development teams as the consumers. 

The aim of platform ops is to streamline the processes involved in scaling a DevOps practice. This will allow developers to focus on development and companies to focus on their customers. As we previously covered, platform teams build and maintain a portfolio of technologies and software testing methods that maximize engineering and networking teams’ efficiency and establish best practices to scale more easily.

Platform Ops Teams Illustration

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However, platform ops teams don’t seek to limit choices. If anything, they aim to drive consensus and make sure that everyone gets the tools and support they need. Platform ops teams do this by performing multiple duties:

  • Collaborate across the company’s development organization to create best practices and to help to build the overall ecosystem for the company’s system and service architecture.

  • Not only lead an engineering team but also have sufficient technical skills to spend time performing hands-on development work.

  • Evangelize the platform across engineering and development organizations in order to drive continued adoption of the community-owned platform model.

  • Establish technical standards and guidelines to ensure the integrity of systems and compliance with company IT standards, policies, and processes.

  • Establish strong professional relationships from top to bottom within the company, across functional teams and organizational boundaries.

The platform ops teams need to curate and maintain guidelines and standards on tools and practices DevOps and other teams need to use in order to be efficient at scale. The platform ops team cannot enforce these guidelines and standards but instead consult and work with teams on using the standards created on the platform.

Why Is Platform Ops Needed?

Platform ops is needed when a company has multiple DevOps teams, each creating their own applications and selecting their own tools for traffic management, visibility, telemetry, security, and resiliency. Platform ops is necessary for scaling DevOps as with no one to supervise or create standard practices and tools, growth or cooperative operations between teams could become uncoordinated.

For a simplified example, let’s use a hamburger restaurant to explain this point. A platform ops team is needed when a hamburger restaurant goes from two-team kitchen staff to a 10 or 20 team kitchen staff. With one team cooking, it’s easy to keep track of what a platform is and is not. But with many teams doing many things, this becomes more difficult. Someone needs to ensure that all hamburger teams get their orders, but they aren’t allowed to order supplies from 27 different stores, either.

By using platform ops, companies can provide a self-service platform that enables their developers to quickly, reliably, and safely deploy code. platform ops also ensure that best practices, governance, and access to the latest technologies are also available in the platform. Platform ops allow firms to scale the DevOps capabilities of the developers and teams while creating a lasting DevOps culture. 

All of this translates to companies being able to meet customer demand quickly and seamlessly whilst also ensuring development teams are able to make proper use of a wider range of operational skills. Skills such as security, cloud cost reduction, and monitoring.

Conclusion

The influence of platform ops on a company will be measured by how quickly a new development team can be onboarded, and by the value added to developers’ experience over time. platform ops can turn the capabilities of DevOps into products and services consumed by development teams.

Platform ops teams are engineers with hands-on development capabilities but are also supervisors who establish technical standards and guidelines as well as strong working relationships at all levels within the company.

Platform ops ensure capabilities over culture in DevOps which makes for much better scaling in DevOps. If a company has multiple development teams, then platform ops allow that company to focus on the needs of those development teams. Platform ops enable the creation of a true and lasting DevOps culture.

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