Hello everyone and welcome back to the Cognixia podcast. Every week, we get together to talk about the latest happenings, bust some myths, discuss new concepts, and much more from the world of emerging digital technologies. From cloud computing to DevOps, containers to ChatGPT, and Project management to IT service management, we cover a little bit of everything weekly to inspire our listeners to learn something new, sharpen their skills, and move ahead in their careers.
In today’s episode, we visit two very popular terms of our times – Platform engineering and DevOps, and we will explore not just what they are but also, more importantly, how they are different from each other because we understand it can get a little confusing at times. In the fast-moving, modern software development and operations world, terms like DevOps, platform engineering, and Site Reliability Engineering are so commonly thrown around, sometimes even used interchangeably, that it can be hard to keep up and navigate these different domains smoothly. The distinction between these terms is quite nuanced and quite critical to understand, we believe. So that is what we will focus on in today’s episode.
In essence, platform engineering, DevOps, and site reliability engineering or SRE are related but they are distinct disciplines by themselves and do not mean the same thing. They all play varying roles in the development and operation of reliable and scalable software systems but they are quite different from each other. Let us first take a quick look at what each of these terms means.
To begin with, DevOps. DevOps is a cultural and collaborative approach to software development and IT operations with a focus on breaking the silos between the two functions while improving communication, collaboration, and efficiency. It is not a specific job role as such but more like a cultural philosophy for teams and organizations to follow. It revolves around the idea of encouraging developers to take on greater operational responsibilities and for operations teams to be more involved in the development process. It involves a lot of different tools and practices like CI/CD pipelines, automated testing, Infrastructure-as-Code, etc.
Next, let us look at Site Reliability Engineering. SRE is a specific set of practices within the broader DevOps framework focusing on the reliability and availability of systems. SRE aims to create scalable and highly reliable software systems by applying engineering principles to operations tasks. Specialists in SRE generally have a strong background in software engineering and are well-versed in using software engineering principles to solve operational issues. Common practices and processes in SRE include error budgets, service-level objectives, and service-level indicators.
And finally, let us look at Platform Engineering. Platform engineering focuses on building & maintaining the foundational platform & infrastructure that enables software development as well as deployment. It would involve tools, frameworks, services, etc. that would support developers in their tasks of building, deploying, and operating different applications. An individual in a platform engineering role would be responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining the different platforms that are responsible for supporting application development. Their role would involve building tools and services that would make it easier for developers to build, deploy, operate, and manage different applications.
Of these, we have talked plenty about DevOps in our other episodes. We also have a live online instructor-led training and certification program for anyone interested in learning DevOps. However, we haven’t talked as much about platform engineering so far, so let us do that in this episode. We have already explained what platform engineering is so the next question to dig deeper into would be why platform engineering is so important. Is it even important? Platform engineering focuses on creating & maintaining the foundational infrastructure, frameworks, and tools that enable developers to go about developing, deploying, operating, and maintaining software applications.
Platform engineering, when deployed efficiently, can free up the DevOps teams’ bandwidth to better handle the multiple reusable components and tools that would help streamline the complete development process. This in turn would lead to improved efficiency and productivity as existing platforms, frameworks, and services can now be effectively leveraged.
If a developer chooses to use platforms, they get a standardized bunch of tools, frameworks, etc. which would help them maintain consistency across all their projects, which would be a very valuable aspect in an organization. To do so, one would require effective platform engineering in place. Furthermore, using platforms also ensures the use of uniform best practices, helps shorten the learning curve for new team members, and works overall to simplify the management and maintenance of the entire software ecosystem.
With platform engineering, the organization can rest assured about scalability, both horizontal as well as vertical. Workloads can go up or down, user bases can grow or decline, and business requirements can change, but the software applications will support everything without significant overhauls. Moreover, it will also offer reliability and stability, both extremely important aspects in both the short and long run. Platform engineering brings to the table fault tolerance, monitoring, automated recovery mechanisms, and so much more. When you have mission-critical applications at hand, this becomes even more important since any downtime could have major ramifications and could impact the business significantly. Platform engineering enables the DevOps teams to identify issues and troubleshoot much quicker than they would be able to in the absence of effective platform engineering.
Another very important dimension of platform engineering is automation. Repetitive tasks can be automated, freeing the bandwidth of team members and the probability of human error. Moreover, automation powered by platform engineering can encompass multiple areas including development & operations lifecycle, code deployment, testing, monitoring, and even scaling.
When it comes to DevOps, SRE, and platform engineering, one important element is collaboration. Collaboration is a load-bearing pillar of sorts on which all these three concepts stand tall. Platform engineering facilitates cross-functional collaboration which is an essential ingredient for successful alignment of efforts to goals, effective knowledge-sharing, and project delivery. In the process, it also amps up adaptability and fosters an environment of innovation and ingenuity.
Apart from this, there are also other benefits like cost savings, enhanced security, etc.
To sum it up, DevOps is a cultural and collaborative approach to development & operations, while SRE is a set of practices focused on ensuring system reliability, and platform engineering involves building and managing the foundational platforms for software development. While these contribute to software development in some or the other way and they are interconnected disciplines, they are not the same thing. An organization can use one or a combination of more than one of these disciplines to build its strategies and realize its goal of developing reliable as well as scalable software. Each discipline has its strengths and features, and understanding the distinction between the three would be immensely helpful for organizations. To thrive in the current highly competitive and rapidly evolving landscape, deciphering the distinctions and understanding how the three disciplines are intertwined could prove to be a great tool for success in their software development and operations endeavors. At the end of the day, it is all about embracing diversity, leveraging strengths, and building a collaborative software ecosystem that encourages innovation, is functional, resilient, flexible, as well as scalable, and above all, in line with the business goals and requirements to ensure continual growth for the organization.
If you would like to have your workforce trained in platform engineering through a unique, customized training program, talk to us today, our team will guide you on how best we can partner with you to help you meet your digital transformation goals. If you, as an individual, would like to sharpen your DevOps skills and knowledge, visit our website, www.cognixia.com to learn more about our live online instructor-led DevOps Plus training and certification program. You can reach out to us via the chat function there if you have any questions or would like to talk to us, our team will guide you with everything you need.
And, with that, we come to the end of this week’s episode of the Cognixia podcast. We will be back again next week with another exciting and interesting episode. Today, we hope we were able to help you understand what platform engineering is, why it is important, and how it is different from the other disciplines such as DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering.
Until next week then, happy learning!