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Should you build or buy your Internal Developer Platform?

Should you build your Internal Developer Platform (IDP) or buy? It’s a big question, especially for enterprise.

An important clarification: you can’t just buy an IDP. Instead, you would get a  Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). A PaaS is one tool that covers parts of CI, CD, environments, infrastructure, and interfaces for developers. A PaaS can be great for startups or engineering organizations with less than 50 developers. But there are significant limitations for larger enterprises: lack of customization, limited or no ability for developers to directly access underlying technologies, integration challenges with legacy technologies, and vendor lock-in.

An Internal Developer Platform “consists of many different tech and tools, glued together in a way that lowers cognitive load on developers without abstracting away context and underlying technologies.” Successful IDPs are built following a platform as a product approach.

According to Humanitec’s 2023 DevOps Benchmarking study, top performing organizations don’t build their Internal Developer Platform from scratch. Instead, they use a combination of open source and vendor tools tailored to their specific needs. IDPs built this way work in a brownfield setup, offer more freedom and flexibility, unlock long-term cost savings, and prevent vendor lock-in.

For brownfield enterprise setups, building an IDP is necessary to properly integrate legacy systems and keep the flexibility required by medium and large organizations. In short: If you’re an enterprise, buying a PaaS simply won’t work.

Want to build an Internal Developer Platform but don’t know where to start? Check out these reference architectures inspired by McKinsey’s research of hundreds of real-life setups.

َQuick Bites

And that’s a wrap on this week! As always, this newsletter is a community project. So if you have anything awesome to share from the cloud-native world, send it our way.

Stay crunchy 🥐

Luca