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The story of platform engineering

This week’s edition of Platform Weekly is an excerpt from my latest article on the story of platform engineering. Read the full article here.

Platform engineering isn’t just a trend, it’s the future of software delivery.

Just a few years ago, this would have been nothing more than a wild claim. Sure, some organizations had started cobbling together their complex tech and tools into something that was easier for developers to use independently of Ops. But “platform engineering” as an established discipline didn’t exist yet.

That all changed in 2019 when we started the first platform engineering meetup in Berlin. At the time, it was a small group of engineers who were frustrated with DevOps adoption at their organizations. While “you build it, you run it” DevOps helped some software teams boost productivity and efficiency, it was extremely painful for everyone else. 

For the vast majority of engineering organizations, the growing complexity of cloud-native technologies and architectures, paired with the expectation for developers to be responsible for it all, was a crippling combination. Developers burnt out trying to ship code fast under increasingly high cognitive load. Ops were drowning in tickets from developers overwhelmed by their DevOps setups. Everyone was frustrated, and productivity suffered. Something needed to change.

In 2019, we had a fuzzy idea of what successful platforms and platform teams could look like. But the examples we had were still those from Google and Netflix, models that weren’t attainable for most other organizations. That’s where our small meetup group came in. We wanted a space to share our learnings and get advice from practitioners who’d built platforms at organizations more similar to ours. 

This small but rapidly growing community realized that building platforms was its own discipline, complementary to but still different from DevOps. They called it platform engineering.

Platform engineering resonated with a lot of folks. It gave a name to and a shared understanding of something that already existed. When the Berlin meetup moved online during the pandemic, more and more platform engineers in cities around the world created their own chapters. 

Quick bites

  • Calling all fans of salary transparency! Help your fellow platform practitioners know their worth when you respond to the 2023 Platform Engineers Salary Survey. It’ll take you ~2 minutes, and it helps the community a lot. 💪
  • ICYMI: OpenTF is now OpenTofu and has joined The Linux Foundation.
  • Platform engineering is all the rage these days. This article can help you separate the facts from the hype.
  • Don MacVitte shares his take on the future of AI in work: “There is a concept we need to solidify that I will call the 90% Rule—until someone smarter than me comes up with a better name. The 90% Rule is simple: Generative AI will be able to do 90% of the work in areas that it is good at.”
  • The API Gateway is fast becoming an essential part of the cloud operating system.