Platform engineering is emerging as a way of evolving DevOps, with 94% of respondents to the recent State of DevOps report agreeing that the practice helps their organization to reap the benefits of DevOps. The business arguments for platform engineering are clear: In that same report, respondents stated that platform engineering improves efficiency (59%), speeds up delivery time (58%) and improves workflow and process standards (57%).
But in addition to the huge benefits organizations are now realizing in terms of business value, platform engineering is also pretty crucial for a business’s long-term viability. And by that, I mean that platform engineering can be inherently sustainable.
How Can Platform Engineering Be Sustainable?
First, it’s important to note that ‘sustainability’ here doesn’t just mean ‘green.’ Rather, sustainability means that an organization is able to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, too. These are needs that come in three different varieties: People, planet and profits.
This means that to be truly sustainable, platform engineering needs to deliver lasting and stable returns on things like return on investment year-over-year, improved awareness of and reduction in an organization’s carbon footprint and better governance and optimization through monitoring and analytics.
Any approach which supports business growth while simultaneously empowering employees and being kind to the planet is the dream for pretty much every organization. But how exactly can departments and wider organizations unlock all of these benefits? The answer is: There’s no magic bullet.
Sustainable platform engineering is about treating your platform as an iterative cycle: It isn’t the actual creation of the tool that matters, as much as it is the maintenance, upkeep and usability of the platform as your business moves forward. This, naturally, will take time, effort and money—all of which, it’s safe to say in the current climate, are in short supply. But it is crucial that businesses act strategically, looking for areas for improvement and paths that will all add up to a more sustainable business in the long term.
The Three Paths to Success
These paths can be divided into three main areas of focus, and the first is GitOps or infrastructure-as-code (IaC).
A tweak that every organization should start making is using Git as a single source of truth for deployments, enabling developers to work faster by empowering them to use their own code without hands-on involvement from ops teams. This could be combined with optimized infrastructure, moving toward IaC to enable faster and more efficient deployments.
These principles form the foundation of sustainable platform engineering as they protect profits, allowing the business to keep moving forward and investing in the other areas crucial for a sustainable operation. Combining IaC with GitOps ensures speed and simplicity while maintaining a high-quality end product.
Creating an optimized infrastructure is important, but just as important is empowering employees to feel good about the work that they are doing. That’s why implementing a self-service tool alongside an optimized UX is the second area of focus. This removes the pressure on those in the tech department to be infrastructure experts while erasing the need for endless tickets to be raised for issues.
By freeing up DevOps engineers and platform experts to spend more time doing what organizations need them to do, businesses can keep innovating to maintain an edge over their competitors. Self-service capabilities combined with an accessible UX are a useful combination for a much-improved developer experience (DevX).
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that self-service isn’t just going to benefit end-users; it also has major upsides for improved governance, as well as keeping control of cloud spending and carbon footprint impact. Optimizing and iterating your platform engineering tool means that a business can keep up with the fast pace of the global tech market while also continuing to implement the latest tweaks and upgrades. It all adds up and builds on the organization’s platform engineering solution.
Reaping the Rewards of Sustainability
If an organization follows the above three paths, it is well on its way to a more sustainable business powered by platform engineering. By focusing on targeted, achievable projects to build a solid foundation, organizations can achieve big benefits for people, the planet and profit.
From an economic perspective, sustainable platform engineering ensures legacy infrastructure is modernized, silos are broken down and production is accelerated, all ensuring the business doesn’t risk lagging behind competitors. A stable and secure return on investment is key to sustainability in the medium to long term, and sustainable platform engineering ensures a business is able to weather future challenges and keep a healthy profit margin.
As we all know, underpinning any great business is the people who work there. Techs get stressed by having to interact with infrastructure they know nothing about, DevOps and specialists get stressed when those techs desperately raise tickets in an attempt to get help, and platform engineers get stressed when the weight of providing a solution to these problems rests squarely on their shoulders. Implementing a UX-strong self-service portal relieves the pressure, allowing employees to focus on delivering real value to the business through innovation. A better DevX ultimately leads to better business outcomes.
And, of course, it’s ultimately no good having a successful business if the planet we all share continues to suffer from the effects of the climate emergency. Just like a business that hemorrhages money is unsustainable, so is a planet that wastes its finite resources. By getting control of cloud usage and controlling cloud climate impact, businesses will not only be empowering their people and improving their bottom line, but they will also be making a tangible difference to our shared environment, supporting our planet as it recovers from years of climate neglect.
Platform engineering offers lots of tangible benefits for businesses, but sustainable platform engineering can be even better, not just for a business, but employees and our shared environment. It might just be time to upgrade DevOps and start thinking about building a sustainable organization that supports profit, people and the planet.